In a heartbreaking windup, Sasha Cohen fell and stumbled in Turin Thursday night, with Shizuka Arakawa skating off with Japan’s first medal of these Winter Games – taking the Olympic gold in the showcase event.
With that, figure-skating favorites Cohen of the U.S. and Irina Slutskaya of Russia proved the also-rans in the eagerly anticipated ladies’ long program.
Arakawa proved so elegant and near perfect that two-time Olympic winner Katarina Witt was standing and applauding before the Japanese skater had finished.
Cohen finished with a silver, while Slutskaya and took bronze (she fell once).
“Of course I’m shocked and disappointed, but you got to take what life gives you and move on from it,” Cohen, 21, said afterwards.
Arakawa, 24, became the first Japanese Olympic gold medalist in figure skating and just the second with any medal; Midori Ito, one of Arakawa’s idols, won silver behind Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992. Ito led the cheers of the flag-waving Japanese in the crowd, the Associated Press reports.
Emily Hughes, Sarah’s 17-year-old sister, fell on a triple loop and shortened another jump, but her seventh-place finish was considered remarkable for a newcomer.
“I am really excited about what happened, this being my first Olympics and my first big international. I am taking away a lot from this competition,” said Hughes, who replaced the injured Michelle Kwan and arrived in Turin just a week before the free skate.