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.
Nov 26, 2014, 1:06 PM EST
Full schedule of coverage across World Cups, Grand Prix events and World Championships.
Nov 26, 2014, 7:42 AM EST
Sister-brother team had bronze medals, but the official results didn’t reflect that until Tuesday.
Nov 25, 2014, 1:19 PM EST
Neither has competed since the London Olympics.
Nov 25, 2014, 10:46 AM EST
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Nov 25, 2014, 9:27 AM EST
Christ the Redeemer, Olympic motto honored on the coins.
Nov 24, 2014, 10:23 PM EST
Phelps is working toward 2015 goals, a North Baltimore official said.
Nov 24, 2014, 3:52 PM EST
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Nov 24, 2014, 11:25 AM EST
Canada won its first men’s hockey Olympic gold in 50 years under Quinn.
Nov 24, 2014, 10:11 AM EST
Olympic champion Shields was named the tournament’s best overall boxer.
Nov 24, 2014, 9:17 AM EST
Tikhonov led the Soviets in the Miracle on Ice game.
Nov 24, 2014, 8:42 AM EST
Sun tested positive for a substance he could have used legally if he filed paperwork with anti-doping officials.
Nov 23, 2014, 9:27 PM EST
Public vote to name the mascots.
Nov 23, 2014, 8:38 PM EST
Video of how he suffered the injury was posted on Ligety’s social media.
Nov 22, 2014, 4:24 PM EST
It’s unlikely a U.S. man will qualify for the Grand Prix Final.
Nov 22, 2014, 9:05 AM EST
“i just don’t want to puke,” Wagner said.
Nov 21, 2014, 3:10 PM EST
This year’s winners came from unprecedented nations and events.
Nov 21, 2014, 2:24 PM EST
Wagner could match a Michelle Kwan feat at the French event.
Nov 21, 2014, 8:59 AM EST
“Unbroken” film about Olympian and World War II hero comes out on Christmas.
Nov 20, 2014, 5:34 PM EST
Young Dmitry Melnichenko lost the match, then lost his cool.
Nov 20, 2014, 4:57 PM EST
Olympic ski slopestyle champion uses a chainsaw every day.
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