Call her the Michael Jordan of figure skating.
South Korea’s Yuna Kim leads after the short program in her quest to win back-to-back gold medals in women’s figure skating at the Sochi Games. Kim effortlessly scored 74.92, the best score of the season for anyone. Russian teenage sensation–no, not 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya (she fell)–Adelina Sotnikova is close behind at 74.64. And Italy’s Carolina Kostner is in third with 74.12.
Three Americans–Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner and 15-year-old sensation Polina Edmonds–are in the top seven, with Gold having the best chance to medal should one of the top three falter in the long program, which will take place on Thursday.
After winning the gold medal in Vancouver at the 2010 Winter Games in what was hailed as one of the greatest figure skating performances in history and shattering the world record, “Queen Yuna” took some time away from the sport, a move that the figure skating said was “unheard of.” And like Jordan’s return to basketball, she came back and promptly won the World Championships without trying. Unflappable, elegant, and full of personality, Kim outclassed her opponents and left NBC analyst Tara Lipinksi, herself a gold medalist, to simply ask, “How did she do that?”
But on Tuesday night, two others came close to the Queen. Sotnikova, though her program was not as difficult as Kim’s, enthralled the crowd while she was “skating angry,” perhaps upset that the 15-year-old Yulia had drowned out the attention from someone who has won multiple Russian national titles. And Kostner skated one of the best programs of her life to put her within striking distance of the Queen.
But the title is Yuna’s to lose. Kim, who has never finished below third in any international competition in her career, seems like she will keep that record in tact barring catastrophic falls. Sotnikova will attempt to become the first Russian woman to win a gold in figure skating at the Winter Olympics. And Kim, who has been described as a skater who never feels pressure and is the most clutch when the klieg lights are the brightest, will be going for back-to-back golds, trying to join legends Katarina Witt and Sonja Henie.
Here are the full results:
1. KOR Yuna KIM 74.92
2. RUS Adelina SOTNIKOVA 74.64
3. ITA Carolina KOSTNER 74.12
4. USA Gracie GOLD 68.63
5. RUS Yulia LIPNITSKAYA 65.23
6. USA Ashley WAGNER 65.21
7. USA Polina EDMUNDS 61.04
8. JPN Akiko SUZUKI 60.97
9. FRA Mae Berenice MEITE 58.63
10. GER Nathalie WEINZIERL 57.63
11. CHN Zijun LI 57.55 Q
12. ITA Valentina MARCHEI 57.02
13. CAN Kaetlyn OSMOND 56.18
14. CHN Kexin ZHANG 55.80
15. JPN Kanako MURAKAMI 55.60
16. JPN Mao ASADA 55.51
17. GEO Elene GEDEVANISHVILI 54.70
18. KOR Haejin KIM 54.37
19. CAN Gabrielle DALEMAN 52.61
20. CZE Elizaveta UKOLOVA 51.87
21. SVK Nicole RAJICOVA 49.80
22. AUS Brooklee HAN 49.32
23. KOR So Youn PARK 49.14
24. NOR Anne Line GJERSEM 48.56
25. GBR Jenna MCCORKELL 48.34
26. AUT Kerstin FRANK 48.00
27. SWE Viktoria HELGESSON 47.84
28. UKR Natalia POPOVA 47.42
29. EST Elena GLEBOVA 46.19
30. BRA Isadora WILLIAMS 40.37