SOCHI - Tension is building between Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na and the much praised Russian prodigy Julia Lipnitskaia with the individual event just over one week away.
The Vancouver Olympics gold medalist and record holder, also known as Queen Yu-na at home, is determined to defend her title against the younger Lipnitskaia, who was the driving force behind Russia's first gold medal of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in team figure skating.
Born on June 5, 1998, in Yekaterinburg, Lipnitskaia began skating at the age of 4 and moved to Moscow in 2009 to train under coach Eteri Tutberidze.
On Sunday, the 15-year-old fired up the Sochi crowd with a stellar performance, scoring her personal best of the season in the short programme at 72.90 points, and the free skate with 141.51 points, for a combined 214.41 points.
Although this falls short of Kim's 2010 world record of 228.56 points, she has nonetheless become the youngest female figure skater in 78 years to earn a gold medal ― surely more than enough to catch the attention of the public and make her a promising contender for the singles' event.
Gracie Gold, the runner-up from the United States, described Lipnitskaia as "completely unfazed" after watching her performance Sunday.
"She's got no spine, but she's got iron in her bones," Gold was quoted as saying, referring to Lipnitskaia's astonishing flexibility and strength.
But whether she will be able to skate her way to victory over Kim's experience and what some describe as the most "flawless performance in figure skating history," is uncertain.