Sochi Olympics Figure Skating

Yuna Kim leads after ladies’ short program; Gracie Gold 4th


As some expected, a Russian skater has emerged as the top challenger to Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim in the ladies’ competition.

But that Russian skater isn’t the one most were expecting.

Adelina Sotnikova appears to have emerged from the shadow of Yulia Lipnitskaia after earning a personal-best 74.64 in her short program – putting her less than three-tenths of a single point behind the Queen after the first day.

Lipnitskaia, the reigning European champion at just 15 years old, had been having a superb Sochi Olympics. But tonight, she finally made a mistake with a fall on her triple flip.

VIDEO: Kerrigan says Yuna Kim in a league of her own

She now sits fifth after the short program, down more than three points to U.S. Nationals champion Gracie Gold, who should be pleased with a fourth-place performance and a berth in the final group for tomorrow’s free skate.

Ditto for Gold’s compatriot, Ashley Wagner, who also will be in the final group even though she was scored less than Lipnitskaia for her solid – and clean – program.

VIDEO: Watch Yuna Kim’s short program routine

Wagner runs sixth, one spot ahead of the third American in the field, Polina Edmunds, who went to the top of the scoreboard after her skate and stayed there until Kim’s arrival and subsequent score of 74.92.

U.S. men’s skater Jason Brown, who was live-tweeting the proceedings at the Iceberg, was happy with his teammates’ results:

Suffering perhaps the worst night of all was Japan’s Mao Asada, who won the silver behind Kim four years ago in Vancouver.

VIDEO: Comparing Yuna Kim’s performance to Gracie Gold’s

Asada fell on a triple axel and also doubled a planned triple loop. The mistakes were major, and they were reflected in her score: 55.51, good for 16th place among the 24 skaters remaining.

MORE: Canada defends Olympic women’s bobsled title; U.S. gets silver, bronze

1. Yuna Kim (KOR), 74.92
2. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS), 74.64
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA), 74.12
4. Gracie Gold (USA), 68.63
5. Yulia Lipnitskaia (RUS), 65.23
6. Ashley Wagner (USA), 65.21
7. Polina Edmunds (USA), 61.04

8. Akiko Suzuki (JPN), 60.97
9. Mae Berenice Meite (FRA), 58.63
10. Nathalie Weinzierl (GER), 57.63

Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir back Gracie Gold for discussing weight in figure skating

SPOKANE, WA - APRIL 23:  Gracie Gold of Team North America competes in the Ladie's Free Program on day 2 of the 2016 KOSE Team Challenge Cup at Spokane Arena on April 23, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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NBC Sports figure skating analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir supported Gracie Gold‘s transparency in her comments about weight and figure skating.

“These are thoughts that every skater’s thinking about, but I think you don’t [see skaters] talk about it because in reality saying you need to lose weight when you’re already thin is a bit crazy,” Lipinski said. “In figure skating, gymnastics, ballet, there is always this pressure to be very thin, not only for aesthetics, but just for your actual sport and how you use your body. Weight definitely does play an issue. In skating, you’re three times your weight in the air, and you’re landing on one foot on a tiny blade.”

Lipinski and Weir said they struggled with weight issues while skating. They became too thin.

“Being a skater, I understand where Gracie was coming from,” Weir said. “To the masses, whenever you talk about diet and food and getting in shape physically, when you are an athlete on TV and you look like you are in shape compared to most of the country, it can be a little bit of a disconnect between the athletes appearing on TV and the audience.”

Weir lauded Gold for not only being open about not being at peak fitness — after taking much of the summer off — but also to compete at a top-level event like Skate America under those circumstances. (Gold said she considered skipping the Grand Prix season.)

“It’s all about telling the truth, saying, ‘I’m not in shape. I’m not there yet, but just wait, and I’ll give it to you,'” Weir said.

Weir said it could lead to more open discussions in the sport.

“You hope that, over time, you can start to look at the skaters that have been great champions and realize everyone has a different body type,” Lipinski said.

MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule

Matthew Centrowitz, Michelle Carter win USATF Athlete of the Year honors

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20:  Matthew Centrowitz of the United States reacts after winning gold in front of Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria and Nicholas Willis of New Zealand in the Men's 1500 meter Final on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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Olympic champions Matthew Centrowitz and Michelle Carter were voted USA Track and Field’s Athletes of the Year, the first of their kinds to win the awards.

Centrowitz, who became the first American to win an Olympic 1500m since 1908, took the Jesse Owens Award. He’s the first male track distance runner to win a USATF Athlete of the Year, which was established in 1981.

Centrowitz beat out fellow Rio gold medalists Kerron Clement (400m hurdles), Ryan Crouser (shot put), Ashton Eaton (decathlon) and Jeff Henderson (long jump).

Carter, the first U.S. woman to win the Olympic shot put, earned the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award. She’s the first female shot put thrower to win Athlete of the Year and third thrower of any kind (John Godina, Stephanie Brown Trafton).

Carter topped other gold medalists Tianna Bartoletta (long jump), Dalilah Muhammad (400m hurdles) and Brianna Rollins (100m hurdles) in voting.

Eaton and Allyson Felix earned the awards in 2015.

A full list of USATF Athlete of the Year winners is here.

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