Russia has captured two gold and one silver medal in all figure skating competitions, and 15-year-old sensation Julia Lipnitskaia represents her nation’s best hope for another in the women's free skate event next week in Sochi.
During the team competition, Lipnitskaia became the talk of these Games after wowing the crowd for her first career gold, and she currently stands as the biggest rival to South Korea “Ice Queen” and favorite Yuna Kim.
The 23-year-old Kim is a two-time world champion and will defend the gold medal she won in the women’s free skate back in 2010 in Vancouver.
Entering the games as the freshly dubbed European champion but largely untested in global competitions when compared to Kim, Lipnitskaia has caught the Sochi crowds off guard, which could be to her benefit when it comes time to hand out medals.
Lipnitskaia takes up the high mantle currently held by former Russian star Irina Slutskaya, who was the first Russian woman to medal in the individual event. Russia has never taken home the gold, but Lipnitskaia could become a national hero overnight.
Lipnitskaia especially outshined Japan’s Mao Asada, who took the silver in Vancouver and owns two world titles and another three Four Continent crowns. However Asada could get a huge boost of national pride and confidence following countrymen Yuzuru Hanyu’s incredible gold performance in the men’s free skate on Friday.
American Gracie Gold, 18, already snatched up a bronze in the team event and stands as her country’s best chance to win the women’s free skate since Sarah Hughes at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
The singles free skate medal round begins at 10 a.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 20, and will be broadcast live by NBC. A live online stream can be viewed at NBC Live Extra here.