In the wake of a dazzling performance by Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White to take the gold medal in the ice dancing competition, the ever-growing feeling of anticipation for the remaining ladies' events becomes even stronger.
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi have featured some of the best figure skating the world has ever seen. The pairs, men's and ice dancing contests were full of dramatic conclusions that never failed to captivate audiences.
With the ladies' short and free programs left as the only remaining figure skating events, let's first take a look at the schedule and make predictions for each before they commence.
|Ladies' Short Program||Wednesday, Feb. 19||10 a.m. ET||NBC|
|Ladies' Free Skate||Thursday, Feb. 20||10 a.m. ET||NBC|
Both disciplines will be available for live streaming on NBCOlympics.com.
During the ladies' team events earlier in this Winter Olympics, we saw some younger athletes produce breakout performances and become instant stars.
Things will be a little different in the individual competition, as the rink consists of many veteran skater—including South Korea's Yuna Kim.
Kim, the reigning Olympic ladies' figure skating champion, has been one of the most dominant athletes in her sport for years. Alongside her Olympic gold medal, she has accumulated six other gold medals in the South Korean Championships, three in the Grand Prix Finals, one in the Four Continents Championships and two in the World Championships.
It's quite the track record.
Despite her success, she is only 23 years old and enters the 2014 Olympics riding a hot streak after earning a gold medal in the 2013 World Championships in London.
Kim thinks her advantage is her Olympic experience—as other competitors, such as Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia and the U.S.'s Gracie Gold, are just entering their first. Kim explained this during an interview with Barry Wilner of the Associated Press via ABC News:
I have learned from the first Olympics, of course. When I went to my first Olympic Games, I experienced all of the pressure and was able to win the gold medal. I try not to feel the pressure and I try not to be nervous when I am on the ice and when I compete. The Russian girls just went from juniors into seniors and now they have their first Olympic Games, and me, I am in my second Olympics. They are not as experienced at it, but it is fun to be in your first Olympics.
It's possible that Kim has an advantage; however, the younger competitors have already gained some Olympic experience of their own in earlier events in Sochi.
Russian phenom Julia Lipnitskaia is one of the favorites in the ladies' individual competition after her incredible showing in the team competition. The 15-year-old Lipnitskaia dominated the ice in the team ladies' free skate, scoring an incredible 141.51.
However, not far behind her was 18-year-old American Gracie Gold. With a strong showing of her own, Gold showed flawless technique and earned a personal-best score of 129.38.
To put those two scores into perspective, Valentina Marchei of Italy finished third with a score of 112.51.
Clearly, the two youngsters are in their own stratosphere.
Gold has her own idea of how to overtake Lipnitskaia and earn the coveted gold medal, according to an interview with Kevin Tresolini of USA Today via News-Leader.com:
Yulia is a machine and she is an excellent skater. We've all seen it. But when it comes down to competition, it's not always about who the best skater is. It's about who skates the best in that competition. It's all about who's going to put out that best performance. We're just going to try to beat her at her own game, on home turf and just leave everything on the ice. I've placed above her before with a great skate and I just have to bring my 'A' game.
It's quite a bold statement from such a young skater. However, Gold does have the ability to back up her comments with some fantastic skating.
However, both Kim and Gold will have their hands full with Lipnitskaia, who has been called a "tiny genius" by Russian ice dancer Ekaterina Bobrova during an interview with Nancy Armour of USA Today.
This has all of the makings to be one of the most intense events of the 2014 Olympic Games.
Who is most likely to take the gold medal?
Watch for Kim, Lipnitskaia and Gold to get out to fast starts during the ladies' short program. They could be chased closely by Ashley Wagner of the United States, Marchei, Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada and Akiko Suzuki of Japan, if any come out with top-notch performances.
Despite the strong field, only Kim, Lipnitskaia and Gold have the best shots at the podium. Because of their superior abilities, it would take a drastic mishap for any of the three to miss out on a medal. That just doesn't seem likely to happen.
When the dust settles, it will be that very trio standing on the podium earning medals for their countries.
Gold Medal: Julia Lipnitskaia
Silver Medal: Yuna Kim
Bronze Medal: Gracie Gold