Alina Zagitova Edged Out Her Teammate for Gold in Olympic Russian Rivalry for the Ages

By

We knew it’d be close, but few could’ve predicted the photo finish that transpired at the Olympics ladies’ figure-skating free skate on Thursday night. After dueling in the short skate earlier in the week, 15-year-old Alina Zagitova entered the night just narrowly ahead of her 18-year-old Russian teammate Evgenia Medvedeva, the presumed gold-medal favorite for the last two years. Alina backloaded her long program with jumps to Don Quixote — including one unplanned! — while Evgenia gave an emotional performance to Anna Karenina. And in a stunning conclusion to this decade’s best Russian rivalry (besides the current political one with the U.S.), the two finished dead even, scoring an identical number.

In the end it was Zagitova’s theatrical short program to music from the film Black Swan that put her over the edge of her elder adversary, leaving just a slim one-point difference between the silver and gold. There were tears of joy, tears of shock, tears of insanity, and, eventually a friendly hug between the two while cameras were still rolling. (Quick, someone check on them now!)

Zagitova becomes the first gold medalist of these Olympic games for the Olympic Athletes from Russia; watch a clip of her golden skate above and the full drama over on NBC.

Watch Alina Zagitova’s Dramatic Olympic Gold-Medal Skate