Carolina Kostner, Yuna Kim, and Mao Asada at the 2013 ISU World Figure Skating Championships.
With the 2014 Winter Olympics just days away, figure skaters from around the world are making their final preparations to compete in Sochi. As always, women's figure skating promises the best athletes performing the most beautiful routines with the eyes of the world watching. This year will be no different, as the event features some great storylines, including rivalry clashes, youngsters looking to make their mark and athletes seeking redemption on the Olympic stage.
Here are five bold predictions for the women's figure skating competition, scheduled to begin Feb. 19 at the Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi.
Yuna Kim is primed for another Olympic gold medal in Sochi. The South Korean superstar’s performance in Vancouver solidified her spot in Olympic history after she set marks for the short program, free skate and total score that no one has come close to matching. Since winning gold in 2010, Kim scaled back her competitive schedule but made a comeback in 2013 by winning the World Championships with a 20-point total score victory, the largest at the World Championships since the current scoring system took effect in 2005.
“When I came back on the rink in 2012, I set a goal of wrapping up my career well rather than just winning medals. I’m not preparing for any special skills for Sochi because I don’t feel like they are necessary,” Kim said, according to JoongAng Daily.
If Kim wins gold for the second time, she will join Sonja Henie and Katarina Witt as the only repeat gold medalists. The 23-year-old has never placed lower than third at any competition in her entire skating career, and Sochi looks to be no different, especially since it will be her last Olympic competition before she plans to retire.
Yuna Kim may be the favorite to win gold in Sochi, but she will need to watch her back as long-time rival and 2010 Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada seeks redemption on the Olympic stage.
“In Vancouver, I had the gold medal as my goal. I’d worked for it since I was a child, and afterwards I really regretted my mistakes,” said Asada according to Reuters, “In Sochi, I’d like to erase those memories by doing everything perfectly. That’s what I’ve been working for these last three years.”
Asada and Kim, born 20 days apart, have competed against each other since they were skating at the junior level. The skater from Japan is also set to retire after the 2013-14 season, and her performances leading up to Sochi indicate that she will end on a good note. The two-time world champion won three Grand Prix golds during the Olympic lead-up and boasts a triple axel in her program, a jump that could potentially put her ahead of Kim (Asada is currently the only woman in the world to even attempt it).
Vancouver marked the first Olympics since 1964 in which the U.S. failed to have a skater on the podium, but that may change in Sochi with Gracie Gold leading the charge. Gold wowed audiences during her performance at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where the 18-year-old pumped her fists after landing her last double axel to run away with the national crown. Her performance of 211.69 captured the win by 18 points over second-place finisher, 15-year-old Polina Edmunds.
“I knew that was it,” Gold said, according to NBC OlympicTalk, “It was kind of unreal. It was like a fairy tale.”
Coached by the legendary Frank Carroll (long-time coach of Michelle Kwan), Gold was sixth at the 2013 World Championships. She has never placed higher than sixth in any international competition, but Gold is still young and on the upswing for a stellar performance in Sochi.
Russian phenom Yulia Lipnitskaya will also be a face to watch, as the 15-year-old captured two Grand Prix gold medals in the 2013 circuit and just beat a stacked veteran field at the 2014 European Championships, the youngest winner ever to do so. Lipnitskaya’s score of 209.36 was the highest of anyone in the international season leading into the Sochi Olympics by over two points.
“I hope for the Olympics my emotions and my skating comes together, and I’ll just show clean skating,” said Lipnitskaya after her title-winning performance at the 2014 European Championships, according to NBC OlympicTalk.
Mao Asada and Lipnitskaya are the only skaters to top the 200-point mark on the international stage this year. Lipnitskaya will also be skating in front of a home crowd in Sochi, an advantage that will likely benefit the teenager on the Olympic stage.
Italy’s Carolina Kostner hasn’t had very much luck at the Olympics. She had a series of heart-breaking falls in the free programs at the 2006 and 2010 Games (placing 16th in Vancouver and ninth in Torino), but the 2012 world champion enters Sochi with a new outlook on the sport and the results show it.
“The advice my mom gave me, win or lose, I can still skate,” said Kostner in a video from the P&G Raising an Olympian series.
The 22-year-old has competed very strongly since Vancouver, winning the European Championships in 2013 (her fifth continental crown since 2007) and earning silver at the 2013 World Championships behind Yuna Kim. 2014 may be the year Kostner puts herself in the podium mix.