RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Russia won its first Olympic gold yesterday. After so much grousing from around the world about the bad conditions in Sochi's hotels, Russians needed the boost. The host country took first in team figure skating, a new event for the Winter Games, Canada placed second, and the U.S. took the bronze. That sets up the rivalry for the rest of the Olympics in the 12,000-seat Iceberg Skating Palace. As NPR's Sonari Glinton reports, the warm and fuzzy feelings figure skaters had for the teammates won't make them any less competitive in the solo events ahead.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: You know how there are some moments you just have to witness? Like when a professional golfer drives the ball down the very center of the fairway, a walk-off home run, or a Hail Mary pass. Well, that's what it was like when 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya skated her free program, and the hometown Russian crowd knew it.
GLINTON: When Lipnitskaya performed, the Russian volunteers left their posts and vending stands to watch. Fans were literally sitting on the edge of their seats with their faces on the edge of the railings. And after the international media beat up on Sochi and Russia for a week, local fans were hungry for redemption.
DARIA ZEBELEVA: Proud, proud. I was shocked and proud.
GLINTON: Daria Zebeleva is from Sochi.
ZEBELEVA: I don't know how to say it. It's amazing. It's wonderful. Russia wins.
GLINTON: Is it better because the games are here at home?
ZEBELEVA: Yes, of course. It was my dream to visit Olympics in Russia. So, I'm here watching Russia win, watching Russian fans scream in Russia. So, I'm happy.
GLINTON: While the Russians took the gold, the Canadians took silver, fielding a strong team with several medal contenders, like favorite Patrick Chan. Meanwhile, the Americans scooped up the bronze. This team event is a first for the Olympics, and it's supposed to foster team spirit. If all the skaters do their best, then the team wins. Jason Brown is 19, and these are his first games. He says he's glad to be on the team the first time out.
JASON BROWN: The pressure, as I went on, felt less and less, because I felt the support from the team. And they were there, and it felt like home. And, like, they were sitting in the stands. To then be in the booth screaming on the other U.S. teammates, and it's truly so surreal. And nothing has hit me, but I'm so excited to be here.
GLINTON: Now that the team events are over, the figure skaters will compete individually and as pairs. Here's Ashley Wagner.
ASHLEY WAGNER: Competing in this team event was really just a nice little warm-up for us. We know what it's going to feel like as soon as we step out onto the ice, as soon as we hit that first pose and the music starts up. We know how to deal with it.
GLINTON: Notice how quickly these teammates pivot to become rivals. Here's Gracie Gold.
GRACIE GOLD: I don't consider this team event a warm-up. It was definitely a competition for me, and it was, you know, a chance to sort of leave everything on the ice and get another program out there. I think that the next short program and the next long program will be even better.
GLINTON: Aw, snap. With the team talk over, now we can get to some knock-down, drag-out figure skating: the men this week, the ladies next. Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Sochi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.