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Defending champion Kim Yu-na leads after figure skating short program

South Korea’s Kim Yu-na performs in the women’s figure skating short program. (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Sidelined much of the past year by injury, defending Olympic champion Kim Yu-na re-staked her claim as figure skating’s most elegant performer Wednesday at Sochi Olympics, taking the lead in the women’s competition with short program to “Send in the Clowns.”

Competing 17th among 30 women, Kim performed the same difficult jumps she executed so masterfully in her short program that set record marks at the 2010 Vancouver Games — opening with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, following soon after by a triple flip and a double Axel. She was awarded 74.92 points, which was roughly 3.5 points off her record marks four years. It was a standard that no one could match.

Adelina Sotnikova, 17, was not the Russian teen most expected to finish among the top three. But after 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia fell on the final triple jump of her program to mar an otherwise beautiful performance, Sotnikova staged a brilliant performance that at least for the moment made Russians forget the day’s disappointment, with its hockey team being bounced from the Olympics earlier. Sotnikova finished second (74.64).

Italy’s Carolina Kostner was third (74.12).

And the rest of the medal hopefuls lagged much further back.

All three Americans finished among the top seven, led by U.S. champion Gracie Gold (68.63), in fourth; Alexandria’s Ashley Wagner (65.21), in sixth; and 15-year-old Polina Edmunds (61.04), seventh.

Lipnitskaia, who led Russia to the team gold medal, was in tears after her fall relegated her to fifth (65.23), inconsolable with disappointment. She told Russian TV that she had simply run out of energy when the time came for the triple flip, unable to feel her legs. The jump is the third triple in her short program, intentionally inserted late in the performance to collect bonus points.

Kim, 23, is seeking to become just the third women to win back-to-back figure-skating gold at the Olympics in history and the first since Germany’s Katarina Witt did so in 1984 and 1988.

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Jenkins: Move along, no story here or in Kiev. Russia’s Sochi slant

Photos from Day 12 | Daily TV schedule | U.S. medal winners