SOCHI SCENE: Who will break out?

Once every Olympics, it seems like there is one or two athletes that emerge from the hundreds who come to compete. Through a combination of charm, charisma and jaw-dropping performance, they grab the games and make them their own.

We're nearly to the halfway point of the Sochi Games, and it seems like we're still waiting on that star. We're waiting for that defining moment, the one you look back to years later when the Sochi Games come up in conversation and say, "That was something special."

Big names like Shaun White, Bode Miller and Shani Davis have all disappointed. Evegeni Plushenko won gold in the team figure skating event, but had to pull out of the individual competition because of a back injury.

No question: It's more difficult for it to happen in the Winter Games. The specialized competitions make it hard for competitors to take home attention-grabbing hauls of medals, like Michael Phelps does in swimming or Usain Bolt does on the track.

Americans like Sage Kotsenburg (slopestyle snowboard) and Joss Christensen (ski slopestyle) have been wildly successful, but their niche sports often find difficulty resonating with a mass audience. And the Russian men's hockey team, the rock stars of the Sochi Games, is viewed as more of a unit rather than one individual star.

So who will it be?

Maybe it's Yuna Kim, the defending women's figure skating gold medalist who is a sensation in her native South Korea.

Or maybe Russian Julia Lipnitskaia, a 15-year-old with wide eyes and unwavering confidence. If she beats Kim next week, she will win her second gold and likely put an entire nation, and millions of Olympic fans around the world, in the palm of her small hand.

— By Jon Krawczynski —


Associated Press reporters will be filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: