One thing that I really like about the new scoring system is that whenever they announce scores, they also announce if it's that skater's "personal best" or "season's best." I really like that because only three people (or teams) can medal, but anyone can have a small personal victory of their own.
As to the actual medal winners, Kim Yu-Na put up a stellar score, setting a world record that will probably stand for some time. I have to admit I'm a bit mystified by this; personally, I was much more impressed with her short program than her free skate. Her short program seemed more theatrical to me, more like she was playing a character, which probably accounts for that. Not to say that her free skate wasn't good; quite the contrary, it was flawless, but as far as I could tell, so was Mirai Nagasu's of the U.S. Yet, Kim Yu-Na beat her in the free skate by 23.67 points. Now, as I understand the scoring system, Kim could have started out with a higher-scoring program to begin with, and that could account for some of it, at least. Towards the end of Kim's free skate one of the commentators gushed, "Oh my goodness, this is glorious! This is one of the greatest Olympic performances I have ever seen!" Whereas it didn't move me in that way at all; clearly there's something I was missing out on. Maybe I still don't know enough about figure skating, maybe it's that I wasn't personally invested in Kim's performance, maybe I was turned off by all the attention she was getting, maybe I just didn't like her music. Maybe it's just that she isn't Michelle Kwan, who will always be the queen of figure skating as far as I'm concerned. However, Kim did skate brilliantly and there's no doubt that she deserved gold, so good for her. I was somewhat touched at the end of it when she started crying, and I do feel sort of sorry for her because she believes (accurately or not, I don't know) that if she fails to perform well her countrymen will turn against her, which is incredibly sad. I don't understand conditional love, and I feel sorry for anyone who is, or believes herself to be, subjected to it. In another, lesser victory, her shoulders have been upgraded in the media coverage from "fragile" to "slim," which is accurate at least.
Kim Yu-Na skated in the middle of the last group of skaters, and it must have been difficult for the rest of the skaters to have to follow her, because they must have known that they could never beat her. It must have been particularly difficult for Mao Asada of Japan, who was second after the short program, had to skate immediately after Kim, and ultimately took silver. I feel kind of bad for her too; in a way, it was kind of like the Second-Best Olympics for her, but to her credit she rose to the occasion and, despite a few visible stumbles, skated beautifully. She also carved out a historical niche for herself by landing two triple axels; added to the one she landed in the short program, that makes three triple axels performed by one skater in a single Olympic competition, which is a record, although I'm still unclear whether it's a record for skaters in general or just female skaters.
Joannie Rochette's free skate was not as pristine as her short program either, but she too rose to the occasion and skated a beautiful program to take bronze. I'm so sorry for her loss, of course, but so happy for her that she won a medal. No matter how the scores had turned out these Olympics would have been a personal victory for her, and it still would have been a great story, but this way it's an incredible story. I hope that it's not starting to sound cliché at this point, because I truly am inspired by the way she took a personal tragedy and turned it into a triumph not only for herself and her family but for her country as well.
And let us not forget the Americans, who both gave excellent performances in their Olympic debuts and did us proud despite not landing on the podium, particularly the plucky Mirai Nagasu, who finished in fourth place. I didn't watch the entire free skate, but her performance was my favorite of those that I saw. If things progress for her the way they should, she has a very bright competitive future ahead of her. I'm very confident that we'll get back on the podium in 2014.
Courage and tenacity were the hallmarks of this Olympic women's competition, but best of all was that everyone was a good sport about it. The medal winners all treated each other graciously and congratulated each other while the cameras were rolling, and if there were grumblings or whinings or recriminations about the results after the fact, from either athletes or fans, I have yet to hear about it. That's good to see because figure skating itself is beautiful to behold, but figure skating competition has a history of sparking some real ugliness, from the relatively mild incidents, like Plushenko dissing Lysacek, to the inconceivably horrendous, like the assault on Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. Granted, for some the real draw of figure skating is the more sordid happenings off the ice, but I much prefer it when they save the drama for their performances on the ice.