Lipnitskaia eyes Lipinski Olympic record
Gold medalist Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia performs on ice of 'SYMA' sports hall in Budapest on January 17, 2014 during the free skating programme for women - by Attila Kisbenedek
Lipinski, now 31, became the youngest individual gold medallist when she won at the 1998 Nagano Games, the year Lipnitskaia was born, after taking the world title the previous year, but retired immediately after her Olympic success.
World skating body the ISU have since changed the age rules meaning that Lipnitskaia could not compete in the world or European championships last season, although she skated in the Grands Prix before being sidelined with concussion.
A former world junior champion, this season she has been in fine form already winning Skate Canada and the Cup of Russia before finishing second to Japanese Olympic hope Mao Asada in the Grand Prix final in Fukuoka in December.
And she belied her young years as she controlled her nerves on her European debut to move from second after the short programme behind compatriot Adelina Sotnikova, who beat her to the national title in December.
Wearing red to symbolise the little girl in the black and white of the movie "Schindler's List" she gave a sublime free skate in Budapest on Friday night that included a triple lutz-triple toeloop jump, a double axel-triple toeloop, four more triple jumps and impressively fast spins.
The youngest competitor in the field she set a new personal best with 139.75 points for the free skate and racked up 209.72 points overall.
"I was very nervous before my skate," she said.
"My legs were shaking. Fortunately I was able to calm myself down. The first half of the programme you can see the nerves."
It was over five points better than the score Olympic silver medallist Mao Asada of Japan won the Grand Prix final with but below the world record 228.56 that South Korean Kim Yu-Na accumulated on her way to the Olympic gold in Vancouver four years ago.
Lipnitskaia and Sotnikova are the favourites to take the two Olympic berths Russia have in the women's event, with Russian skating officials set to make a decision before January 27.
But the teenager is confident of making it to Sochi and does not believe that nerves will prevent her success at her home ice.
"Emotions help me to perform well," she warned.
"I always thought they would distract me but I've found out that they help me to perform better," added the skater from Ekaterinburg, on the crossroads between Europe and Asia in central Russia.
She also put Russia back on the top of the European podium for the first time since Irina Slutskaya won her record seventh continental crown in 2006 when Lipnitskaia was just seven years.
Sotnikova, 17, took silver for the second straight year after a stumble on a triple lutz in her routine "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso", with 26-year-old defending champion Carolina Kostner taking bronze after falling on a triple toeloop jump in her free skate to Ravel's "Bolero".
It was five-time winner Kostner's ninth consecutive medal at Europeans.
"This is the best training I could have for the Olympics," said the Italian.
"I made a mistake but I don't feel bad. I'm going home with a medal which is a big thing."
In the men's event, Spaniard Javier Fernandez is leading going into Saturday's free skating final where he will defend his title.
The 22-year-old from Madrid has a 6.05-point lead on Russian Sergei Voronov with Czech Tomas Verner in third after the short programme.