Is there a new figure skating star in the making?
Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia has already stolen the spotlight at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics due to her instrumental role in leading host Russia to gold in the inaugural team figure skating event with two exceptional performances.
Russian and foreign media alike are now singing her praises and hailing her as a new superstar in a sport previously dominated by the face and achievements of Korea's Kim Yu-na.
"A 15-year-old may be the best story of the Winter Olympics, a budding superstar who will do for Sochi and NBC what Nadia Comaneci did for the Montreal Summer Olympics and ABC in 1976," Forbes reported on Monday.
Comaneci, who represented Romania at the age of 14 nearly three decades ago, won three gold medals in 1976 and became the first gymnast to receive seven perfect scores of 10 points.
Lipnitskaia topped the ladies' free skate in the team event at the Iceberg Skating Palace on Sunday with 141.51 points. Adding together the 72.90 she earned in the short program on Saturday, her total score of 214.41 put her nearly five points up on her previous personal best of 209.72, which she set at the 2014 European Championships last month.
Lipnitskaia became the second lady to score above 210 points under the current scoring system after Kim, who posted 228.56 at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and 218.31 at the 2013 World Championships. Japan's Mao Asada has never bettered 207.59, a personal best she set at the NHK Trophy in her homeland last year.
Every time Lipnitskaia competes, her artistic scores go up. She received 68 points for her program components score at the latest European Championships, but saw her score climb to 69.82 during the team event at Sochi. She earned just 60.52 at the International Skating Union Grand Prix Final in December.
With Russia’s win in the team event, Lipnitskaia became the second-youngest female skater to win an Olympic gold medal at the age of 15 years, eight months and four days. The record is held by Maxi Herber, who won gold in pairs skating at the 1936 Olympics at the age of 15 years, four months, and five days.
After the team event concluded, Lipnitskaia said, "I haven't seen Kim Yu-na perform in person as she has not competed for a long time. I look forward to seeing her perform this time."
Kim will arrive in Sochi on Wednesday. The ladies' singles competition will begin with the short program on Feb. 19. The free skate will take place the following day.