Russia has received a huge boost toward winning the team figure skating portion of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Julia Lipnitskaia proudly represented the host nation and edged out the rest of the field during the ladies short program on Saturday, posting a score of 72.9 to earn top honors in the event.
Carolina Kostner of Italy and Mao Asada of Japan also put up great scores, finishing in second and third place, respectively, with marks of 70.84 and 64.07.
Let’s take a look at how all of these elite performers earned their results with a recap of the action, plus a check-in on the latest overall medal standings in the team figure skating competition.
|6||Mae Berenice MEITE||FRA||55.45||5|
Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond started off the competition with a respectable score of 62.54.
The 18-year-old was making her Olympic debut with a ton of pressure on her shoulders to keep Canada in the running, and she delivered with a sterling outing:
Osmond’s performance ensures that her home country can continue competing for a medal later this evening and on Sunday.
Kexin Zhang of China was up next, starting off with a slow rendition of “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones. The safe performance failed to impress the judges, as the 18-year-old was given a 54.58 after the medley concluded.
Great Britain’s Jenna McCorkell wasn’t technically impressive, but she executed her limited array of moves with razor-sharp precision. The 27-year-old is one of the oldest competitors in this event and, at 5’7”, also one of the tallest.
She showed off some veteran savvy during the basic routine but did not earn high marks for her lack of technical difficulty. Judges deemed the performance worthy of a 50.09.
The 20-year-old Ukranian Natalia Popova had a big crowd behind her at Sochi and parlayed that into a solid routine. She impressed the audience with her jump elements and had a clean skate, but the judges weren’t impressed with her components and gave an overall score of 53.44.
Germany’s Nathalie Weinzierl had a rough start to her routine and struggled to get back on track after bobbling her first jumps. The judges were unforgiving, and those two major mistakes resulted in a score of 52.16.
Johnny Weir, a former skater and now an analyst for NBC Sports, did note that it’s a good thing that Weinzierl is no longer an alpine skier and does not have to wear a helmet:
Frenchwoman Mae Berenice Meite came out after the intermission to start the second half of the competition. Her unorthodox style can be quite polarizing, but she hit all the right notes in Sochi. The 19-year-old Meite’s exciting efforts resulted in a 55.45 from the judges.
Team USA’s Ashley Wagner came out to a huge applause, and it was clear from the get-go that she had the hopes of a nation riding on her performance.
The 22-year-old had a decent start with a flawed triple flip into a triple toe, but she improved as the routine went on. She wasn’t technically perfect, but she skated with an edge, and the judges saw something they liked.
Christine Brennan of USA Today noted that the performance helped America redeem itself in this event:
Score for @AshWagner2010: 63.10. In first place with three to go. USA definitely makes the cut. Wagner redemption complete.— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 8, 2014
Wagner earned a 63.10 and secured a top finish for the United States in the event.
Lipnitskaia, the 15-year-old Russian sensation, had a tough act to follow. She had every right to wilt under the weight of great expectations on this stage, but she showed her maturity with a graceful, gutsy performance full of tough jumps and flawless execution.
The home crowd went wild throughout the amazing performance and watched in awe as a new figure skating star was born. She brought down the house at the end of the routine and deserved every rose that hit the ice.
The gravity of the performance wasn’t lost on the judges, who awarded this youthful superstar with a high mark of 72.9.
Asada felt the pressure and attempted to come out with a rare triple Axel. It proved to be a mistake, as she careened to the ice and all but crushed her hopes of earning the top mark in this competition.
However, the 22-year-old Japanese skater cannot be disappointed with the 64.07 score that the judges gave her. The failed triple Axel did not cost her nation a shot at advancing, as that score guaranteed Japan moves on as a top-five program.
Kostner of Italy wrapped up the event with a virtuoso performance and showed why she’s widely regarded as one of the best in the business.
The 27-year-old veteran knew that she didn’t need to win to help the Italians advance and stuck to her strengths, executing a flawless routine that included a triple-triple. The judges respected it with a score of 70.84.
Team Figure Skating Standings
|Rank||Country||Pair Short||Men's Short||Short Dance||Ladies' Short||Total|
|1||Russia - Q||10||9||8||10||37|
|2||Canada - Q||9||8||9||6||32|
|3||United States - Q||6||4||10||7||27|
|4||Japan - Q||3||10||3||8||24|
|5||Italy - Q||7||1||6||9||23|
Q = Qualified. Sochi2014.com