Twenty years after Kerrigan vs. Harding vs. Baiul, this week could be Yuna Kim vs. Julia Lipnitskaia vs. Gracie Gold

I watched The Price of Gold last night, and it was really solid — I almost forgot how big a three-ring circus that whole period of time was, especially Kerrigan screaming “WHY????” and then Oksana Baiul actually winning the gold, and the story was told very well. This week, in Sochi, there will be another pretty amazing women’s figure skating story playing out — although ideally it won’t involve any kneecap hits.

First you have the 15 year-old from Russia, Julia (Yulia?), who dominated her skate in the team event. This isn’t that skate, but here’s some context on her:

You could make a case that she basically was the story of Week 1 of the Olympics.

Then you have Yuna Kim, who won the gold in Vancouver back in 2010, took a while off, and then won a world championship last year:

They call her ‘Queen Yuna’ in South Korea, and she’s skating 17th on Wednesday in the short program; she seems to realize that she has young-buck threats to her 2010 gold, but she’s taking all that in stride.

On the U.S. side, you have Gracie Gold — absolute marketer’s dream name right there — who won the 2014 U.S. Nationals after coming in second to Ashley Wagner back in 2013:

Gold has been considered a top U.S. storyline in Sochi, and the media crush is pretty insane. You just know a company like General Mills — that makes Cheerios — would love to see a “Gold” win a gold, because hey, that -ish writes itself.

And Mao Asada, the 2010 silver medalist, is in the field as well:

They start Wednesday with the short program and finish Thursday with the free skating portion. Everyone listed above is perceived to be a contender.

Two broad thoughts here:

1. The Kerrigan-Harding-Baiul-Kwan period about 20 years ago probably had some of the greatest interest ever generated in women’s figure skating, although obviously it wasn’t necessarily for the right reasons. All the people above are fairly superb at what they do — and you can throw in Kostner from Italy and Ashley Wagner from the U.S. too — and we could have a real showdown on Wednesday and Thursday for this individual gold. You’re talking about three or four of these women just setting out to top each other, which would be really cool to watch. Now, would it carry forward to more interest outside of the Olympics? I’m not sure. I doubt I’d watch the 2015 worlds, for example. A sport like hockey has a bigger platform on which to build Olympic buy-in — 6.4 million viewers apparently watched the USA-Russia shootout — than does figure skating, but I still think it could gain some “user base” with an epic finale, which seems to be where we’re headed.

2. I know very little about figure skating, but if I had to guess, I’d go with Julia/Yulia. Her spins are stunning, and a 15 year-old from Russia being the star of the games in Russia seems to only make sense at a broad level. That’d be my pick, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Gracie Gold rose to the occasion and got hers, or if Queen Yuna went back-to-back.

Here’s a little contemporary cut, courtesy of Yuna:

Ted Bauer

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