SOCHI, February 19 (R-Sport) - Defending champion Kim Yuna secured a narrow lead in the women's competition at the Sochi Olympics on Wednesday, while the pretender to her throne as figure skating queen, Russian sensation Julia Lipnitskaia, languished in fifth after a fall.
Kim, 23, hadn't competed at a major global event since winning the world championships in March but put in a near-faultless routine that began with a confident triple lutz-triple toeloop combination to score 74.80 points.
Breathing down her neck isn't 15-year-old Lipnitskaia as expected but 17-year-old Russian Adelina Sotnikova, who finished behind Lipnitskaia at last month's European championships.
Sotnikova, dancing to "Habanera" from "Carmen," romped to a score of 74.64, a big personal best and enough for a shot at gold in Thursday's free program.
In third is Italy's five-time European champion Carolina Kostner, who accrued 74.12 with her graceful "Ave Maria" performance that was also low on obvious mistakes.
Gracie Gold of the United States was in fourth place, winning 68.63 points from a skate set to a Grieg piano concerto, with 15-year-old Lipnitskaia next on 65.23, over nine points short of Kim at the top.
It appeared Lipnitskaia had tamed the ice in a manner similar to her stunning short program that won the team event for Russia last week, nailing her opening triple lutz-triple toe without much fuss. But she appeared unbalanced launching into a triple lutz later and crashed to the ice, doing so for the first time in three performances at her maiden Olympic Games.
Japan's Mao Asada, who won the silver behind Kim in Vancouver, fell on her opening triple axel and ended up in 16th.