Olympic medalists close curtain with figure skating gala
By DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva gave figure skating fans one more show in South Korea.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir gave them one more on Olympic ice.
The Russian teenagers, who dueled so memorably in the women’s event during the Pyeongchang Games, and the Canadian ice dance couple that became figure skating’s most decorated Olympians highlighted the traditional curtain-closing exhibition gala on Sunday.
After years spent grinding toward competition, the gala is an opportunity for skaters to finally let down their hair, have a little fun and do what they enjoy most: entertain.
So you had Zagitova, the 15-year-old jumping jack who edged Medvedeva for gold, performing to the jazz standard “Afro Blue” by American singer Jazzmeia Horn. And her close friend Medvedeva, whose graciousness in settling for silver struck a chord for the Olympic movement, performing to a song from “Battle of Sevastopol,” the biographical war film set during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
“I wanted to project the feelings inside of me when I am anxious,” Medvedeva explained. “All of us have moments in life when we don’t know what to do and in the end we come to a decision and resolve our conflicts, and this reflects the way I feel and express my soul and my inner world.”
Inner conflict? Anxiety and turmoil?
Sounds a lot like competing in the Winter Games.
South Korean pairs skaters Yura Min and Alexander Gamelin opened the gala with a flashy, colorful hip-hop program to “Lollipop” — and tossed candy into the crowd. There also was a performance by the North Korean pair of Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik, who had the crowd clapping along.
Just about every medalist from the Pyeongchang Games performed, including men’s gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, who finished off the gala to “Notte Stellata” by Il Volo.
In between, Zagitova and Medvedeva showed some of the same sparkle in their exhibition programs that the Russian teens displayed in rising above the Olympic pressure to secure their medals.
“I’m really happy that so many people take such keen interested in me,” Zagitova said, “but I try not to pay too much attention to it. I will continue to achieve greater heights, although I don’t think there are any greater honors than an Olympic medal.”
Virtue and Moir can testify to that.
The Canadians returned from retirement to make another run at the Olympics, eager to add to the gold they won in Vancouver and the two silver medals they won in the individual and team events in Sochi.
They opened the Pyeongchang Games with flawless programs during the team event, helping Canada win a runaway gold medal. Then they dazzled in the short dance and, in their estimation, had their finest free dance of their lives to edge Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron for gold.
Their third gold medal matched the Olympic record for a figure skater. Their five Olympic medals overall broke the record, which they had shared since the team event.
“We still love what we do, but it’s personal this time,” Moir said. “It was for each other, we skated with each other in mind the whole way and we skated with our hearts. It’s extremely fulfilling.”
For their exhibition program, Virtue and Moir skated a touching and heartfelt routine to the song “Long Time Running” by Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip. The program was designed to honor The Hip’s frontman, Gord Downie, who died in October after a battle with brain cancer.
“When I think about Gord and I think about the Hip and what they’ve been able to do,” Moir said recently, “it’s kind of the soundtrack to being Canadian almost.”
More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org