Examining the best ladies figure skaters at the Sochi Olympics
The main event of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, ladies figure skating, is upon us. The sport’s top 30 diminutive divas will soon be toe-looping, lutzing, Salchow-ing and spinning at the Iceberg Skating Palace. Short programs will be performed Wednesday, Feb. 19, with the top 24 skaters advancing to the free skate on Thursday, Feb. 20. All eyes will be on these 10 world-renowned skaters, ranked here by their betting odds from gambling website Bovada.com.
1. Yuna Kim, 23, Korea (Odds: 1/1)
The “Queen” is the reigning Olympic champion, winning gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with a world record score of 78.50. Kim’s signature jump combination is the triple lutz, triple toe loop as seen in the GIF above. But it is the vivid facial expressions and vibrant arm movements that make Korea’s top Olympian figure skating royalty. Another gold medal would make Kim the first repeat winner since East Germany’s Katarina Witt won at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics and 1988 Calgary Olympics.
2. Julia Lipnitskaia, 15, Russia (Odds: 6/5)
Young Yulia is poised to become Russia’s first-ever ladies singles figure skating gold medalist, which would also make the 15-year-old the youngest gold medal winner in the sport’s history, as she is six days younger than American golden girl Tara Lipinski was at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Lipnitskaia is a spinning top with her brilliant Biellmann position and gymnast-style contortions on the ice. The Sochi crowd — which will certainly include President Vladimir Putin — will be on Lipnitskaia’s side as she attempts to spin and bend her way into Olympic lore in front of her home nation.
3. Mao Asada, 23, Japan (Odds: 9/2)
The silver medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics is the only skater with a triple axle (followed by double toe loop in the frame-by-frame breakdown above) in her arsenal. Asada has cut down the difficulty in her routine in favor of a more free-flowing program — with only one triple axle rather than two. Asada will be the 30th and final skater in the short program but will likely be near the top of the standings heading into the free skate.
4. Carolina Kostner, 27, Italy (Odds: 14/1)
Making her third Olympic appearance, Kostner hopes to improve upon her seventh-place finish at the 2010 Vancouver Games and her 11th-place finish at the 2006 Turin Games. Known more for her stylish ice dancing than her technical skill, Kostner has the unenviable task of following Russian ice princess Julia Lipnitskaia in the short program, which is arguably the worst draw of the 30 slots.
5. Gracie Gold, 18, USA (Odds: 16/1)
With a Grace Kelly smile and Gold medal first place last name, Gold has become the unofficial face of the red, white and blue in Sochi. The Chicago native is the USA's Cover Girl, stopping by The Tonight Show and doing People Magazine profiles. She’s the 2014 U.S. Championships gold medal winner and aiming to join Sarah Hughes (2002 Salt Lake), Tara Lipinski (1998 Nagano), Kristi Yamaguchi (1992 Albertville), Dorothy Hamill (1976 Innsbruck), Peggy Fleming (1968 Grenoble), Carol Heiss (1960 Squaw Valley) and Tenley Albright (1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo) as the eighth American gold medalist in Olympic figure skating history.
6. Adelina Sotnikova, 17, Russia (Odds: 28/1)
Although countrywoman Julia Lipnitskaia is spinning her way to the headlines and highlights, Sotnikova is the reigning Russian Championships gold medalist, European Championships silver medalist and a legitimate medal contender in her own right.
7. Kanako Murakami, 19, Japan (Odds: 28/1)
If you believe Japan’s second-best medal hopeful, the island nation’s “very scary” moms are the reason for their success. “It’s not just the coaches who crack the whip but those mothers,” she says.
8. Ashley Wagner, 22, USA (Odds: 33/1)
It’s been a long fall for the 2013 U.S. Championships gold medalist turned skating meme. The thrill of victory and agony of “bull$#!*” scoring from stingy skating judges have become a popular internet juxtaposition joke.
9. Akiko Suzuki, 28, Japan (Odds: 33/1)
The elder stateswoman of Japanese skating, Suzuki finished 11th at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. She teams with Mao Asada and Kanako Murakami to give Japan arguably the top trio of skaters in the competition.
10. Polina Edmunds, 15, USA (Odds: 50/1)
The San Jose, Calif., native follows in the Olympic footsteps of former Archbishop Mitty High School alums Brandi Chastain (soccer) and Kerri Walsh Jennings (beach volleyball) — who have a combined five gold medals between them.