Winter Olympics Figure Skating 2014: Top Women Contenders Entering Free Skate

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2014

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 19:  Yuna Kim of South Korea competes in the Figure Skating Ladies' Short Program on day 12 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

An extremely close short program leaves several top women's figure skaters in the medal hunt heading into Thursday's free skate.

Nobody stood out on Wednesday, as three competitors exited within a point of each other. Yuna Kim holds the narrowest of leads after the first of two events to decipher a winner, but Russia's Adelina Sotnikova and Italy's Carolina Kostner are both breathing down her neck.

There are also several big names trailing those three. Gracie Gold stayed in medal contention at 6.29 points behind Kim. Fellow U.S. skater Ashley Wagner was again not too pleased at her score, but she's not to be forgotten at sixth place.

The big favorite, Julia Lipnitskaia, could not live up to her dazzling displays that led Russia to gold in team play. She fell at the end of her program, cutting her score to 65.23, which places her in fifth. 

With the medal race wide open, here are some of the top figure skaters to watch during the final portion of the women's event.

Women's Short Program Results
1Yuna KimSouth Korea74.92
2Adelina SotnikovaRussia74.64
3Carolina KostnerItaly74.12
4Gracie GoldUnited States68.63
5Julia LipnitskaiaRussia65.23
6Ashley WagnerUnited States65.21
7Polina EdmundsUnited States61.04
8Akiko SuzukiJapan60.97
9Mae-Berenice MeiteFrance58.63
10Nathalie WeinzierlGermany57.63
11Zijun LiChina57.55
12Valentina MarcheiItaly57.02
13Kaetlyn OsmondCanada56.18
14Kexin ZhangChina55.80
15Kanako MurakamiJapan55.60


Yuna Kim, South Korea

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 19:  Yuna Kim of South Korea competes in the Figure Skating Ladies' Short Program on day 12 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Image
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Kim has etched out an odd path to Sochi, but she is now looking to reclaim her figure skating throne that Lipnitskaia has threatened to seize.

After winning gold during the 2010 Vancouver Games, she looked poised to dominate the discipline for years to come. But after capturing the 2011 world championships, she decided to sit out a season.

She returned without a hitch, winning the 2013 world championships in London, but she battled a foot injury that cut into her training regimen last fall.

According to the Chicago Tribune's Philip Hersh, the 23-year-old admitted to experiencing some pre-event jitters:

I did a lot of clean shorts (short programs) in practice. And I was sure I could do a clean short in the competition. (But) in the warmup, I was very nervous. I couldn’t jump at all. I just tried to trust in me and believe in myself.

Now that Kim has dusted off any potential rust and reminded everyone of her presence, she has to be considered a top threat to successfully defend her crown.


Julia Lipnitskaia, Russia

SAINT JOHN, NB - OCTOBER 26: Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia skates during the ladies free program on day two at the ISU GP 2013 Skate Canada International at Harbour Station on October 26, 2013 in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Ge
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Let's not write off the 15-year-old sensation just yet.

After earning a high score in both the team free program and short program, Lipnitskaia was tabbed as figure skating's new superstar. The host nation could not wait to see what its prodigal daughter would do in her encore.

Unfortunately, she slipped while finishing her routine with a triple flip. Throw in the men's hockey team receiving an early elimination, and Russia, as Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan playfully points out, had a rough day.

Just remember that she set a record in her last free skate, scoring a 141.51 to earn Russia the gold. Ten points suddenly seems less insurmountable while looking at the 141.51 points she earned a week ago.

People fall. It happens. Especially kids. And especially people twirling around on ice. She's just lucky that the mishap did not cost her too dearly like it did to Mao Asada, who sits in 16th after her fallshe entered as a top medal contender.

If Lipnitskaia can avoid a fatal error, she can deliver another magical performance that catapults her past the four ladies blocking her path to gold.


Carolina Kostner, Italy

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 08:  Carolina Kostner of Italy competes in the Figure Skating Team Ladies Short Program during day one of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Get
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Going into the short program, Kostner had to fear proceeding Lipnitskaia. Had she duplicated her routines from the team event, the crowd would have been too excited to care about Kostner's outing.

But the fall subdued a stunned arena, and the Italian skater capitalized by vaulting herself into the top three. After her successful performance, she confessed to Hersh that she was not excited about her draw.

“I was a little afraid going after Julia,” Kostner said. “I tried to think positive and light things. I am very relieved.”

Kostner finished second behind Lipnitskaia in the short program, but she received no medal for her efforts since Italy tallied the fourth-most total points. Now on her own, she's one more strong routine away from capturing her first Olympic medal.

The 27-year-old has constantly fallen short of top billing, but she is routinely among the top competitors in her field. She isn't the strongest contender to win gold, but she has a great shot of leaving Sochi with a medal around her neck.


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