US Men's Olympic Figure Skating 2014: Individuals Set to Star After Team Event

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US Men's Olympic Figure Skating 2014: Individuals Set to Star After Team Event
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

With the first-ever figure skating team event coming to a close at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, several stars have emerged on the sport's biggest stage.

But after representing their country in the team competition, which skaters will shine the brightest in the individual events?

Whether it's Yulia Lipnitskaya's surprising rise to fame or Evgeni Plushenko making a triumphant return with his nearly flawless routines, the stage is certainly set for the host country of Russia to come in as the favorites in both the men's and women's competitions.

But thanks to Gracie Gold putting on a second-place performance and the brilliance of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the Americans will contend for medals and could come out on top.

Prior to the start of the individual portions of the Winter Olympics, here is a look at the biggest stars set to sparkle when they hit the ice again.

 

Evgeni Plushenko, Russia

Bernat Armangue/Associated Press

At 31 years old, Plushenko is the elder statesman in the men's figure skating competition. But after putting together two acts of impeccable skating, the Russian is in line to win his fifth Olympics medal and potentially his third gold in Sochi.

The Russian star credits his standout performances thus far to the home crowd getting behind him, according to Barry Wilner of the Associated Press.

"This games is the hardest for me," he said. "All the fans are cheering so hard that you literally cannot do badly because they do everything with you. You get goose bumps."

Joe Fleming of USA Today provides an image of the Russian star being congratulated by his President Vladimir Putin:

After falling to Evan Lysacek in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Plushenko appears to be looking to exact some revenge in Sochi. If he can translate his sensational performances over to the singles event, only Patrick Chan could be up to the challenge.

But with a field that includes Jeremy Abbott, who will be looking for his own bounce-back routine after falling in his lone skate, Plushenko will have his hands full.

Regardless of where Plushenko finishes in what could be his final Olympics, being back on top of his game in his home country serves as a perfect swan song for the legendary skater.

 

Yulia Lipnitskaya, Russia

Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

After putting together one of the most memorable performances thus far in Sochi, Lipnitskaya is the clear-cut star emerging in the women's individual events.

Following her flawless opening routine, her second act was so beautiful it got the normally stoic Putin to rise out of his seat and applaud the young star, according to Nick McCarvel of NBC:

The 15-year-old is just barely old enough to compete, but her technique has proven she skates well beyond her years. But with a strong field in the women's competition, Lipnitskaya will have to be perfect again to win an individual gold.

Along with the Russian, Gracie Gold of Team USA and Japan's Mao Asada were standouts in the team competition. Despite a fall from Asada, which dropped her down to third, she clearly has the technique to contend for gold.

But with South Korean star Yuna Kim waiting in the wings, it might be a fight for any of the aforementioned contestants just to finish with a silver medal. Regardless of where she finishes in the individual competition, Lipnitskaya will shine once again for Russia.

 

Meryl Davis and Charlie White, USA 

Serving as the veteran leaders for the Americans, Davis and White have represented their country to the best of their abilities throughout the Olympics thus far.

The ice-dancing tandem hasn't shown a single imperfection during their two performances and are still the odds-on favorite to win their first individual gold when they hit the ice.

As the only winners during the team competition, American Ashley Wagner credited the duo for winning her first Olympic medal:

But White and Davis aren't the only competitors looking to shine on the Olympic stage. The Canadian duo of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the gold medal in 2010, but haven't looked up to the challenge in Sochi.

There are reports judges are fixing scores to make sure Virtue and Moir don't win the events, as The Hamilton Spectator reports. Even though the rumors are swirling in Sochi, White said he and his partner will not be distracted, according to Gregg Krupa of The Detroit News:

You know, I think what's great about us is that having been together for 17 years and having been through the sport and ups and downs, we sort of live by our own expectations, and coming into each event we just want to do our best.

And so, we don't let any sort of external factors, be it big or small, play into any sort of equation of what we're doing or what we're expecting or how we want to skate

We're loving that we had a great first skate. So we're just trying to keep the ball rolling.

With the duo appearing unfazed by any outside factors en route to what they hope will be their first Olympic gold medal after nearly two decades of preparing for this moment, expect Davis and White to melt the ice for the Americans.

 

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