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U.S. wins team short dance, Russia takes women's

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- Fifteen-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia had the look of an Olympic champion Saturday night, dazzling the home crowd with a near-perfect performance in the women's team short program.

With her countrymen chanting her first name, Lipnitskaia put on a mature routine that had the fans stomping their feet and showering the ice with flowers and dolls. Her flexibility and rapid rotation on her spins and jumps were reminiscent of Tara Lipinski when she won the 1998 Olympic gold.

And Lipinski, who was the same age at the Nagano Games, was on hand to see it.

"I have been saying the whole year that she is a dark horse," Lipinski said of Lipnitskaia - yes, the names are nearly the same. "I loved the energy and the fight in her."

Lipnitskaia helped Russia hold the overall lead heading into the pairs free skate portion of the new event, held later Saturday night.

Also advancing were Canada, the United States, Japan and Italy.

Lipnitskaia has burst onto the skating scene, and she easily outskated far more experienced competitors Carolina Kostner of Italy, who is in her third Olympics, and Japan's Mao Asada, in her second. The moment wasn't too big for her in any way.

"All the cheering was unusual," Lipnitskaia said. "It was a real pleasure for me. I'm glad I made it pleasurable for the spectators, and I'm glad I got my team into first place."

Her flexibility on every move, combined with her speed, not only enraptured the audience, but impressed the judges to the tune of 72.90 points.

"We are different," Lipinski said. "Even though I was young, I remember I wanted to show I could skate with the big guns."

One of this year's big-timers, Kostner was graceful and elegant skating to "Ave Maria" on her 27th birthday.

Asada, a two-time world champion, fell on her trademark triple axel, and that dropped her to third, just ahead of Ashley Wagner of Alexandria, Va.

"I was very nervous today, more than I expected, and that is the reason for my mistakes on the ice," Asada said.

Wagner struggled at the U.S. championships and was placed on the team despite finishing fourth. This short program was more representative of her talent, although she two-footed a landing that cost her points.

"To score that low was very disappointing for me," she said. "But honestly, this was more about me and my performance and proving to everyone that I belong here."

Earlier, the U.S. got a huge lift, along with some dazzling footwork and spins, from its world champion ice dancers. Meryl Davis and Charlie White got the U.S. back into medals contention in the new team event. The 2010 silver medalists quickstepped to the rescue by winning the short dance.

"We don't feel like we're trying to carry any sort of burden or load," White said. "We're counting on the whole team to pull through together and I think that's what makes us such a strong team."

Defending ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada were second even though she bobbled during their early set of twizzles, hurting the couple's synchronicity. They still received 72.98 points, exactly three points below Davis and White.

"I think I might have lost a little bit of speed after the first (twizzle)," Virtue said. "It wasn't a mental lapse."

Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev were third, responding to chants of "Ro-ssi-ya, Ro-ssi-ya" that echoed throughout the Iceberg with a solid skate.

But Davis and White, both from Michigan, unquestionably deserved the top spot.

Their twizzles - traveling one-foot spins - were so precise it seemed they were one skater. Their concluding rotational lift to music from "My Fair Lady" was spot-on.

"Everything hasn't been 100 percent perfect," Davis said of the U.S. performances. "But that's part of what a team is, is being there for each other. We have a really great standard."

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RVFLSLVB February 09 2014 at 8:19 AM

I am not shocked she is the new darling. I captured a bit of her performance on You Tube. Brilliant! I remember watching on the history channel a type of biography regarding the training these young atheletes endure. Russia and China are NO joke! Brutal and endless upon endless of hours (not to say U.S., trainers are not as brutal, but damn at least they have compassion for their future stars.

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elenarose61 February 09 2014 at 10:43 AM

She's very good for her age yet I wouldn't yet say that she quite compares with the women competitors. Julia looks so young -- certainly younger than 15! But no matter, she's good and she'll be even better in four years.

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blueeyessing February 08 2014 at 10:24 PM

OK, I just watched Julia. She reminds me of Oksana Baiul. She was a very smooth and confident skater.

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eturoel February 08 2014 at 10:28 PM

I guess, we all see what we want to see. All I saw was a skater performing incredibly perfect splits, and from a standing position, to boot. Nor did I miss that beautiful face of a child totally focused on the task at hand.
Every one on Dancing-with-the-Stars would be willing to give their Right Arm (or, in this case, would it be their Right Leg ? ) to perform with such perfection.
I believe the purpose of the minimum clothing is to make sure that the beauty of the human body in motion and at its best would not be concealed - was this not the idea in Ancient Greece, the originator of the Olympic Games ?

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Seewcrazy February 08 2014 at 10:30 PM

being 15 has its advantages... She is extremely flexible, and has a lot of finesse for her age. She reminds me of Sara Lipinski and Oksana Baiul., and Michelle Kwan at that age.

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denise6170 February 08 2014 at 10:35 PM

The stockings are covering everything. Her perfomance is more important than all the fashion ploice here.

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1 reply
blueeyessing denise6170 February 08 2014 at 10:39 PM

She looked fine during the performance. We can blame the still photographs posted up there ^ for the focus on her outfit. The poses lasted only a microsecond anyway.

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Sweet February 08 2014 at 10:44 PM

A beautiful routine! She is a true Olympian. This young lady was not dressed any different than any of the other performers on the ice. The still shots being shown are only showing off her unique flexability during her routine. If all you focused on was what she was wearing than you missed a fantastic performance.

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tlao February 09 2014 at 10:12 AM

Julia is unbelievable; and, she's 15!
And, Carolina Kostner is so graceful.
I would have loved to have seen Gracie Gold, put Team USA on that podium.
Looking forward to the Ladies' short and long programs, undoubtedly.

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1 reply
nekeele tlao February 09 2014 at 11:36 AM

Gracie Gold is skating tonight for the team competition. They are going with her long program insteatd of Wagners..

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jrm0717 February 08 2014 at 11:23 PM

I am a bit confused, the skating federation making the rules changed the age limit from 15 to 16 after Tara's skate.....just checked the rules and yes its still 16....so what gives here? anybody know????

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2 replies
Gracie's Here! jrm0717 February 09 2014 at 12:20 AM

I was wondering the same thing.......i remember the changing of the age rule. WHAT GIVES HERE?

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justworkinggirl jrm0717 February 09 2014 at 1:35 AM

I'd have to look it up, but I think the rule is that the competitor must turn 16 within a certain time frame after the gmaes - 6 months maybe? I can't remember. The announces said she made the cut off by 26 days though.

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prosewing February 08 2014 at 9:45 PM

Amazing talent. Good for her.

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