Yuna Kim begins defense of Olympic ladies crown with flawless short program

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports
Figure Skating - Winter Olympics Day 12
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SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 19: Yuna Kim of South Korea competes in the Figure Skating Ladies' Short Program on day 12 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

SOCHI, Russia – Reigning Olympic champion Yuna Kim of South Korea produced one of the all-time great Olympic skating performances to send a warning of intent to the rest of the ladies' field on Wednesday night.

Kim, a superstar in her native South Korea after her triumph in Vancouver four years ago, cruised into the lead with an effortlessly brilliant short program at the Iceberg Skating Palace. The 23-year-old was awarded a score of 74.92 – broken down into 39.03 for her technical elements and 35.89 for her routine's components.

That gave her a huge lead over American 15-year-old Polina Edmunds at the end of three of the evening's five sessions, with the other main contenders still to skate. However, Kim's showing was a strong marker; she made those who suggested she might be past her best look utterly foolish.

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Each jump was executed with technical perfection and incredible grace, each landing as soft as a feather. While the home crowd desperately wants to see Russian sensation Julia Lipnitskaia take gold, it appreciated true mastery when it saw it and gave Kim a huge ovation.

Lipnitskaia, Japan's Mao Asada and Italy's Carolina Kostner were considered the other main contenders leading into the competition and were left in no doubt about the size of the task that faces them after Kim's performance, which began with a perfect triple Lutz to triple toeloop combination and never looked back.

Given Kim's maximum level of difficulty and seamless execution, toppling her from the podium already looks to be the most daunting of tasks. The Korean star skated to music titled "Send in the Clowns." They can send in whomever they like

she may not be beaten.

Click on the image below for more photos from the ladies' figure skating competition: