- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - The descriptions range from enchanting to fearless, from “the real package” to “a diamond.”

One thing is for certain: A star was born in the team figure skating competition at the Sochi Games.

Julia Lipnitskaia has spent under 7 minutes on the Olympic ice, but the Russian 15-year-old has quickly become the most talked about athlete at the games.

Her rise crested over the weekend as the hosts won their first gold medal. Yes, countryman Evgeni Plushenko, ever the showman, had his moments in the spotlight. But even he recognized who stole the show.

“She is a genius,” Plushenko said.

Others echoed those thoughts - and then some.

Another gold medalist at 15, Tara Lipinski, could relate to what Lipnitskaia went through. And what she brought to the ice.

“Judging from how prepared she looks - I can see it when they step on the ice - she looks like she believes this is her moment,” said Lipinski, the youngest woman to win the individual women’s gold, in 1998 at the Nagano Games. “Obviously she’s a tough girl. To be in this sport and take the hits; you have to be.

“She is the real package.”

That petite package headed back to Moscow on Monday to train before returning next week for the women’s competition. While she is away, the anticipation of seeing her skate again will build.

Lipinski doesn’t think the prodigy will be affected by the attention or the pressure.

“A lot of skaters can do the triple-triples and put out a performance,” Lipinski said. “But to be able to do it when it counts is a special quality.

“I believe she is so special.”

So does Scott Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic champion and the voice of the sport. Hamilton sees that diamond, but he also believes it’s a bit raw, despite what the world already has seen from Lipnitskaia.

“I want to see her take it to the extent of her abilities,” he said, “and those are pretty limitless. She has everything, and now it’s just a matter of developing it as she goes along.”

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