As Russia's first Winter Olympics headed into the final weekend,
the host nation rejoiced after snatching the coveted figure skating
title for the first time late on Thursday.
Adelina Sotnikova, who few had expected to be among the medals
before the competition began, eclipsed overwhelming favorite Kim
despite the defending champion producing a stirring performance that
many viewers had deemed to be enough.
The controversy rumbled on into Friday, when South Koreans expressed
shock and anger at a decision they said had been engineered to favor
More than 800,000 people signed an online petition demanding an
inquiry into Kim's loss, which many in the country of 50 million
people stayed up into the early hours to watch. "Queen Yuna" is
South Korea's most loved and best-known athlete.
It was not only South Koreans who doubted the outcome.
"I am stunned by this result. I don't understand the scoring," Katarina Witt, the 1984 and 1988 champion, was heard commentating on
German TV from her booth at the venue.
Russian television and radio stations lionized their 17-year-old
champion on Friday, although the Sovietsky Sport newspaper referred
to the scandal with the headline: "American media cast doubt over
Adelina Sotnikova's victory".
Its columnist gave his own analysis as to why the result should not
be called into question.
In another controversy, the German Olympic Committee announced that
an unnamed athlete had returned an abnormal doping sample at the
Sochi Games and a second sample would be tested later on Friday to
determine the presence of banned substances.
So far no athlete has tested positive for banned drugs at Russia's
first Winter Olympics, with the IOC eager to stop cheats from
getting to the Games with increased testing in the months leading up
to the event.
PAIN OF DEFEAT
The judging controversy and doping test were a distraction from
Friday's action, when seven more medals will be decided.
With 81 out of 98 events completed, Norway leads the medals table
with 10 golds, ahead of the United States and Germany on eight and
Russia and Canada on seven.
The women's Alpine skiers bid farewell to the Games with the slalom
in the Caucasus Mountains above Sochi, and the women also compete in
the freestyle skiing skicross event.
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Notable by her absence from the slalom will be Ukrainian skier
Bogdana Matsotska, who withdrew from the Olympics on Thursday in
protest over her government's handling of deadly anti-government
demonstrations in Kiev.
At least 75 people have been killed in clashes between security
forces and protesters opposed to President Viktor Yanukovich, who
enjoys Russia's backing.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will be desperate for the crisis in
neighboring Ukraine not to overshadow Sochi, which he has used to
project his country as a modern, tolerant state that does not
deserve the Western criticism it receives.
But Russian protest group Pussy Riot, who released a music video in
Sochi this week attacking the Games and Putin's human rights record,
have drawn international attention to what critics say is his
refusal to brook opposition.
ICE HOCKEY SUPERPOWERS CLASH
The women's biathlon relay may be postponed as the Laura venue was
again wrapped in fog. The men's mass start was delayed twice and
eventually held on Tuesday instead of Sunday.
Arguably the highlight of the day, though, will be the men's ice
hockey semi-final between two of the sport's superpowers, the United
States and Canada, at the futuristic Bolshoy Ice Dome.
The teams met in the last final in Vancouver in 2010, and the
Americans will have revenge on their minds.
The other semi-final is also a gold medal rematch with Finland and
Sweden clashing just as they did in the 2006 Turin final, which was
won by the Swedes.
In the women's ice hockey final late on Thursday, Canada snatched
victory from the jaws of defeat in a nail-biter that went into
overtime, leaving the U.S. team devastated.
Canada faces Britain in the men's curling final, seeking to emulate
their women's team who beat Sweden to win gold on Thursday.
There are three more golds to be won in the unpredictable sport of
short track speed skating where the favorites can often get bumped
out of contention.
South Korean-born Viktor Ahn, now competing for Russia, seeks to add
to his haul of four Olympic gold medals in the 500 meters and 5,000m
men's relay, while Elise Christie hunts Britain's first Olympic
short track gold in the women's 1,000m.
(Reporting by the Reuters Olympics team in Sochi and Rosa Khutor;
editing by Peter Rutherford)
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