US Olympic Figure Skating 2014: Top Contenders to Watch in Women's Free Skating

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US Olympic Figure Skating 2014: Top Contenders to Watch in Women's Free Skating
Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press

With the women's figure skating short program done with at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, only the free-skating event remains as a number of top contenders prepare to compete for a gold medal.

South Korean star Yuna Kim leads all women figure skaters after another terrific performance during the short program. Meanwhile, Adelina Sotnikova from Russia and Carolina Kostner from Italy round out a very tight top three, as they all posted scores within one point of one another.

With the free-skating event getting ready to start on Thursday, let's take a look at the current leaderboard and some of the top contenders to watch.

Women's Figure Skating Leaderboard
Rank Country Skater Score
1 South Korea Yuna Kim 74.92
2 Russia Adelina Sotnikova 74.64
3 Italy Carolina Kostner 74.12
4 USA Gracie Gold 68.63
5 Russia Julia Lipnitskaia 65.23
6 USA Ashley Wagner 65.21
7 USA Polina Edmunds 61.04
8 Japan Akiko Suzuki 60.97
9 France Mae Berenice Meite 58.63
10 Germany Nathalie Weinzierl 57.55

http://www.sochi2014.com/en/figure-skating-ladies-short-program

 

Yuna Kim, South Korea

As the top figure skater on the women's leaderboard, Kim is naturally the top contender to watch. But that's not the only reason all eyes should be on her once the free-skating event gets started on Thursday.

Richard Deitsch of SI.com had this to say about Kim's performance:

At just 23 years old, she has become one of the most popular figure skaters in the world. Her fame reached an all-time high at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where she dominated the competition on her way to winning gold. In fact, she broke ISU records in the short program, free skate and combined total score in Vancouver.

But her success didn't stop there. At the world championships, Kim has won two gold medals and two silver since 2009, including a gold in the 2013 event in London. At the Grand Prix final, she earned four medals, with three of them gold.

Given the amount of success she's had, it's not hard to believe that she has a real shot at winning gold once again at the Winter Olympics.

 

Julia Lipnitskaia, Russia

Darko Bandic/Associated Press

At just 15 years old, Russia' Julia Lipnitskaia is already starting to turn a lot of heads.

She made a name for herself in a hurry during Russia's team event. She placed first in both the short and free programs to help Russia take home the gold, which made her a national hero at Sochi as well as the youngest Olympic gold medalist in figure skating history.

The compliments are coming from everywhere. According to Liz Clarke of The Washington Post, United States figure skater Ashley Wagner had this to say about the 15-year-old:

What she does as an athlete is very incredible. To be 15 and to be at the Olympics, it either really works for you or it really works against you. I was 16 at my first world championships, and it really worked against me. So the fact that she has come in here and been so focused and has her eye on the prize — that’s very admirable for a 15-year-old. She’s wise beyond her years.

Unfortunately for Lipnitskaia, during the singles short program, she fell after attempting a triple flip, possibly hurting her chances at the gold. However, the fall didn't lower her score too drastically, as she's still fifth with a score of 65.23.

If the Russian phenom can have a strong free-skate performance like she did during the team event, that fall might not be too costly.

 

Gracie Gold, United States

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Team USA has three skaters in the top 10 right now, but 18-year-old Gracie Gold finished the short program with a strong fourth-place finish after scoring a 68.63, which put her around six points off the lead.

She helped lead the United States to a bronze-medal finish during the team event after a strong free-skate score of 129.38. At the 2014 U.S. Championships in Boston, she won a gold medal in women's singles one year after earning silver in Omaha, which shows that she's continuing to improve.

The biggest thing Gold will have to fight through for the free skate will be nerves. According to another tweet from Deitsch, she admitted to being nervous for the short program:

Gold is still in the running for a medal, but she will have to make sure to overcome those nerves and have a very strong performance.

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