SOCHI, Russia — The defending Olympic champion in women's figure skating is not concerned by the rapid emergence of Russian teenage sensation Julia Lipnitskaia.
Yuna Kim was considered an overwhelming favorite to win a second straight gold after her triumph at the 2010 Vancouver Games, but her apparent stranglehold on the Olympic title has been thrown into some doubt by the performance of Lipnitskaia, who dazzled last week in helping Russia win gold in the team competition.
The South Korean arrived in Russia on Thursday and has already practiced twice ahead of the ladies' short program starting on Wednesday.
"It will be a great opportunity for her as the Olympics are taking place in her home country," Kim told reporters. "Thinking about who may or may not do well won't help me at all. What's important is I do everything I've been preparing so hard to do."
Lipnitskaia was little-known outside of figure skating circles before the Sochi Games, but her contributions in the team competition gained her an army of fans. The level of difficulty in the Russian's programs means she can be a legitimate threat to Yuna if she is able to avoid mistakes.
[Related: Lipnitskaia steals spotlight]
However, Kim is determined to let nothing stand in the way of another gold medal and has reportedly looked relaxed despite shouldering the hopes of her nation.
She is a huge celebrity back home with reported earnings of around $10 million in large part to a series of advertising deals with major Korean companies. The 23-year-old has no plans to continue on the ice and is looking for a perfect sendoff to a glittering career that has also captured two world championship golds.
"It will be the last competition of my professional career, so I want to make sure I have no regrets and enjoy the experience," she said. "It is my second and last Olympics. I can say I'm in good condition as I'm now injury-free at least."
While Kim jetted into Sochi, Lipnitskaia took herself away from the Olympic festivities, returning to her base in Moscow in order to get more available ice time. Practice sessions are limited in Sochi.
[Related: Lipnitskaia remains untested against Kim]
When Lipnitskaia returns, the scrutiny will be intense, especially with Russia struggling to win medals in the opening week. Hopes now are sky-high for Lipnitskaia.
"I haven't met [Kim] in competition," Lipnitskaia said earlier in the week. "It will be interesting."
Outside of Kim and Lipnitskaia, Japan's Mao Asada and Italy's Carolina Kostner are the other likely contenders for the top prize. Asada is trained by Canadian Brian Orser, who used to train Kim and unsurprisingly predicted Asada to win. Kostner's best chance is if the other three slipped or stumbled and caused themselves to lose points.
Americans Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds are all hoping for an upset to springboard them onto the podium. Gold and Wagner both won a bronze medal in the team competition before joining Edmunds at a camp believed to be situated in Graz, Austria.
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