Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

United States Team Advances to Team Figure Skating Final

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Folks, after a rough skate by United States men’s champion Jeremy Abbott two days ago, it was unclear whether or not the U.S. would advance in the new figure skating team event.

You see, in this event, all four types of figure skating are on display. You must field an ice dance team and a pairs team plus one female skater and one male skater. You get one point for tenth place, ten points for first, and the points aggregate. And you’re allowed two substitutions after the short program.

Anyway, in the first night of the team event, Abbott skated disastrously and landed in seventh place, gaining only four points, while the pairs team of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shapnir came in fifth — about what was expected — gaining six points. Which meant after the first two disciplines skated, the U.S. had only ten points and was tied for fifth place with two other teams.

This may sound good, but as there were only ten entries in this inaugural team event, it’s really not what was expected.

Earlier today, the dance team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White took the ice and delivered an excellent short dance (the dance version of the short program), finishing in first place and gaining all ten points. Which meant that Ashley Wagner, who was next (and last) to skate for the United States, had to finish in the top five or the United States not qualify for the final round.

Fortunately, Ashley Wagner delivered a solid performance and landed in fourth place. This allowed the United States to qualify along with Russia, Japan, Italy, and Canada for the medal round.

What to watch in the finals? Well, the top Russian team of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov have dropped out of the team event, allowing the second Russian pairs team to take over (probably Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, the current Russian champions, will be substituted in their place). And Patrick Chan, the reigning World Champion (despite last year’s disastrous free skate), has also dropped out, allowing Kevin Reynolds to skate in his place.

This makes it a little easier for the United States to perhaps move up and take a silver, depending on how well they do from here on out.

A few more things to keep an eye on:

Japan does not have much help coming from their ice dance and pairs skaters, and will no doubt finish fifth in both of those (the pairs team is particularly weak). Their male and female skaters must finish either first or second in order for them to make up for this weakness.

Italy also has a weak pairs team, but a decent-to-better ice dance team that’s actually in contention for a bronze individual medal by most accounts. Their strength is in the women’s competition, where Carolina Kostner has medaled at Worlds several times, winning a gold, two silvers and two bronzes over the years; their male skaters are not among the top twenty in the world, and may not even be in the top fifty.

Canada has an excellent pairs team, an excellent dance team, a decent-to-better female skater in Kaetlyn Osmond and their second-best man, Kevin Reynolds. Hard to say how well they can do overall, but I’d be shocked if they didn’t win a silver.

Russia is the odds-on favorite to win the gold, as they have strong competitors in all four disciplines and a huge lead going into the finals (as the points apparently carry over).

The final round starts off with the pairs again, and will take place later this evening in Sochi. (It may be underway as we speak, in fact.) I plan to come back later and discuss this here at my blog, and give you my own assessment.

All I know right now is this: It’s good the United States made it this far. But the U.S. team had best replace Abbott with Jason Brown — I’ve heard it’s likely they’ll do this (Abbott himself surely seemed to think so, at any rate, from the interviews I’ve seen on NBC and its related networks) — if it wants any chance at a medal.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

February 8, 2014 at 2:05 pm

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