Julia Lipnitskaia's Success Will Create Increased Pressure in Individual Event

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2014

Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia competes in the women's team free skate figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Bernat Armangue/Associated Press

The great thing about the Olympics is that an athlete can go from relative obscurity to being an international star. However, this also leads to more pressure for upcoming events.

This could potentially be a problem for the latest media darling, Russian teen sensation Yulia Lipnitskaya.

The 15-year-old figure skater was a key part of the host country's gold medal in the first-ever team competition at the Olympics. Lipnitskaya finished with the best score in both the ladies short program and free skate, the latter being by a significant margin.

With impressive jumps and even better spins, there was simply no one in her class in the early going.

Ollie Williams of BBC notes the reaction from the crowd after her final performance:

Amazingly, Lipnitskaya believes she can do better. After her final showing, she explained to the media, via RT:

For me, this skate was not the best. We will work on mistakes so that on the individual championship there are no flaws. It was annoying that I failed with the last rotation. And, yes, I could strengthen jumps. In the individual tournament, I set the highest goals.

She went back to Moscow to train before returning for the ladies singles event beginning on Feb. 19.

The only problem is that now she will return to Sochi as a star. Kevin Kaduk of Yahoo! Sports explained that the skater has already "positioned herself to become the darling of the Sochi Games." The magazine Seventeen already made a list of 13 reasons why she is "amazing."

Even if you did not watch the performance live, you probably know the name by now.

Obviously, there is no problem with being popular. Success in an international event like this one can lead to a lifetime of endorsements. However, it can also bring about more pressure than one is used to having.

Lipnitskaya entered the week as a medal contender thanks to her win at the European Championships. However, she had tough competition from South Korea's Kim Yuna and Japan's Mao Asada, as well as Americans Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner. Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond could also be a contender to medal.

Even her teammate Adelina Sotnikova defeated Lipnitskaya at the Russian national championships in December.

Despite all of this competition, the 15-year-old skater's two performances in the team competition were enough to make her a favorite in the eyes of millions watching from around the world. She has transcended figure skating and is now a can't-miss star for all of the Olympics.

Kelly Whiteside of USA Today is one of many who believe Lipnitskaya is on the path for individual gold:

As a result, the young star will have to deal with increased media scrutiny and be forced to answer more questions from reporters, fans and anyone else who comes across her. She could also end up being held to a higher standard on the ice after the judges have seen what she is capable of producing.

Even though she has already taken home a gold medal as part of the team event, anything less than an individual gold could be considered a disappointment. This is a lot of pressure, especially as a member of the host country.

No matter how experienced a competitor is, this pressure to succeed often leads to failure.

Fortunately, everything we have seen shows that Lipnitskaya will not be affected by these outside influences. Gold said about her opponent, "She has no spine. Yet she has iron in her bones," via Katie Baker of Grantland.

If she can maintain her toughness for the final two days of competition, the Russian has what it takes to bring home another gold medal.


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