Alexandra Trusova, the 17-year-old Russian prodigy, won the free skate on Thursday after attempting five quadruple jumps in the most ambitious technical program in the history of women’s Olympic figure skating. But she had to settle for the silver medal and appeared extremely upset afterwards. So what happened?
It is important to remember that the result of a skating competition is the combined score of the short program and the long program. Trusova landed a triple axel – the most difficult triple jump – of the short program and finished fourth. Quad jumps are not permitted for women in the short program. Trusova has never landed the triple axel in competition. It has a base value of 8 points when done cleanly, but Trusova only received 3.20 points after its fall.
She started the free program more than five points behind her training partner, 17-year-old Anna Shcherbakova, the eventual gold medalist. Shcherbakova skated more conservatively in the short program, finishing second after performing a double axel instead of a triple and receiving no point deductions for imperfect jumps.
The difference in short program scoring was 80.20 points for Shcherbakova to 74.60 points for Trusova. So while Trusova narrowly won the free skate with 177.13 points to Shcherbakova’s 175.75 points, Trusova couldn’t close the gap in the short program. Shcherbakova won the gold medal with 255.95 points overall to Trusova’s 251.73 points.
Plus, skating involves more than jumping. The result rewards complete performance. In addition to a technical score for jumps and spins, a skater receives a component score. This is basically a score for art. The component score judges elements such as skating skills; footwork and other transition movements between jumps; the structure and unity of a program and the ability to translate music and choreography into performance.
The technical score and the component score are added to give the total score for the skaters in the short program and again in the long program.
Jumping, not art, is Trusova’s forte. On Thursday, she received the highest technical score by winning the free skate, but only recorded the third highest score, leaving potentially game-breaking points on the table.
The 5.67 point advantage Trusova had over Shcherbakova in the technical free skate score was eroded by a 4.29 point deficit over Shcherbakova in the component score. Shcherbakova had the highest component score of any competitor in the free skate. Trusova’s component score also lagged the leaders in the short program.
Finally, while Trusova attempted five quads in the free skate, she only landed three cleanly. Two others – a toe loop and a lutz – received deductions from their base point values by the judges. These quadruple deductions amounted to 3.43 points. Trusova received another slight deduction, about half a point, for a faulty double axel-triple toe combo jump.
Shcherbakova only attempted two quads in the free skate, but landed them both cleanly and received no point deductions for the technical elements of her routine.
All of these reasons, taken together, resulted in Shcherbakova’s gold medal and Trusova’s silver.
Afterwards, Trusova was seen on camera saying, “I hate this! I don’t want to do any figure skating with my life! Everyone has a gold medal and I don’t.
Later, her eyes red from crying, she told reporters, “I’m not happy with the result. There is no happiness.”