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SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 20 (Yonhap) -- As figure skating programs go, it was about as flawless as it could be.
South Korean figure skater Kim Yu-na put on a mesmerizing display of textbook jumps, exquisite steps and graceful spins in the free skating portion of the ladies' singles competition at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Thursday.
On this night, however, it wasn't quite enough for the 2010 Olympic champ.
Kim took the silver medal behind Adelina Sotnikova of Russia in one of the marquee events in the Winter Games, after earning 144.19 points in her free skate for a total of 219.11 points.
Sotnikova, a bubbly 17-year-old armed with technical prowess of a seasoned veteran, scored 149.95 points in her free skate for a total of 224.59 points. She gave Russia its first Olympic title in the ladies' figure skating, and in the process denied Kim a piece of Olympic history.
Kim was trying to become only the third woman to repeat as the Olympic champ in the ladies' singles, joining Sonja Henie and Katarina Witt. Instead, she settled for her second straight Olympic medal.
Carolina Kostner of Italy got the bronze with 216.73 points, after 142.61 points in the free skate.
Kim was the leader after the short program with 74.92 points, 0.28 point ahead of Sotnikova. Performing last among 24 skaters, Kim watched as both Sotnikova and Kostner posted the best scores of their careers.
The South Korean needed at least 149.68 points in the free skate to win the gold. And she gave her best shot in a program set to a tango tune titled, "Adios Nonino."
Kim opened with a perfect triple lutz-triple toe loop combination jump. She looked tentative in her final warm-up just before the program, but the smooth start to the program appeared to set her at ease.
She then went on to execute more picture-perfect jumps, sprinkling the breathless program with exquisite steps and elegant spins.
Kim fell more than five points short, however, as the partisan Russian crowds at Iceberg Skating Palace celebrated their figure skating title.
Kim earned 74.50 points in her program component score (PCS) for artistry and choreography, 0.09 point better than Sotnikova, but the Russian led all skaters with 75.54 points in her technical element score (TES), while Kim managed 69.69 points.
Sotnikova two-footed her landing at the end of her three-jump combination midway through the routine but more than made up for it by earning the maximum Level 4s on most of her spins and step sequences.
In contrast, Kim received Level 3s on her step sequences and her layback spin.
Sotnikova had seven triple jumps in her program, one more than Kim, and that might have been the difference that the South Korean couldn't overcome with her superior artistry.
Afterward, Kim took her close call in stride.
"I am pleased that I finished my program without mistakes for the second straight day," she said in a televised interview. "I wasn't as perfect as I had been in practice, but I did all I could. I have said all along that I wasn't going to get caught up with the results."
Later in her interview in the mixed zone, Kim said she wasn't going to concern herself with matters that were out of her control.
"I have to accept the score because there's nothing I can do about it," she said. "I didn't expect much as far as my score. I am just satisfied that I didn't make any mistake."
Kim confessed she doesn't usually pay attention to her points and even said her free skating score was higher than she'd anticipated.
Though a second straight gold would have further cemented Kim's place in the pantheon of figure skating, her legacy in the sport is quite secure.
Kim has already said Sochi would be her last competition. If she sticks by the word, then Kim walks away having put together an impressive resume.
Aside from her two Olympic medals, Kim has two world championships to her credit. She still holds the world record for the highest points in the short program (78.50), in the free skating (150.06) and the total points (228.56) under the revamped judging scale, all established at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. Over her senior career that began in 2006, Kim never once missed the podium.
Asked to reflect on her final skate, Kim said she had a mixed bag of emotions.
"I was relieved more than anything," she said at her press conference. "I just want to rest now. Now that the Olympics is over, I will have a lot of things lined up at home, but I really don't have anything specific planned."
She admitted she had trouble staying motivated in the buildup to Sochi, because she had already won an Olympic gold in Vancouver.
"Before Vancouver, I would have died for an Olympic gold," she said. "This time, I didn't have a set objective, and that was the most difficult part of the preparation. I didn't quite have the same sense of desperation and purpose."
In the end, Kim patted herself on the back for a job well done.
"I reached my physical and psychological limits as I prepared for the Olympics," she said. "I'd like to give myself 120 points out of 100 for performance tonight."
Two South Korean teenagers were also in action Thursday. Kim Hae-jin ended in 16th place with 149.48 points after 95.11 points in the free skating. Park So-youn scored 93.83 points in her free skating and finished with 142.97 points for 21st place.
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