SOCHI, Russia — USF student Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay, who train in Manatee County, didn’t expect to medal at the Olympic Games in a loaded figure skating field featuring pairs from Russia, China and Germany.
But they say that’s not the point.
“We proved that we belong on one of these teams and we belong at the Olympic Games,” Bartholomay said.
Despite a clean run to open the free skating program Wednesday night, Zhang and Bartholomay quickly dropped out of medal contention with competitors executing tougher and more sophisticated routines.
“For pairs, it has to be a stepping stone game,” Bartholomay said. “We’re definitely looking forward to being a front-runner for the world championships next year.”
Zhang, a New Jersey native and psychology student at University of South Florida St. Petersburg, moved to Ellenton in 2011 so she could work with coaches Jim Peterson and Lyndon Johnston. She teamed up with Bartholomay and finished fourth in the Four Continents Championships in Japan last year.
While many athletes see the Olympics as a culmination of work, they see it as a start.
“We’re looking forward to more,” Zhang said.
The pair opened the free skate with a performance to music from “Les Miserables,” earning a score of 110.31. Combined with Tuesday’s short program score, a personal-best 56.90, they held the lead briefly Wednesday.
The top 16 teams advanced to Wednesday’s free skate. Zhang and Bartholomay just made it, standing 16th Tuesday night after a clean skate to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel Waltz.”
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov won the gold medal as Russia took the top two spots to reclaim its dominance of the sport.
Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov had a near-flawless free skate to move up from third after the short program and capture silver in front of the ecstatic home fans.
Volosozhar and Trankov scored 152.69 points to finish with 236.86, 18.18 ahead of their teammates.
Four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany had to settle for bronze for the second straight Olympics.
Russia or the Soviet Union had won gold in 12 straight Olympics in the event before the streak ended four years ago, when the Russians failed to take home any pairs medal from Vancouver.