There’s no denying that women’s figure skating is one of the darling events of the Winter Olympics, and that will certainly be the case in Sochi. We are blessed with an incredibly deep and talented pool of skaters, and I don’t envy the judges that have to award medals to this group of competitors.
However, as always, three women are going to rise above the rest and take their place on the podium. Here’s who they’ll be.
Gold Medal: Yuna Kim
Yuna Kim is the defending champion and claimed her gold medal in dominant as well as record-breaking fashion.
In Vancouver, she won the overall competition by more than 23 points and demolished the previous record—which belonged to Kim anyway—in the free skate with a final score of 150.06:
While that was four years ago, she is still very capable of replicating that dominant form—as she showed in the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships with a first-place finish that had her 20 points clear of second-place Carolina Kostner.
Kim is so elegant and composed on the ice that the only thing that can derail her is complacency.
Given that she’s already announced her retirement after the games, Kim has every reason to be locked in so that she skates off into the sunset with a gold medal around her neck—becoming only the third woman in Olympic history to repeat as a gold medalist.
Silver Medal: Yulia Lipnitskaia
Based on her performance so far, 15-year-old Russian skating phenomenon Yulia Lipnitskaia may just be the biggest—not literally—challenger to Kim’s hopes of defending her gold-tinted crown.
Even though she is incredibly young, the Russian isn’t lacking for experience.
The teenager won a silver medal in the 2013-14 Grand Prix Final and then took gold at the European Figure Skating Championships a month ago. With enough experience at the big events, Lipnitskaia is in splendid form for these games.
She already blew away everyone in attendance with her routine in the women’s short program portion of the team event.
Her freakish elasticity and tremendous body control mean that Lipnitskaia is not merely a storyline to watch—she’s a favorite.
Bronze Medal: Gracie Gold
Ashley Wagner is the more newsworthy skater on the U.S. team—due to the controversial nature of her inclusion in the Olympic team—but Gracie Gold is America’s best chance for a podium finish.
Gold secured her ticket to Sochi with the best performance in U.S. Figure Skating Championships history thanks to a flawless routine in front of an adoring Boston crowd.
However, Gold is much more than a one-hit wonder. She took silver in last year’s U.S. Championships in addition to a silver medal at the World Junior Championships in 2012.
Prepare yourself for plenty of “Gold” puns, because Gold is going to find herself on the podium in Sochi.