Lipnitskaya steals spotlight

Sat Feb 8, 2014 5:39pm EST
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By Pritha Sarkar

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - A 15-year-old debutante proved that Yevgeny Plushenko is not the only star attraction of the Russian team as Julia Lipnitskaya upset the world order of women's figure skating to put the hosts within striking distance of the Olympic team title.

Up against former world champions Mao Asada and Carolina Kostner, Lipnitskaya blew away her more illustrious rivals at the Sochi Games on Saturday with an electrifying short skate that rocked the Iceberg Skating Place.

Lipnitskaya, who is the youngest skater in the competition, proved that her surprise victory at last month's European Championship was no fluke as she left her screaming team mates leaping for joy as she finished her rip-roaring routine.

She nailed a soaring triple-Lutz triple-toeloop in combination and her spins were so fast, she disappeared into a blur that left the hollering fans dizzy with joy.

"I've never seen anything like the atmosphere out there today. There wasn't any silence for a single second," the petite Lipnitskaya, who looked her age once she had stepped off the ice, told reporters.

"It was so loud, I could barely hear my music. All I could hear were the shouts of 'Ju-li-a' and 'Ru-ss-ia'"

She eclipsed birthday girl Kostner with a score of 72.90. The Italian also produced a clean skate on her 27th birthday to earn 70.84, while Asada's had trouble with her triple Axel.

She fell on her hands and knees following the jump to finish a distant third with 64.07.   Continued...

Yulia Lipnitskaya of Russia competes during the figure skating team ladies short program at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, February 8, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson