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Putin to Sotnikova: 'Russia is proud of you'

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — President Vladimir Putin congratulated Adelina Sotnikova on Friday, hailing the 17-year-old Russian figure skater who "won and conquered."

Sotnikova became the first Russian or Soviet to win Olympic gold in women's figure skating on Thursday. In a message published on the Kremlin's website, Putin said Sotnikova "won and conquered the height that our figure skating team has been working for long years ... the whole Russia is proud of you."

The president also issued an official congratulation for Sotnikova on Thursday night. The Russians also won figure skating gold medals at the Sochi Olympics in team and pairs. Sotnikova felt she deserved the gold medal because she did everything in her program. The judges agreed and she beat defending champions Yuna Kim of South Korea by nearly six points.

"When I finished skating," Sotnikova said of her free skate, "my first thought was I finally made it through what I had to do. I finished both my short and long programs well. I felt I showed the emotions and the feeling of the music. I didn't feel I done well at that before, but I did it very well at this competition."

She credited her rivalry with 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia, who helped Russia win the team gold medal, with spurring her to new heights. "It's good to have someone on the team who makes you go forward," Sotnikova said. "We do have a lot of rivalry with each other, and I have to say big thanks to her. I feel she helps me."

Next up for Sotnikova, following a short break, will be training for the world championships in late March in Saitama, Japan. She vowed to be ready. "I have a lot of competitions ahead of me," she said. "I want all the gold that there is out there — everything that exists in figure skating."

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