Winter Olympics Figure Skating 2014: Predicting Top Threats to Team USA

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Winter Olympics Figure Skating 2014: Predicting Top Threats to Team USA
Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

In figure skating, Gracie Gold is America's top hope for a medal on the women's side. She has really taken over as the face of the Winter Olympics in the United States. Because of the attention she's getting, there is a ton of pressure on the 19-year-old to perform well.

On the men's side, Jeremy Abbott is the American man with the best chance to win a medal. He's known for his power and quadruple jumps, but he must be sure to execute his daring moves to impress the judges.

Both Abbott and Gold will have fierce competition from the rest of the world. Here's a look at the top skaters who could send the Americans home empty-handed.

 

Patrick Chan, Canada

Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

Chan is a three-time and reigning world champion. His graceful and athletic routine has seemingly gotten better of late.

While he is undoubtedly the favorite to come away with the gold medal, he does have a potential Achilles' heel.

Lawrence Yee of Yahoo! Sports writes:

If Chan has one weakness, it's the Axel jump. Far too often, he does a double instead of a triple. Since the Axel is required in both the short program and free skate, he could leave a lot of points on the table. 

Hoping for a slip-up may be Abbott's only hope of besting Chan for a gold medal.

 

Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan

Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

Hanyu's leaping ability is what sets him apart. As part of a solid Japanese team overall, Hanyu is the strongest member of the team.

His ability to nail the quad jump makes him a legit threat to anyone in the field—even Chan. As a matter of fact, he is the only one to beat him this season.

 

Kim Yuna, South Korea

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

The 2014 Sochi Olympics will be the last for Kim. She is vying to become the third woman to win back-to-back gold medals at the Olympics.

At 23 years old, Kim is mature, experienced, but still very talented. She is the favorite to make history in Sochi and the main competitor Gold should be worried about.

 

Mao Asada, Japan

Koji Sasahara/Associated Press

Kim's biggest rival is Asada. She's the silver medalist from Vancouver in 2010. Her triple Axel is her primary weapon. She performs it in both the short and long programs.

Asada is the only woman currently set to attempt the difficult manuever.

If she hits it, Gold and every other woman in the competition could be looking up at her on the top podium spot.

 

Julia Lipnitskaia, Russia

It may have seemed as though the 15-year-old wonder came out of nowhere on Saturday, but those in the know expected her to shine.

After the strong performance in the team stage, there is even more anticipation for the way Lipnitskaia will skate in the short and long programs.

At just 15, many may worry about her poise and confidence, but they need not be concerned with that. The teenager is a mature and fierce competitor.

"Of course there was a bit of worry, but, thank God, I coped well with everything I had to do. I knew I had to be calm," she told Philip Hersh of the Los Angeles Times after her stunning run on Saturday.

She may not be done taking the figure skating world by storm.

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