Olympic Figure Skating 2014: Sochi's Young Athletes Signal Sport's Bright Future

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIFebruary 9, 2014

Yulia Lipnitskaya of Russia competes in the women's team short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Bernat Armangue/Associated Press

What a day for Olympic figure skating. We were fortunate enough to watch dazzling displays put on by athletes from around the world on Sunday. However, none stood out more than the young, up-and-coming Olympians making their debuts in Sochi.

With budding stars such as Russia's Yulia Lipnitskaya, Gracie Gold of the United States and Canada's Patrick Chan coming into their own during the 2014 Olympics, the sport appears to have a very bright future.

Russia taking the gold medal, Canada taking silver and the United States finishing with the bronze in the team event was of no surprise being that the three aforementioned prodigies each skate for one of these countries.

The 15-year-old Lipnitskaya and the 18-year-old Gold finished first and second, respectively, in the ladies' free program on Sunday. These teenagers absolutely dominated the competition, as the final scores indicate:

Team Ladies' Free Program Results
1Yulia LipnitskayaRussia141.51
2Gracie GoldUnited States129.38
3Valentina MarcheiItaly112.51
4Akiko SuzukiJapan112.33
5Kaetlyn OsmondCanada110.73

Gold spoke of her performance and nerves heading into Sunday's event, per Christine Brennan of USA Today:

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Not everyone on Team USA had their best performance. And so Ashley and I knew we really had to bring our A-game. And so far, so good. But Jason (Brown) and I were definitely a little nervous. Our parents told us that neither of us did team sports because we didn't like having other people rely on us but also having that extra pressure. So I'm really glad that Jason and I both skated well. And I can't believe that just happened.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Gold's breakout performance foreshadows a very bright future in women's figure skating. The United States can relish on the fact that it has such a magnificent rising star.

As for Lipnitskaya, she is in a league of her own. The youngest athlete to ever earn an Olympic gold medal, she put on an awe-inspiring performance in Sochi.

Despite being only 15 years of age, Lipnitskaya is mature beyond her years. She remained very modest when speaking with the media, per RT.com:

For me, this skate was not the best. We will work on mistakes so that on the individual championship there are no flaws. It was annoying that I failed the last rotation. And, yes, I could strengthen jumps. In the individual tournament, I set the highest goals.

She clearly has the determination and dedication to dominate the sport for many years to come.

Chan is still just 23 years of age and is already a decorated skater. Earning 11 medals—seven of them goldin men's singles events over the past seven years, Chan has been a name to watch in the men's ranks.

Bernat Armangue/Associated Press

He made his Sochi Olympics debut on Thursday by posting a score of 89.71 in the men's short program. Although he finished in third place, he still put on a dazzling show.

Unfortunately, he was replaced on Sunday by fellow countryman Kevin Reynolds. However, Chan's presence was already felt, as he was a huge contributing factor to Canada's team silver medal.

Now, Chan's focus is on the individual competition. Chan spoke of his early jitters and focus going forward, per TheStar.com:

I got off the ice, saw the scores, and told myself, hey, this is a great chance to get those jitters out. There was a feeling of that hesitation, because I wanted to be so perfect. I know there’s a lot of people watching me and I feel like the center of attention. So, all those little things crept into my mind.

Now, with his concentration solely on the upcoming individual events, look for Chan to light up the ice in a big way.

These three young athletes are prodigies of their sport. With ages ranging from just 15 to 23, they still have many years of fantastic routines to come.

The future of figure skating appears immensely bright.


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