Analysis Alina Zagitova wins gold, but Kaetlyn Osmond shines brightest

Canadian impresses with bronze-winning free skate

Alina Zagitova wins gold, but Kaetlyn Osmond shines brightest
Olympic Athlete from Russia Alina Zagitova, left, skated away with gold, but Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond's free program was certainly memorable. © Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

By Pj Kwong, CBC Sports

If there was ever a time to skate your Olympic best in the free skate, today would have been the day.

The top three women standing on the podium demonstrated that if you want an Olympic medal, you are going to have to earn it.

Kaetlyn Osmond needed to put aside all doubt and present her Black Swan program in a way that has eluded her all season. Apart from one small landing error with a step out on a triple Lutz jump, Osmond's program was the program of the event.

I say that because Osmond's material was nuanced and rich with detail. It is the best example of a truly 'balanced' routine with jumps sprinkled throughout and not just after the halfway point, which rewards the skater with a 10 percent bonus.

This was the program that we all had been looking for from Osmond. It's not an exaggeration to say that she had been having trouble competing successfully this season with this beautiful program. As a result, there were no guarantees as Osmond took her opening pose. Today was a great day for Kaetlyn, who improved on her season's best score by 10 points.

Osmond's speed and technical prowess are the product of great coaching from Ravi Walia. The interpretation of the Black Swan is from Jeffrey Buttle whose choreography and attention to detail were a great fit for Osmond. There was no doubt about the narrative in this free skate. It was beautifully put together and executed — a wonderful exercise in collaboration. The end result was seeing Osmond on the podium in third place.

Medvedeva good, Zagitova great

Evgenia Medvedeva was also spot on in her free skate to Anna Karenina. My issue would have been that there was nothing that jumped out at me in terms of the connection between the choreography and the music. There was nothing at all wrong with Medvedeva's skate, but there just wasn't the magic either to which I have grown accustomed. The fact that Medvedeva was able to be here at all given the accelerated recovery that was required after breaking her foot late in 2017, is the real magic in this story.

Olympic champion Alina Zagitova is a marvel. Although none of us might like the back-loading of the jumps to the second half of the program, I think we can all agree that this 15-year-old is pretty special. Top to bottom Zagitova oozed every inch the prima ballerina performing to Leon Minkus' Don Quixote. From the costume to the way in which Zagitova expressed herself with the music, I thought it was a terrific interpretation and I was not alone.

Figuring out what you know how to do best and sticking with that plan encourages success. Both Russian women train together which must help in keeping the intensity in preparation for competition. When you layer all the strategy, the speed, the clean jumps and other elements, you come out as Zagitova did and end up with a gold medal around your neck.