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Russia's Sotnikova, Lipnitskaia the future of skating

SOCHI, Russia--Olympic champions Adelina Sotnikova and Julia Lipnitskaia were on Friday hailed by their Russian coaches as the future of women's figure skating.

Sotnikova, 17, beat reigning champion Kim Yu-na of South Korea to become the first Russian woman to win the Olympic title after Lipnitskaia, 15, starred on her way to gold in the team event.

Kim, 23, took silver with Japan's 2010 silver medalist Mao Asada, also 23, finishing off the podium in fifth. Kim and Asada had been the stars of the Vancouver Games four years ago.

“I'm the Olympic champion but this is not the end of it for me,” warned Sotnikova, whose only previous international win was the 2011 world junior title.

“There are new goals, there's the world championships ahead of me and I want to win it several times. I also want to get European gold. I want to get all the gold there is out there, in every event, in every competition.”

It was a third title in Sochi for hosts Russia after Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov pairs' success, in which they led a 1-2 ahead of Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov.

Russia had also won the team competition and a bronze in ice dance.

Sotnikova's long-time coach Elena Buianova believes that the potential of the young skater from Moscow, whose title triumph was accompanied by a controversy over judging, is untapped.

“We all respect skaters like Kim Yu-na, but our girls showed they can compete against the elite. I think she can land a quad. She's only starting.”

Russian men had traditionally been stronger winning the Olympic title four times since Alexei Urmanov took their first gold at the 1994 Lillehammer Games.

It is just the fourth Olympic medal for a Russian woman with Irina Slutskaya winning silver and bronze in 2002 and 2006, and former Soviet skater Kira Ivanova a bronze in 1984.

In Sochi they were left without a man in the individual event after four-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko's shock injury withdrawal ahead of the short program.

Challenge to Keep Olympic Program on Track

It meant that the Sochi Games were the first since Sarajevo in 1984 that the USSR or post-Soviet Russia has no medal in the men's singles event.

“Our girls are much stronger than our men,” said Buianova.

She admitted however that it had been a challenge to keep their Olympic program on track.

“In ladies figure skating a career is very short. Girls grow every day. It's very difficult for the athletes ... a fight with changing physique and psychology. It's a long journey and not easy.”

Choreographer Pyotr Chernyshov put Sotnikova's dramatically improved scores which had raised eyebrows down to the efforts they had made.

“The stakes were really high this season. Late spring (2013) we set a goal for the team to do a challenging program to display Adelina's abilities to the best,” the former Russian-American ice dancer explained.

“She has great potential. The fact that she improved in components scores over the season proves she has advanced. The judges appreciated the progress by rewarding her with great marks.”

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Gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova, of Russia, poses during the Women's Figure Skating Medal Ceremony at the Sochi medals plaza during the Sochi Winter Olympics on Friday, Feb. 21. (AFP)

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