The final act of the figure skating portion of the 2014 Games is set to commence.
Heavyweights, such as Yuna Kim, will hit the ice to fight for gold in the ladies' free skating event to close the book on figuring skating in Sochi, Russia. Despite Kim being an obvious favorite, plenty of other competitors have more than enough talent to steal the spotlight.
In what is always a highlight of any Winter Olympics, the action will be as good as it gets as each contestant reveals their best program to date in order to claim a spot on the podium.
Be sure catch it live.
When: Thursday, Feb. 20 at 10 a.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra
Note: All info courtesy of Sochi2014.com unless otherwise specified.
Which Big Name Will Shine Under Pressure?
After a gold medal at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, Kim can skate with nothing to lose as the heavy favorite. This relaxed sense has shone through in her interviews, as captured by Sonali Karnick of CBC:
Kim continued on her dominant path in the short program, leading all qualifiers with a score of 74.92 thanks to her great run to “Send in the Clowns.”
Kim will obviously be in top form, but she was helped in the qualifier when her top rival took a hard fall to the ice. Said rival is Japan's Mao Asada, a talent who is getting lost in the shuffle of big names as of late.
Asada will have to bounce back, but struggles were easy to predict for the Japanese star with her program composed of such difficult maneuvers. She finished a shocking 16th in the short program after a fall, as Yahoo! Sports' Joe Lago details:
Japan's Mao Asada fell on 1st jump, then doubled a triple. Nearly in tears, she gets 55.51 to put her in 16th place. Stunning. #Sochi2014— Joe Lago (@joelago) February 19, 2014
A few names have risen above Asada as contenders, at least in the court of public perception. The biggest is 15-year-old sensation Julia Lipnitskaia of the host country, who fell in the short program but still landed in fifth place.
Lipnitskaia registered two first-place finishes in the team event to propel Russia to the gold in the inaugural spectacle. She figures to play a large part in the podium proceedings, but her lack of experience on the big stage may come back to haunt her against Kim.
The same can be said for Gracie Gold of the United States. Gold herself admitted the stage had an impact on her before the short program, via Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated:
Gracie Gold on her nerves tonight: ""I was definitely nervous before and felt sick to my stomach. I had to refocus and stick to my job."— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) February 19, 2014
Gold still went on to score a 68.63, which netted her fourth place, but she will have to improve in a big way as other stars such as Asada and Lipnitskaia will not always falter.
The podium picture is blurry given the strange showing by some top names as of late.
Do not go into the final expecting many surprises.
Kim is simply too dominant for a passing-of-the-torch moment to happen just yet. She has a major advantage in the experience department, which she explained to 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.
While Lipnitskaia has plenty of gold medals in her future, she unfortunately will not be able to pull it off in front of her home crowd. The same goes for Gold, who is sure to be a major contender for quite some time.
A Kim-Asada finish at the top is boring, but more often than not, most predictions are. The shift of power in women's figure skating is on indefinite hold.
Gold: Yuna Kim
Silver: Mao Asada
Bronze: Gracie Gold