“I felt pretty confident going out onto the ice,” Han said. “The past few weeks of training have been really solid. The program’s been running really well and this morning my practices session was pretty good. So I felt confident and ready to go.
“I popped one jump but everything else was solid and clean and really there. I think I had a couple little iffy landings today and it wasn’t as pristine as it could have been. So hopefully I can fix that before Worlds.”
Han got off to a good start before falling on her second element, the triple lutz.
“I felt pretty good going into the loop, it’s been very good in the program lately so I did that and then the lutzes have been going pretty well so I’m disappointed with the fall on that. I think I was a bit off balance a little too much inside and I wasn’t able to hold onto it but I was able to move on well and do a pretty good rest of the program. The first salchow was a little off but then the rest of it was pretty good.”
Just like in her short program, Han showed determination and composure, not letting the early error affect the rest of her long program.
“Ever since I was a little girl I have worked hard on regaining my composure,” Han said. “I never wanted to be that girl that gave up - I wanted to be a fighter.”
Han was pleased with the top-20 finish, and will leave Sochi with great experience and memories to take with her as she looks to the future.
“I definitely feel like this has been a very special experience,” the 18-year-old said. “Representing Australia at the Olympic Games is something that I have wanted to do since I was very little so finally being able to actualise that dream and skate is incredible.”
The standout performer in the first half of the field was Japan’s Mao Asada. A gold medal favourite, Asada bounced back from the huge disappointment of her short program to produce an incredible free routine that saw her score a new season’s best of 142.71.
Despite this flawless performance and huge score, it would prove impossible for her to challenge for a medal, with her total score sitting on 198.22. It will see her enter the record books as the first woman to land eight triples in competition.
"I may not be able to bring back an Olympic medal to Japan but I feel like I had the best performance I possibly could,” Asada said. “I'm obviously disappointed with myself from yesterday but everything I've been practising for the past four years bore fruit today. I like to think I've matured since Vancouver in my own distinct way."
The battle for the podium came to its climax as the last six skaters took to the ice.The emphatic crowd got was not quite enough to get Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya home with a clean performance, although her score of 135.34 did lift her temporarily into first place. The 15-year-old under-rotated her triple loop and then fell again on her triple salchow. As with her short program however, she scored highly on composition and interpretation, finishing with an overall score of 200.57.
Italy’s Carolina Kostner was elegant in her Bolero-inspired performance, earning 142.61 for a total of 216.73 and taking the top spot on the leaderboard.
Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova, who was second after the short program, followed with a fast-paced performance. Sotnikova was clearly loving the crowd, at one point even motioning to them for more encouragement. Despite a small stumble on her combination, the judges rewarded her with a score of 149.95 for a total of 224.59. Again the top spot was taken by a new contender, and with three skaters left – the medals would soon be known.
The USA’s Gracie Gold didn’t have the perfect routine that she needed to try and climb out of fourth position. A fall on her triple flip cost her, but she still managed a season’s best score for a final total of 205.53.
Gold’s compatriot Ashley Wagner who was sixth coming into the free program would drop a place, finishing on seventh with 193.20.
The moment everyone had been waiting for came as the last skater of the night took to the ice. Korea’s Yuna Kim was out to defend her Olympic title from 2010, knowing she would need to reproduce the magic she delivered in Vancouver four years ago if she was to get the gold.
Kim brought the house down.
Her performance was both flawless and beautiful, with the 23-year-old nailing every element in her program with grace and composure. The judges however forced Kim to settle for silver, awarding her 144.19 for a total of 219.11.
The gold would go to local favourite Sotnikova to the delight of the crowd. Kostner of Italy took the bronze.
Alice Wheeler | sochi2014.olympics.com.au