- Figure Skating
Breaking down the top medal contenders in the ladies' free skate
SOCHI, Russia – Four minutes until history. That’s what six ladies have in front of them Thursday night at the Iceberg Skating Palace. But who are the three that we’ll remember?
RELATED: Kim, Sotnikova and Kostner lead ladies' short program
Below a breakdown, skater by skater, of what each of them need to do tonight to step onto the Olympic podium and the history books.
Yuna Kim, 23 (KOR) Place: 1st Score: 74.92
After competing irregularly between her gold in Vancouver and these Games, many weren’t sure where the South Korean skater would land in the ladies’ short program. But she delivered stealthily, skating beautifully to “Send in the Clowns” and maintaining her lead after performing early in the line-up. In the free skate, she needs a clean bill of health on her jumps, including on her planned six triples and five doubles.
VIDEO: Yuna Kim's Vancouver short program
Kim still holds the world record – a 150.06 – in the free skate from Vancouver, but anything north of 130 should safely put her into first. Should she win, she’ll become the first woman since Katarina Witt (1984 and 1988) to claim back-to-back gold medals at the Olympics.
Embedded video_content_type: Yuna Kim leads after short program
Adelina Sotnikova, 17 (RUS) Place: 2nd Score: 74.64
Long the face for the Sochi Olympics in the years leading up, Sotnikova was swept aside when Yulia Lipnitskaya not only won two Grand Prix circuit gold medals, but then Europeans and helped the Russian team to gold in the inaugural team event two weeks ago. But it was Sotnikova who wowed Wednesday night, skating to a Carmen-inspired “Habanera” in her short program and styled in confident red. To climb onto the podium, Sotnikova will have to shed the one image that has followed her: she of the choke-job. Sotnikova was second at the Grand Prix Final in December following the short program, only to fall (literally) to fifth.
Embedded video_content_type: Adelina Sotnikova surprisingly sits in second place after short program
Carolina Kostner, 27 (ITA) Place: 3rd Score: 74.12
After a career of crumbles, Kostner will look to deliver on the Olympic stage having been ninth at the Torino Games and a devastating 16th in Vancouver, a finish that left her contemplating retirement. The veteran was in her truest form Wednesday night, however, skating smooth yet solid and composed. Can she maintain that for four minutes?
RELATED: Lipnitskaya tops Kostner at European Champs
That will be the greatest test of the 2012 world champion’s career. The Italian skates to “Bolero” for the free skate, which earned her a career-best 130-plus score at the World Championships a year ago. She’ll need a similar performance tonight.
Embedded video_content_type: Carolina Kostner set to medal after short program
Gracie Gold, 18 (USA) Place: 4th Score: 68.63
Sitting nearly five and a half points outside the podium, Gold is far – yet the closest, point-wise – from winning a medal. The Chicago native has said herself that she likes her free skate much more than her short program, which she showed an abundant of nerves in on Wednesday night. But, she stayed upright and has already performed this free in the team event two weeks ago.
VIDEO: Gracie Gold skates in team event
She set a personal best of 129.38 in that program, which she’ll need to emulate (and do even better?) should she want to make up ground on the solid trio ahead of her.
Embedded video_content_type: Gracie Gold sits in fourth after her short program
Yulia Lipnitskaya, 15 (RUS) Place: 5th Score: 65.23
The face of the Sochi Games after her arena-shaking performances in the team event, the tiny and acrobatic teenager looked well on her way to a short program lead towards the end of her skate on Wednesday, only to fall on a triple flip and skid into fourth place.
VIDEO: Lipnitskaya's mesmerizing team event program
But in the last six weeks, Lipnitskaya has registered two 135-plus free skate scores to her moving “Schindler’s List” program (the two best in the world, this season), meaning that if any of the top three falter and Gold is so-so, she has the point firepower to vault herself onto the podium as the youngest Olympic medalist since Tara Lipinski won gold in 1998.
Embedded video_content_type: Fifteen-year old Yulia Lipnitskaya sits in fifth place after short program
Ashley Wagner, 22 (USA) Place: 6th Score: 65.21
The feisty American will need a perfect storm of mistakes in front of her and an inspiring skate for herself, which certainly could happen. After placing fourth at the U.S. Championships last month, Wagner threw out her free skate to “Romeo and Juliet” and plugged back in her program from a year ago, “Samson and Delilah.” This will be the first event that she’ll skate this program at this season, though she did score a career-high 128.83 with it last year.
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Essentially, it all comes down to Wagner’s triple-triple combination, which she opens her program with but lost as many as five points on in the short program when she was downgraded to a triple-double. Land that first combination cleanly (and as a true triple-triple!) and the American still has a shot.
Embedded video_content_type: Ashley Wagner 'shines on' in sixth place after short program