Yuna Kim the last piece of Sochi's figure skating puzzle
Reigning Olympic champion set to defend
PJ'S PODIUM PICKS:
Gold: Yuna Kim (KOR)
Silver: Carolina Kostner (ITA)
Bronze: Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS)
The ladies of figure skating are ready to hit the ice tomorrow night at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
For me, some of the pieces of the puzzle were revealed in the team event. At least one more major piece won’t be illuminated, however, until the fifth skater in Group 3 of the five warm-up groups. I am speaking of course about the defending Olympic, and two-time and reigning world champion, Yuna Kim.
Four years is a long time, especially for somebody who has not been competing consistently, but Kim’s ability to jump in and out of competitive skating is unique. She proved that at last year’s world championships in London, Ont., when she held the lead in both the short and free programs, and won the event with 20 points to spare ahead of silver medallist Carolina Kostner of Italy.
What about Kostner? In the team event short program here in Sochi, her program to Ave Maria was a magical marriage of choreography and technical elements. I loved her mature interpretation and total lack of over-the-top schmaltz. Over time, Kostner seems to have been able to make peace with the nerves that have so frequently plagued her, and I think that being able to cope and the confidence that comes with a world title and several world medals will make a difference to her here.
Russia’s Yulia Lipnitskaya is an extraordinary talent who proved during the team event she is a match for anyone. At 15, it seems crazy that she would be as poised as she is talented, and yet that’s exactly what I saw on the ice. A junior world champion in 2012, she followed it up with a silver medal the following year. So far this season she has captured gold in both her Grand Prix events, silver at the Grand Prix Final and the European title.
The other skaters to watch are:
- Mao Asada (Japan): She looked shaky in the team event but has an impressive skating pedigree that includes the 2010 Olympic silver medal, two world titles and the recent Grand Prix Final title.
- Gracie Gold (USA): I thought her free program in the team event was outstanding, and as the newly crowned American champion, her confidence is on the rise.
- Ashley Wagner (USA): A wonderful skater with great presence on the ice. She’s looking for some sort of redemption after being named to the US team despite a poor fourth-place showing at their national championships.
- Adelina Sotnikova (Russia): A skater with a junior world title who can stay neck and neck with Lipnitskaya.
- Akiko Suzuki (Japan): Can be glorious and was ranked as high as third at Worlds in 2012 only to drop like a rock to 12th in 2013. If she can get her nerves under control she can compete with the best of them.