What a night of skating that was!! Congratulations to the new Gold Medalist, Sarah Hughes, whose free skate last night was absolutely perfect — and what is more, it was completely electrifying in a way that I haven’t seen anyone skate since Brian Boitano’s unforgettable performance in Calgary in 1988. She owned the ice in a way that no other skater last night did — and I have to think that she and Sasha Cohen will be strong favorites for 2006.
As for Michelle Kwan, she was lucky to even get the bronze in a performance shocking in its tightness. I had a feeling all week that she wouldn’t end up taking Gold, but I didn’t think it would be because she slipped on one jump entirely, two-footed the landings on others, and generally looked stiff. I figured she would simply be beaten by Irina Slutskaya, her athletic better, and in a way she was — but Slutskaya’s program, while slightly better executed than Kwan’s (no outright slips), was still stiff and bloodless. Only one skater last night really took flight and glided across the ice with the same kind of charisma and skill that put one in mind of greats like Yamaguchi, Witt, Hamill and Fleming. That skater was Sarah Hughes.
(And ptoooooie!!! on the Russians for lodging a formal protest about the finish, apparently a sour-grapes bit of sniveling along the lines of “You gave two medals in Pairs, so we want one for the Ladies”. This was simply not a case like the Pairs, where the lesser performance was awarded the Gold. And lest anyone think I’m simply a North American-biased observer, the Men’s Gold was rightly awarded to Yagudin, who in my eyes was almost as electrifying as Hughes.)