Yuna Kim versus Julia Lipnitskaya:
(The world is watching!)
This year, a blustery whirlwind of excitement and anticipation emerged at the winter Olympics courtesy of two magnetic athletes. The two women at the fore were Yuna Kim, a seasoned veteran, and the relatively unknown entity of Julia Lipnitskaya, winner of the European Championships just last month. Last night these two talented figure skaters went head-to-head. The Russian crowd, in a collective state of gloom, appeared a little withdrawn due to the premature elimination of their much fancied hockey squad, who lost 3-1 to Finland earlier on in the day. They repositioned their hopes in the direction of one 15-year prodigy, Julia Lipnitskaya. Her routine started well, the cheers became muffled and anxious faces were the norm. She pulled off a triple-triple, double axel with consummate ease, and then a triple flip for good measure. The competition can be cruel however, and when it came to the final element of her program, she fell to the ice and plummeted into 5th place in utter dismay. She could not even muster the energy to look at the scoreboard when the points were announced.
The Russian crowd was shocked and in desperate need of something to celebrate, at this point: enter the overshadowed Adelina Sotnikova. She pulled off the performance of a lifetime and is now currently positioned just 0.28 points behind the defending Olympic champion and Queen herself, Yuna Kim.
If you have lived in South Korea, you are sure to have heard the name: Yuna Kim. She is without a doubt a national treasure. She is also one of the most popular skaters in the world, and this time around, appears to be on the road to yet another Gold Medal in the solo event. At the age of 19, Kim came to the Vancouver Olympics as the World Champion, and gracefully danced her way to her first Olympic accolade. Winning here in Sochi would make her only the third woman in history to win two back-to-back gold medals and it would put her on par with the legendary Katarina Witt. In the knowledge that Kim had recently been sidelined due to injury, the fact that she came back with an essentially flawless score of 74.64 is nothing short of extraordinary. She was poised and elegant as she opened up with a trip-triple combination.
Yuna Kim’s unprecedented shot to stardom proved to be the motivation behind choosing her song “Send in the Clowns.” Yuna Kim is a woman in the spotlight, and she cannot even leave her home without being hounded by a gang of paparazzi. In the wake of this fame, she stated that the song resonated with her profoundly. She told the press that: “I am a human being”, “I get nervous all the time, it just doesn’t show on my face.” This cool countenance firmly confirms her rightful place on the ice, but one can only imagine the sense of pressure that shadows her around.
A Guide to Women’s Figure Skating
To enjoy the competition, it is important to have solid background knowledge of the event. The women's free skating event will take place on Thursday and the athlete with the highest combined score from that event, along with the short program from Wednesday, will take the gold medal.
Unsurprisingly, Kim had the highest score at the end of the short program (74.92), and just marginally edged out Adelina Sotnikova in second and Italy’s Carolina Kostner in third.
Breaking down the short program:
The short program has 7 required elements. Each skater must do three spins, a section of fancy footwork and three jumps. There can be no cheating on the jumps – no more than a quarter-turn of a rotation can take place on the ice, or the jump gets downgraded. Only the top 24 skaters continue on to the free skate.
One of the core components of the short program is the triple lutz, followed immediately with a triple toe loop. The latter has been one of Kim Yuna’s trademark moves over the years, and here are some examples:
Breaking down the free skate:
The free skating section of the figure skating event is often referred to as the "free skate" or the "long program”. It is the second portion of the event and the time allowed for free skating is 4 minutes for the senior ladies.
Whilst the identity of the winner remains up in the air, one thing remains a constant: An incredible amount of Koreans will be glued to the TV screen on Thursday, and the hopes of a nation will rest firmly on the graceful shoulders of one Kim Yuna.