Olympic Figure Skating 2014: Preview and Predictions for Ladies' Free Skate
The marquee event of the Olympic figure skating program concludes on Thursday with the women's free skate.
After Wednesday's short program, three skaters are separated by less than a point at the top of the standings.
Beneath them there is plenty of room for a skater to put in a strong free skate and earn a medal.
Regardless of who exactly is in those places, Thursday's competition should be one to remember.
Continue reading for a complete preview of the women's free skate.
Just like all of the figure skating competitions, the women's event consists of two programs, the short and free.
The short is contested on the first day of the event, with the free program being the ultimate decider when it comes to medals.
The winner is determined by the highest combined score from the two programs.
Schedule, TV and Live Stream Info
The free skate will begin at 10 a.m. ET at the Iceberg Skating Palace with most of the favorites going off in the final group.
The competition can be seen live in its entirety on the NBC Sports Network and can also be streamed on NBCOlympics.com.
How Did We Get Here?
On Wednesday, 30 skaters took to the ice to compete in the short program and only 24 of them advanced on to the free skate.
The best skater of the night was gold-medal favorite Yuna Kim, but she is in the lead by a fractional margin over Russia's Adelina Sotnikova and Carolina Kostner of Italy. Kim earned a score of 74.92.
Gracie Gold was the top-placing American in fourth place with a score of 68.63, while Polina Edmunds and Ashley Wagner both left themselves within striking distance.
Complete results from the short program can be found here.
Can Kim Defend Her Gold Medal?
Kim does sit in first place after the short program, but she has a lot of work left to do to earn her second career gold medal.
With her closest rivals ready to pounce if she fails, Kim has to deliver a flawless performance to solidify her legacy in the sport.
How High Will the Americans Place?
Heading into Sochi, no one expected any of the three American women to win gold, but the expectation of winning a medal was thrown out there.
Gold, Wagner and Edmunds sit in the top seven after the short program, and if one of the trio puts in the performance of her life in the free skate, we could be talking about her achievement for years to come back home.
Did We Put too Much Pressure on a 15-Year-Old?
After the women's portion of the team competition, everyone fell in love with 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia.
Lipnitskaia entered the short program with everyone talking about her, but she could only deliver a skate worthy of fifth place.
One has to wonder if some of the pressure from the host nation got to her in her first run and if it will continue to bring her down in the free skate.
Who Are the Sleepers?
It is hard to label a second-place finisher in the short program a sleeper, but that is just what Adelina Sotnikova of Russia is.
Sotnikova went into the event overshadowed by all of the attention paid to Lipnitskaia and benefited from it as she earned a score of 74.64.
With everyone still talking about the 15-year-old heading into Thursday, Sotnikova could surprise us all and win the gold.
The best American medal hopeful is 18-year-old Gold, who could break into the top three with a great skate.
Gold has the potential to do that, and without a lot of pressure on her shoulders from the United States public to medal, she could turn into a pleasant surprise on the ice.
Who Is the Favorite to Win Gold?
The gold-medal favorite still has to be Kim since she has all the championship pedigree behind her.
The South Korean skater will not have an easy path to gold, but she is one of the few proven competitors in this field of unknowns.
Kim is capable of putting together a high-scoring skate that no one can rival, which is something she should do on Thursday.
Complete Medal Prediction
Gold: Yuna Kim, South Korea
Silver: Adelina Sotnikova, Russia
Bronze: Julia Lipnitskaia, Russia
Kim should run away with the gold barring a massive setback, but the race for the other medal positions will be a fun one to watch.
With a plethora of skaters in contention to finish second and third, the free skate competition should be one to remember.
In the end, expect the Russian pair to be inspired by the home crowd and deliver two brilliant skates.
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