Going into Thursday's ladies' free skate, with the 2014 Olympic gold medal on the line, the top three skaters — Korea's Kim Yu-na, Russia's Adelina Sotnikova, and Italy's Carolina Kostner — were separated by mere fractions of a point.
And on Thursday all three took to the ice. Two of those skaters finished what were, to the naked eye, flawless performances. Sotnikova didn't. She had one glaring error midway through her program in her triple flip-double toe-double loop combination:
Yet she came away with the gold medal.
It looks like she may have bobbled that double-toe, and then bobbled that loop. Judges knocked her down -.90 points for the error, and she came away with 8.34 points off of that sloppy combination. That's a lot.
Sotnikova ended up winning the competition by around 5 points, a comfortable margin bolstered by her high choreography marks (which some, like analyst Dick Button are also questioning), meaning this error wasn't make or break. But to those who saw the great, flawless performances from Kostner and Kim are having a hard time explaining how this glaring error was part of the gold-medal winning program. The best explanation might just be that figure skating, even with a new-ish scoring system designed to bring some objectivity, is, at the end of the day, extremely subjective.
Sotnikova finished with 224.59 points (her technical score, with the error, was barely behind Kim's world record from Vancouver). Kim finished with 219.11 points. And Kostner finished with 216.73 for the bronze medal.