Feb 19, 2014, 11:10 PM EST
SOCHI, Russia – Four years ago, Carolina Kostner left the Vancouver ice after her free skate with her head clutched between her arms, barely able to stand after delivering what she herself might tell you was the worst performance of her life.
Thursday night in Sochi she could win an Olympic medal.
At 27, the Italian delivered a stirring performance Wednesday in the short program of the ladies’ singles event, skating to “Ave Maria” and equaling the music with her beauty across the ice.
“After Vancouver I thought that was it,” said Kostner, who sits in third place, less than a point from first. “I thought I would stop skating. I thought that was my end.”
One of the oldest skaters still competing on the international level, Kostner performed with the kind of steadied grace that only a veteran can possess. Long known as a soft and emotive skater, Kostner was her vintage self and poised in delivery.”
“I wanted to skate because I love it,” she said of why she decided to continue after Vancouver. “The hard times make you understand what you really want and I’m really glad that I continued and honored to have experienced everything that I have in the past years.”
After placing ninth at the Torino Games, Kostner plummeted to 16th in Vancouver, but chose to skate on, winning the World Championships in 2012 and tacking on two more European and National Championship titles.
She skated after Yulia Lipnitskaya Wednesday night at the Sochi Games in an arena that was meant to be bursting with applause for the 15-year-old. Yet, after a surprising fall from the Russian, Carolina began to crickets, moving with building heart.
Skating in a sparkling, layered white and silver dress, Kostner came through in the exact opposite way that she fell apart in Vancouver, moving the audience with her fluid performance.
“Stunning,” said two-time Olympian Johnny Weir, a commentator for NBC Sports.
“So long we have been thinking of Carolina as the artist,” added 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski, also a NBC Sports commentator, “but her technique; she took everything down a grade and then built it back up these last four years. That was the whole package. ”
It’s a far cry from where she was days after Vancouver.
“I just believed that that was my limit,” Kostner remembered. “But something just told me that it’s not about the result, it’s about the personal experience, that is what is most important.”
Kostner didn’t have a convincing season. After failing to advance to the Grand Prix Final, she skipped the Italian Nationals and set about re-tooling both her programs, changing them with the Olympics in mind.
“When I was in my beginning position, I was scared out of my mind,” Kostner said, smiling. “I don’t know, it just came together. Skating isn’t about the medals or the results. I love what I do. It’s much more fun to win, but you cannot every time.”
If anything, Kostner only hopes for a performance better than what she put out in Vancouver four years ago. What’s the best way she can approach her Sochi free skate?
“To not think about it,” she said.
Dec 22, 2014, 2:38 PM EST
Finland’s Samu Torsti slid while wrapped in a banner for 25 seconds.
Dec 22, 2014, 12:19 PM EST
A sport-by-sport breakdown of what we learned in Sochi and beyond.
Dec 21, 2014, 10:07 AM EST
Austrian becomes oldest woman to win a World Cup race.
Dec 21, 2014, 7:37 AM EST
The two-man battle for giant slalom supremacy continues.
Dec 20, 2014, 7:37 PM EST
Humphries, Meyers Taylor finished 15th, 16th out of 17 sleds.
Dec 20, 2014, 5:27 PM EST
Rio’s main Olympic Park will be half the size of London’s Olympic Park.
Dec 20, 2014, 8:40 AM EST
Background on the woman whose record Vonn is close to breaking.
Dec 19, 2014, 2:27 PM EST
Rome 2024 bid could include events in Vatican City.
Dec 19, 2014, 1:23 PM EST
Marathon route over Golden Gate Bridge.
Dec 19, 2014, 12:41 PM EST
Phelps was supported by retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.
Dec 19, 2014, 9:11 AM EST
Nyman has won three World Cup races, all in Italy.
Dec 18, 2014, 4:39 PM EST
“He was incredible at that, almost befriending you, and then he’d slip the knife in your back.”
Dec 18, 2014, 3:33 PM EST
Colbert had a memorable time at the 2010 Olympic speed skating oval and in an interview with Bob Costas in Vancouver.
Dec 18, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
Olympic champion tore an ankle ligament in November.
Dec 18, 2014, 11:14 AM EST
Vonn entered five races in Vancouver 2010. She may never do that again at a global championship.
Dec 17, 2014, 5:38 PM EST
Decision details Gay’s acquisition and use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Dec 17, 2014, 5:31 PM EST
Fukushima’s previous governor pitched the area to be part of Tokyo 2020, too.
Dec 17, 2014, 3:29 PM EST
A look at host nation medal contenders for Rio 2016.
Dec 17, 2014, 2:37 PM EST
“It is breach of privacy with malicious target to soil my name.”
Dec 17, 2014, 1:51 PM EST
Japanese teen says he wasn’t satisfied winning silver in Sochi.
- Olympic Year in Review: Winter Sports 0
- Lindsey Vonn OK after fall in Val d’Isere super-G (video) 0
- Lindsey Vonn wins cow in Val d’Isere, one victory from record 0
- Michael Phelps gets probation after guilty plea in DUI case 7
- Stephen Colbert and the Olympics 0
- U.S. will bid for 2024 Olympics, no city chosen yet 6
- Adrian Peterson won’t try for Olympics, but other RBs might 2
- Emotional Bode Miller medals in race that mattered most (61)
- Russian women kissing after relay victory at World Championships causes stir (60)
- IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics (47)
- South Korea filing official complaint over Yuna Kim’s Olympic silver (39)
- Zola Budd, 47, dominates college runners in 5K (33)