CORRECTED-Olympics-Olympics-Figure skating-Stars align for women's gold medal battle

Mon Feb 17, 2014 10:36am EST
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By Julian Linden

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Of all the weird and wonderful competitions at the Sochi Winter Olympics, none has the ability to captivate and stir the emotions more than women's figure skating.

The competitors may not be as hip as the snowboarders or as tough as the ice hockey players, but their unique blend of grace and athleticism makes them compulsive viewing.

The women's singles is one of the blue-riband events of the Olympic program, appealing to a wide demographic and promising fame and fortune to the winner with previous champions going on to star in ice shows, on television and in Hollywood movies.

This year's Olympic competition, to be held at the Iceberg Skating Palace on Wednesday and Thursday, has all the ingredients of a classic, with a cast of precociously talented women.

The Olympic champion is South Korea's Kim Yuna, who is skating for the last time before retiring at the age of 23.

A superstar in her homeland and one of the highest-paid female athletes in all sports, she is bidding to become only the third woman to win back-to-back titles.

By her own standards, Kim has kept a low profile in Sochi as the spotlight has turned on 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaya.

The Russian is already one of the faces of the Games after her spellbinding performance in the team event when she became the youngest Russian to win an Olympic gold medal.   Continued...

South Korea's Kim Yuna practices her routine during a figure skating training session at the Iceberg Skating Palace training arena during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics February 17, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray