While no medals were awarded on Wednesday, a gold-medal battle in the individual women's figure skating competition in Sochi began shaping up.
Yuna Kim was nearly flawless in her routine and has the lead, earning a 39.03 technical score and a 35.89 component score to create a season's best, 74.92. However, this advantage is almost negligible thanks to great scores by Russia's Adelina Sotnikova (74.62) and Italy's Carolina Kostner (74.12).
With a number of elite skaters not too far behind, there will be a lot of pressure on each athlete to provide an even better showing in the free skate on Thursday.
Here is a full look at the short program results, courtesy of Sochi2014.com. Only the top 24 skaters qualified for the final session:
|1||Yuna Kim||South Korea||74.92|
|4||Gracie Gold||United States||68.63|
|6||Ashley Wagner||United States||65.21|
|7||Polina Edmunds||United States||61.04|
|9||Mae Berenice Meite||France||58.63|
|18||Hae-jin Kim||South Korea||54.37|
|20||Elizaveta Ukolova||Czech Republic||51.87|
|23||So-Youn Park||South Korea||49.14|
|24||Anne Line Gjersem||Norway||48.56|
|25||Jenna McCorkell||Great Britain||48.34|
via Sochi2014.com; Highlighted athletes did not qualify for free skate
Kim entered the week as the favorite to defend her gold medal after winning this event in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. She has also won two world championships including the most recent title in 2013.
After the short programs, the projected winner remains the same as Kim was fantastic, as described by Christine Brennan of USA Today:
Yuna Kim lands all her jumps, perfect, effortless landings. Looks terrific.— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 19, 2014
Yuna Kim finishes flawless program. Hands on hips, smiles. Looks relieved, like weight of world off her shoulders.— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 19, 2014
Julia Lipnitskaia also had high expectations coming into this event after emerging as the star of the team competition. The young Russian posted the best scores in both the short program and free skate to help her country earn the gold medal.
Unfortunately, a missed jump hurt her score on Wednesday, and the impact was felt by all the home fans, according to Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead:
Julia Lipnitskaia, the 15-year old Russian figure skating phenom, just fell. The screams from the crowd were loud, sad.— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) February 19, 2014
This left the door open for teammate Sotnikova, who was considered Russia's best chance for a medal before Lipnitskaia broke out. Nick McCarvel of NBC Olympics notes how the fans responded to the performance that put her into second place:
Kostner remains in close contention as well after the veteran posted 74.12 in her short program. The former world champion had struggled at her two previous appearances in the Olympics, but she made up for it with a showing that impressed both the fans and judges.
American skater Jason Brown was certainly excited about the show:
Too entranced to take a pic of Carolina's performance! She was mesmerizing...into a crazy close second!!!! So deserved!!!— Jason Brown (@jasonbskates) February 19, 2014
Gracie Gold didn't match Kim, Sotnikova or Kostner, but came through with a solid performance nonetheless, earning a score of 68.63 to sit in fourth place entering the final day.
The United States champion certainly has a chance to medal, but she is not allowing outside pressure to influence her. She told John Powers of The Boston Globe on Tuesday:
It does seem like unreasonable expectations to have just one world championships under my belt and then expect to medal for the United States. I think I did my part last year getting the third [Olympic] spot and being able to send three ladies. I assisted in the team medal. I just have to go out and skate the best that I can for the US.
This relaxed attitude will likely help her out going forward in this competition.
Her teammate Ashley Wagner is also in the running for a spot on the podium, but she was once again disappointed with her score of 65.21. She will hope that her free skate can allow her to jump some of her competitors and get into the top three.
Additionally, the United States got a third qualifier for the free skate in 15-year-old Polina Edmunds. She came through with a personal best of 61.04, handling the pressure well, according to McCarvel:
First-ever senior event for 15-year-old Edmunds comes at the OLYMPICS. Skated as steady as she could w that kinda pressure #Sochi2014— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) February 19, 2014
Although she is a long shot to medal, she should be proud of an impressive performance to get this far.
On the other hand, Japan's Mao Asada likely had the most disappointing showing as the 2010 silver medalist sits in 16th place after a spill in the early going.
Still, the spotlight remains on Kim after taking the lead heading into the final day. Sotnikova and Kostner have an opportunity to catch her, but the South Korean's experience and previous success keeps her the favorite.
It will take a superb effort for any of the other competitors to leave Sochi with a gold medal.
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