Will Julia Lipnitskaia continue her breakout performance?
The 2014 Winter Olympics has reached its second week, and the medal race has tightened up at the top. The ladies' figure skating free skate competition provides an opportunity for some of the top countries to add to their medal tally, which currently stands as constituted:
A few names emerged at this event during the team competition, but the reigning gold medalist from 2010 will be back to challenge those young stars.
Check out the full TV info for the event below, as well as a preview and predictions of what we might see.
|Ladies' Free Skate||Thursday, Feb. 20||10 a.m.||NBCSN|
During the team event, Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia and America's Gracie Gold separated themselves as the clear top performers in the free skate.
The 15-year old Lipnitskaia blew away the field with her 141.51 score in the team event, a personal best that made her the buzz of the Olympics during the first week. The teen sensation has shied away from the spotlight since her breakout performance, but she will not sneak up on anyone during the individual event.
Lipnitskaia has emerged as perhaps the biggest rival to the reigning gold medalist, South Korea's "Ice Queen" Yuna Kim. The 23-year-old Kim is a two-time world champion, and while Lipnitskaia has taken Sochi by storm, the Korean star is approaching the event with a quiet confidence, per Barry Wilner of the Associated Press, via ABC News:
For Kim, these games are a much different environment from four years ago when she enchanted the sports world with two brilliant programs.
"I don't think these Olympics are special for me like Vancouver was," said 23-year-old Kim, who is widely referred to as "Queen Yuna" in South Korea. "Those were my first Olympics and I wanted to win them very badly, and I did win them. Now I am experienced in the Olympics. I want to win them just the same, yes, but the experience is not the same."
Kim remains the favorite in the event due to her experience and pedigree, as Lipnitskaia has been relatively untested in European competitions despite her tremendous Olympics debut. Though she missed the Grand Prix season because of a foot injury, Kim dominated last year's world championships in Ontario, and could become just the third woman to win back-to-back figure skating golds.
America's best hope for a medal is 18-year-old Gracie Gold, who finished runner-up to Lipnitskaia in the team event. Gold was a clear-cut second in the free skate, putting up a personal-best 129.38 score that has earned her buzz as a medal possibility in the individual event.
Gold will likely need a similar performance to have a shot at the gold medal, but her coach, Frank Carroll, does not believe the team event accurately portrayed the separation between Gold and Lipnitskaia, according to Filip Bondy of The New York Daily News:
There was still a gulf of more than 12 points between the scores of Lipnitskaya and Gold. That difference bugged Carroll, who believes Lipnitskaya's transitions are not that impressive.
"I think she's excellent. I don't think she's fabulous yet," Carroll said of the 15-year-old Russian. "There are things I like about her skating and things I don't like."
Gold is far from a lock to reach the podium, however, as other competitors like Italy's Valentina Marchei and Japan's Akiko Suzuki lurk as medal threats.
Kim and Lipnitskaia are in a class above the other competitors, and should finish in the top two barring a catastrophe. The guess here is that Lipnitskaia continues her scintillating breakout on her home ice, while Gold also sustains her rise and wins the bronze.
Gold: Julia Lipnitskaia
Silver: Yuna Kim
Bronze: Gracie Gold