Following a men's figure skating event that was marred with subpar performances in the free skate programs, the women will be looking to put on a stellar show in Sochi.
The 2014 Winter Olympics are winding down with just four days of competitions left, but this remains one of the must-watch events. Things are tight across the leaderboard following Wednesday's short program competition, with 2010 gold medalist Yuna Kim holding a slim lead over two competitors.
Sitting in fourth place is top American Gracie Gold, who was clearly excited about Wednesday's competition.
Kim will cap off the free skate competition as the 24th and final competitor following Wednesday's draw. Here's the complete results from the short program, with a look ahead to Thursday's starting order and TV information.
|Women's Figure Skating Leaderboard|
|9||FRA||Mae Berenice Meite||58.63||14|
|23||KOR||So Youn Park||49.14||1|
|24||NOR||Anne Line Gjersem||48.56||5|
Women's Figure Skating Free Program
Date: Thursday, Feb. 20
Time: 10 a.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra
Additional TV: NBC Prime time (8 p.m. / 7 p.m. CT)
Kim was pleased with her mistake-free performance on Wednesday, which netted her a score of 74.92 and showcased her trademark mix of elegance and technical ability.
As for starting 24th on Thursday, Kim told Rachel Cohen of the Associated Press that she's well-equipped to handle the long wait between warm-ups and her wait.
"But I have such experience that I don't think it will be a problem," she said.
The South Korean star carries the slimmest of leads into the final day of the figure skating competition at the Sochi Games. She earned 74.92 points in winning the short program Wednesday; Russian teen Adelina Sotnikova has 74.64 and Italy's Carolina Kostner 74.12.
Kim, 23, is the only one of the three who knows how it feels to nail a perfect free skate at the Olympics. But what she is seeking to accomplish this time is still daunting: Just two women, Sonja Henie and Katarina Witt, have won two straight golds.
Even though Kim will be facing immense pressure when she finally takes the ice, no stage is too big for her at this point. She's called "The Queen" for a reason, and the weight of history doesn't seem to be bogging her down, per Sonali Karnick of CBC.
Kim entered as the favorite and she'll remain that way unless her two closest competitors put together the best routines of their respective careers. Even then, Kim figures to have the upper hand with her track record of success and raw talent.
Currently sitting at second place is 17-year-old Russian Adelina Sotnikova, who posted a career-best score of 74.64 in the short program and had a priceless reaction upon seeing the numbers revealed, via Joe Fleming of USA Today.
Sotnikova is sandwiched in between Kim and 27-year-old Italian Carolina Kostner, who faltered in a similar situation in 2010. But Kostner is currently ranked the top skater in international competitions during the 2013/14 season, according to ISUResults.com, and looked sharp Wednesday.
The American trio of Gold (fourth, 68.63), Ashley Wagner (sixth, 65.21) and Polina Edmunds (seventh, 61.04) are holding their own against the world's best.
Facing a 5.49-point deficit behind Kostner, Gold has an outside chance at reaching the podium, per Nancy Armour of USA Today.
They're still longshots to make the podium and avoid going home empty-handed from the women's event at consecutive Olympics for the first time since 1948. Gold has the best shot, and she'd need to skate perfectly – or close to it – and get some help from Olympic champion Yuna Kim, Adelina Sotnikova and Carolina Kostner, who are virtually tied.
But stranger things have happened in figure skating, as Gold saw in the men's event. Her training partner, Denis Ten, jumped from ninth after the short program to the bronze medal because of his own clean skate and the missteps of the guys above him.
"I just knew that I had to fight because it's about kind of throwing it down and it's all about points," Gold said.
Wagner and the 15-year-old Edmunds will likely just be spectators as the top-four ladies duke it out Thursday. But NBC Sports outlined a scenario where Wagner could vault herself into medal contention.
The colorful Wagner had another memorable reaction to her score on Wednesday, as rising Russian star Julia Lipnitskaia posted a 65.23, 0.02 more than Wagner, despite falling in her routine. Wagner didn't fall, but she didn't exactly wow the judges with her routine for the second time in Sochi following her so-so performance in the team portion of figure skating.
But this event ultimately comes down to Kim, who is poised to put together another golden routine as a fitting Olympic sendoff.
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