To no one's surprise, South Korea's Yuna Kim is primed for repeat gold after posting the top result in Wednesday's short program at the 2014 Olympic Games.
Russia's Adelina Sotnikova isn't close behind, however, after she surprised the field with a phenomenal short program. Many thought Julia Lipnitskaia would be in this position, and she's not far behind in fifth place, but Sotnikova was far sharper on Wednesday.
Italian Carolina Kostner is in third place, while American Gracie Gold is in great shape for a medal in fourth place heading into the free skate on Thursday.
Here's a look at the results for all the top finishers from Wednesday's short program.
|9||FRA||Mae Berenice Meite||58.63|
Note: For a full list of results, please visit Sochi2014.com.
While Russian teenage sensation Julia Lipnitskaia has been the darling of these Games thus far for the host nation, Kim was considered by most as the favorite to repeat after her sensational gold-winning performance in Vancouver four years ago.
Nick McCarvel of NBC Sports elaborates:
Defending Olympic gold medalist and reigning world champion Yuna Kim is the favorite in many books, but also a largely unknown entity after having not competed in the Grand Prix season in the lead-up to Sochi, instead only skating at a small event in Croatia in December, and then the South Korean National Championships last month.
Judging by her short program, Kim is right on track to live up to expectations. As pointed out by Christine Brennan of USA Today, her score of 74.92 was her highest of the season, and there's still plenty of room for improvement:
Yuna Kim's score was highest of season. Hard to imagine Julia Lipnitskaia or Mao Asada will beat that. But, 2 of 5 component scores in 8s.— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 19, 2014
Sotnikova's second-place score of 74.64 puts her in excellent position to challenge for the gold in the free skate on Thursday. She was justifiably ecstatic when her score was posted, as shown by BuzzFeed Sports:
Adelina Sotnikova of Russia reacts to her outstanding score in short program. pic.twitter.com/3dtY66QlWc— BuzzFeed Sports (@BuzzFeedSports) February 19, 2014
She has been known to perform well in the short program in the past, including at the European Championships back in January, but it remains to be seen if Sotnikova can duplicate this success on Thursday.
It's not really surprising that Italy's Kostner is in third place after the short program. She's been one of the world's finest figure skaters for over a decade and is a veteran of two past Olympics.
America's trio of medal hopefuls also performed well on Wednesday, as pointed out by Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated:
The U.S. women are fourth (Gracie Gold), sixth (Ashley Wagner) and seventh (Polina Edmunds) after the fig short. Kim Yu-na leads.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) February 19, 2014
Gold could have been sharper, but she's in fine shape in fourth place heading into Thursday, which is right where she hoped to be before the event.
“If not the top three, then two or three points from it,” she said, via Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News. “Keep me in the pack.”
All told, 24 of the 30 skaters who competed on Wednesday qualified for Thursday's free skate medal round.
With so many top skaters still in contention, it's anyone's guess as to which woman will emerge above the pack with a gold-medal-winning performance. Nerves will play a huge factor, and the athletes that can dominate their fears and remember their training will excel.
It should be fantastic.
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