Men’s: Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan
Yuzuru Hanyu won gold in Sochi in history-making fashion, becoming the first men’s skater to score over 100 points in the short program, the first Japanese man to win Olympic gold in men’s skating, and (at 19 years old) the youngest men’s Olympic champion in almost 60 years. Hanyu returned home to a parade of reportedly close to 100,000 people, but wasn’t content to sit back and enjoy the spoils of his Olympic victory. Just a month later, he competed at the 2014 World Championships and claimed gold.
Hanyu’s post-Olympic season got off to a rough start at his first Grand Prix event, the 2014 Cup of China. In the warm-up before the free program, Hanyu roughly collided with another skater. Determined to compete anyway, Hanyu fell five times during the program. He was able to recover for the Grand Prix Final to earn a personal-best score in the free skate and claim gold by over 34 points behind the silver medalist, Spain’s Javier Fernandez. Fernandez ended the season on top, however, taking the gold medal at the 2015 World Championships while Hanyu received silver.
Hanyu and Fernandez, who train together in Toronto, Canada under two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, both repeated their titles the next season. Hanyu won gold over Fernandez at the 2015 Grand Prix Final with world record scores for his short program, free skate and total score. But Hanyu was far from his best at the 2016 World Championships, making multiple mistakes in his free skate while Fernandez was near-perfect. Fernandez won a second world championships title, leaving Hanyu in second place.
Hanyu faced a new rival during the 2016-17 season: American teenager Nathan Chen, who stunned the world with his arsenal of high-scoring quadruple jumps. At their first showdown, the 2016 Grand Prix Final, Chen had the higher score in the free skate but Hanyu’s lead after the short program secured him a fourth consecutive win at that prestigious event. They faced off again at the 2017 Four Continents Championships, and Chen’s seven total quad jumps—two in the short program and five in the free skate—earned him the gold medal, while Hanyu received silver.
It all came to a head at the 2017 World Championships, with Chen, Hanyu and Fernandez all dueling for the title. Hanyu won his second World title, while costly mistakes relegated Chen to a sixth place finish in his Worlds debut. Fernandez finished fourth, behind Japan’s Shoma Uno (silver) and China’s Boyang Jin (bronze).
Hanyu owns multiple world records: the short program score (set at the December 2015 Grand Prix Final), the free skate score (set at 2017 Worlds) and the record for highest ever overall score, 330.43 points, set at the December 2015 Grand Prix Final.
Ladies: Adelina Sotnikova, Russia
17-year-old Sotnikova upset the ladies’ field when she outscored 2010 Olympic champion Yuna Kim, the favorite to repeat, for the gold medal in Sochi. She was the first Russian woman to win an Olympic title in singles figure skating.
Controversy around Sotnikova’s victory still lingers, however. At the time, many wondered whether the judges had scored her fairly—one woman on the Olympic judging panel was the wife of the director of the Figure Skating Federation of Russia, and another was involved in a score-fixing scandal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Fans of Kim launched an online petition calling for an investigation, and it quickly garnered more than two million signatures. But the International Skating Union declined to take any action.
Nearly three years after the competition, Sotnikova’s win was called into question again by the McLaren report. This investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency detailed widespread doping among Russian athletes and a sophisticated cover-up operation to ensure they weren’t caught. It was reported that the bottle of one of Sotnikova’s urine samples was tampered with, and she’s being investigated as a result.
Sotnikova has competing sparingly since the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She withdrew from the post-Olympic season due to an ankle injury, then participated in the Russian version of reality show “Dancing with the Stars” in 2015. She returned to competition later that year, but the four-time Russian national champion showed serious signs of rust: She finished third in her lone Grand Prix assignment and sixth at the 2016 Russian Championships. She hasn’t competed since. Now 20 years old, Sotnikova still performs in ice shows but she’ll be a long shot to make Russia’s Olympic team for PyeongChang.
In April 2017, Russian figure skating legend Yevgeny Plushenko announced his retirement. But later that same week, he declared that he would return to the Olympics as a coach. Media later reported he took on Sotnikova as a client.
Ice dance: Meryl Davis and Charlie White, United States
Partners since they were children, ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White headed into the Sochi Olympics as medal favorites along with their rivals and training partners, Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Davis and White won a silver medal behind Virtue and Moir at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and the two ice dancing teams traded world championship titles in the years since: The Canadians won world gold in 2010 and 2012, while the Americans took the top spot in 2011 and 2013.
Davis and White began their Olympic competition in the team event, which made its Olympic debut in Sochi. They earned the top scores in both their segments, set a new world record for their free dance score, and helped Team USA earn a bronze medal.
They raised the bar even higher in the ice dancing competition, earning the lead after the short dance with another world record score. In the free dance, Virtue and Moir broke Davis and White’s record score from the team competition by a few tenths of a point—and Davis and White responded with a score nearly two points higher, more than enough to clinch the gold.
The friendly rivals both announced that they would take a break from ice dancing competition post-Olympics. Davis and White instead competed against each other on the 18th season of “Dancing with the Stars,” with Davis and her dancing partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, winning the Mirror Ball Trophy. They didn’t stray too far from the ice, however, and traveled around the world performing in a steady stream of non-judged ice shows, such as Stars on Ice. White also took up commentating for NBC Sports, tried his hand at choreography, and married fellow ice dancer Tanith White, a 2006 Olympic silver medalist.
On February 22, 2017, less than a year out from the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, Davis and White announced that they would not try to return to competition to try and defend their Olympic title.
Virtue and Moir returned for the 2016-17 season after two years away from the ice. They went undefeated in their comeback season, including capturing the world title. Additionally, they broke Davis and White’s scoring records – which had stood since 2014 – multiple times over.
Pairs: Tatiana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov, Russia
The Russian pair were the only skaters to win two gold medals, first with Team Russia in the team competition and then in the pairs event. At the time, the two played coy about whether they were a couple off the ice. The speculation ended in February 2015, when they got engaged. During their wedding later that year, they performed a choreographed dance to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” the song made famous by Dirty Dancing.
Volosozhar and Trankov planned to keep competing immediately after the Sochi Olympics, but decided to sit out the season after Volosozhar suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery. They the next season and had a four-competition winning streak that included gold at the 2016 European Championships. But their comeback season ended with a sixth-place finish at the 2016 World Championships after an uncharacteristically sloppy performance in their free skate.
The two announced that they would skip the 2016-2017 season because Volosozhar was pregnant. Their daughter was born in February 2017.
Team event: Plushenko, Lipnitskaya, Volosozhar/Trankov, Stolbova/Klimov, Bobrova/Soloviev, Ilinykh/Katsalapov; Russia
Russia’s team won Olympic gold in the inaugural team event in Sochi. On the singles side, Yevgeny Plushenko and Yulia Lipnitskaya competed in both the short and free programs for their country. Each country was allowed a maximum of two substitutions, allowing Volosozhar and Trankov to only compete in the pairs short program while teammates Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov skated the free program. Russia used its other substitution in ice dance: Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev competed in the short dance while Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov did the free dance.
Yevgeny Plushenko solidified his status as an Olympic legend when he helped Team Russia top the podium in the inaugural team figure skating event. With the 2014 team gold, the 2006 Olympic champion and 2002 and 2010 silver medalist tied the record for most Olympic medals won by a figure skater. He planned to skate for a fifth medal in the men’s singles competition, but just moments before the short program began, he injured his back and abruptly withdrew. He had back surgery a few weeks later and never returned to competition. In 2016, he had to undergo another back surgery for a hernia between his vertebrae. In April 2017, he announced his retirement from the sport, but said he would return to the Olympic stage as a coach. He reportedly took on 2014 ladies champion Adelina Sotnikova as a student.
Yulia Lipnitskaya was the young star of the team event, earning the top score in both her segments of the competition. At 15 years old, she became the youngest figure skater to win Olympic gold under modern rules. But she couldn’t repeat her winning performances in the ladies’ singles event. She fell in both the short and long programs to finish fifth, while another Russian—Adelina Sotnikova, who wasn’t chosen to compete in the team event—claimed gold.
Lipnitskaya rebounded a month later at the 2014 World Championships and earned a silver medal. But she struggled with her newfound fame, saying in an interview that she has “no freedom… It’s not life, it’s constant stress.” A growth spurt also likely led to her troubles, as she seemed unable to adapt to her more mature body. She hasn’t won a major championships medal since 2014, and has been eclipsed by Russia’s new rising stars. She finished ninth at the 2015 Russian Championships and seventh at the 2016 Russian Championships, and both years was left off the teams for European and World Championships. She withdrew from Russian Nationals for the 2016-17 season and did not compete at championships further in the season.
Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov competed in the pairs free skate segment of the team event. After earning gold with Russia, they claimed a silver medal in the pairs competition. The next month, they won silver again at the 2014 World Championships. Stolbova and Klimov had reliably stayed near the top of the pairs figure skating field since, winning a silver at the 2015 European Championships and gold at the 2015 Grand Prix Final. They also claimed their third national title at the 2017 Russian Championships. But at the 2017 World Championships, several uncharacteristic mistakes dropped them to fifth.
Two ice dancing teams, Elena Ilinykh/Nikita Katsalapov and Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev, represented Russia in the team event. Ilinykh and Katsalapov won a bronze medal in the ice dancing competition, while Bobrova and Soloviev finished fifth. The 2014 World Championships was Ilinykh and Katsalapov’s last competition together; they split up, and both are training for the 2018 Olympics with new partners.
Bobrova and Soloviev continued their partnership after Sochi, although they were forced to sit out the 2014-15 season as Soloviev recovered from knee surgery. Halfway through the 2015-16 season, Bobrova announced she tested positive for the banned substance meldonium and the couple missed the World Championships. She was later cleared, and they returned strong. Together they won the national title at the 2016 and 2017 Russian Championships and the bronze at the 2016 and 2017 European Championships. At Worlds in 2017, they were the top Russian duo, finishing fifth.