Winter Olympics Figure Skating 2014: Gold Medal Predictions for Remaining Events

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Winter Olympics Figure Skating 2014: Gold Medal Predictions for Remaining Events
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

The 2014 Winter Olympics have seen Russia capture the first-ever gold medal in team figure skating, but there are still plenty more captivating events in the sport to watch for in Sochi.

Having said that, more should be in store for the host country in the upcoming competitions in terms of gold-medal hardware. Between a dominant pairing and a 15-year-old prodigy, the Russians have excellent chances to seize gold in at least two of the four events.

Below is a closer look at the rest of the Winter Games' figure skating action, with a focus on which athletes are likeliest to ascend to the top of the podium.

 

Predicted Gold Medalists

Pairs Free Skating: Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, Russia

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

This duo had the friendly fans in Iceberg Skating Palace on their feet on Tuesday, winning the pairs short program to set themselves up for a gold medal, pending one strong effort in the free program.

Volosozhar and Trankov fed off the crowd as they skated to what went on to be a world record, per NBCOlympics.com's Nick McCarvel:

There was a palpable buzz in the arena as the pair gracefully went through a perfected routine, and it was something both skaters could feel, according to Trankov.

"When all the audience is up on its feet, it gives us great energy," said Trankov, per The Associated Press' Rachel Cohen. "We were trying to breathe together with the audience and feel the good wishes from them, and it has helped us through this program."

German rivals Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy placed second with a score of 79.64, which is behind the pace that the Russian tandem set but puts even more pressure on Volosozhar and Trankov to seize gold as three-time reigning European champions.

As in sync and rehearsed as the Russians are at the moment, though, there should be little to thwart them from gaining another gold in figure skating for their country on Wednesday.

 

Men Free Skating: Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan

Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press

With a magnificent 97.98 score in the men's team short program, the 19-year-old Hanyu was easily the best in the elite field. Although he didn't participate in Sunday's free skate, it stands to reason that Hanyu was saving his best for when a medal is on the line.

Hanyu won the gold medal at the 2013-14 Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, beating out Canada's Patrick Chan, who figures to be a prominent contender for the top prize in Sochi.

As reported by Lynn Rutherford of IceNetwork.com, the precocious Hanyu is confident in his plan and how he's practicing:

Home-crowd favorite and 2006 singles gold-medal winner Evgeni Plushenko placed second in the short program and first in the free program during the team competition, netting Russia a total of 19 points in the process. Plushenko seems as strong as ever at age 31 and was unabashed to go onto the ice a second time while Hanyu and Chan sat out.

But that shouldn't make much difference at all, because there is something about Hanyu and his instincts that stand out from the rest of his world-class peers.

The competition should come down to the three-time world champion Chan seeking to avenge his Grand Prix loss to Hanyu and for that to create a captivating duel. However, Hanyu will emerge victorious with the gold in hand.

 

Ice Dance: Meryl Davis and Charlie White, USA

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

No one has been on the level Davis and White have displayed in the early ice dance showcases, so it shouldn't be any different when the medals are contested for.

Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are just about the only formidable competition that have a shot at pulling off the upset with strong resumes of their own.

Again, though, the Americans seem determined to win the top prize with just one strong team standing in their way after 17 years of hard work, six national titles and a 2010 Vancouver Games silver medal.

Davis and White carried the USA to a bronze medal in the team competition by winning the short and free ice dance programs. As impressive as their flawlessly executed short program was, they took it up a notch further in the free skate with their best score ever of 114.34.

With how sharp Davis and White have looked on the ice so far, it will come as no surprise when they stand in first place after these competitions on Sunday and Monday, respectively.

 

Ladies Free Skating: Julia Lipnitskaia, Russia

Bernat Armangue/Associated Press

Which favorite is likeliest to not win the gold?

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The USA's own teen sensation in Gracie Gold hasn't even been able to keep up with Lipnitskaia in the Winter Games thus far. Lipnitskaia gained a total of 20 points in the team competition by placing first in the ladies' short and free programs.

Gold competed in the second team event and came in second, but the margin between her and Lipnitskaia was substantial. This should be an epic conclusion to the figure skating slate, because Gold will be attempting not only to get her Russian foe back for the free skate, but also slightly redeem the USA's bronze effort in the team competition as Russia ran away with the gold.

Even with the unusual pressure of skating as part of a team, the precocious Lipnitskaia was unfazed by the added reliance on her to come through as she's made her senior debut in incredible style.

Former Olympic figure skater and NBC commentator Johnny Weir provided his opinion on how unflappable Lipnitskaia is, per McCarvel:

"Lipnitskaya is so cool-headed," said Weir. "Someone commented to me that she has ice in her veins, and I think that’s so helpful in this situation. The whole world is on your shoulders in that moment, and [Julia] rocked it."

Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated weighed in on Lipnitskaia, labeling her with a gaudy "superstar" tag that is already suitable:

Lipnitskaia is in a class of her own, which she's proved not once but twice so far in the Winter Games. Sochi will erupt when the teenager puts on a virtuoso performance and wins the gold to cap off one of the best Olympics by such a young competitor in recent history.

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