SOCHI, Russia -- Nerves almost got the best of Yuna Kim.
Then she showed she has just enough to remain the favorite to defend her Olympic figure skating title.
The defending champion from South Korea won the short program Wednesday night at the Sochi Games in something resembling a photo finish. But it wasn't Russian youngster Julia Lipnitskaia on her heels.
On a day Lipnitskaia's hockey countrymen flopped out of the games, the 15-year-old couldn't revive Russian hearts. After winning both programs in the team event to help the hosts take the gold, Lipnitskaia fell on a triple flip and then broke down in tears.
"This does not define her career or who she is as an athlete," coach Eteri Tutberidze said through a translator. "She simply made a mistake. That's all. It happens."
When it happened, the crowd was stunned. And Kim had the lead -- surprisingly over the other Russian woman in the field, Adelina Sotnikova -- by only .28 points.
Italy's Carolina Kostner, second at worlds last year to Kim, was third, just .80 behind.
U.S. champion Gracie Gold of Chicago, second to Lipnitskaia in the team free skate, had a clean short program that earned her 68.63 points for fourth place.
"To be able to come up here and feel stiff and white as a ghost but stare fear in the face is what I'm all about now," the 18-year-old Gold said.
Countrywomen Ashley Wagner of Alexandria, Va., and Polina Edmunds of San Jose, Calif., were sixth and seventh -- a very strong showing for the United States.
Kim's program to "Send In The Clowns" was exquisite. She even cracked a smile, perhaps for the first time since arriving in Sochi, after landing her double axel, the final jump of the routine. Every move was timed perfectly the music in a flowing performance.
"I was so nervous before my competition. When I finished, I was relaxed," Kim said. "I was nervous in warm-ups. My legs were shaking. I wasn't able to do my jumps. In my head, there were a lot of thoughts."
She admitted to making a slight mistake on footwork, and the judges gave her only level 3 (out of 4) on it, and on her layback spin. Again, she said, it was anxiety.
"I tried to believe in myself and remember my practices," the 23-year-old Kim said. "I thought if I do well in practice, I can do well in the main event."