- Figure Skating
Preview: The biggest stories to watch at the Sochi Olympics
The figure skating team event kicks off the Sochi Winter Games, giving skaters an opportunity to earn another medal. Plus, a breakdown of Americans' chances in the individual events.
For the first time in Olympic history, figure skating will hold a team event, where 10 nations will compete for a gold medal to kick off the figure skating program in Sochi. One men’s singles skater, one ladies singles skater, a pairs team and an ice dance duo will skate both a short and long program as scores are added up correlating to teams’ placements in respective events.
The U.S., Japan, Russia and Canada are considered favorites in the 10-team field which will be widdled down to just five following the short programs. Teams are allowed two substitutions during the event, meaning a man or woman and/or a pair or ice dance team can skate the short before a different competitor/team is swapped in for the free skate.
Embedded video_content_type: Meet the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Olympic Team
After their historic gold medal at the 2010 Games, China’s Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbao retired from the sport, leaving the 2014 gold medal up for grabs. A “new” team in Russia’s Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov has filled that void, the veterans pairing up in the spring of 2010 and launching themselves to the top of the sport and winning the World Championships in 2013. Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy were third at the Vancouver Games and won the World Championships in 2011 and 2012, but have played second fiddle to the Russians for much of the last year.
Pang Qing and Tong Jian could slip in for the bronze after the Chinese pair was second to their compatriots four years ago. American outlook: Two-time U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir hope to land inside the top six; they were 13th at the World Championships a year ago.
Embedded owg_slideshow: 12 things on U.S. pairs skaters Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir
The scene at the top is much the same as it was four years ago, when Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir captured gold in front of their home crowd with a thrilling win over Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White. But Davis/White, who share a rink and coach with Virtue/Moir, look to turn the tables in Sochi, having won two out of the last three World Championships crowns and beating their rivals at the all-important Grand Prix Final in December.
It will be a mad dash for bronze, with Yekaterina Bobrova and Dimitry Soloviyev looking to win gold at home while Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje and French veterans Natalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat also factoring into the podium conversation.
Embedded video_content_type: 'The moms:' The story behind Meryl Davis and Charlie White's mothers
After winning gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, American Evan Lysacek took a long hiatus from the sport, but a bad hip forced him out of contention to defend his gold. His absence means there will be a new champion in men’s singles at the Games for a 16th consecutive Olympics. Canada’s Patrick Chan wants to be that skater, attempting to break the “Canadian curse” of world champions from his country having never been able to win an Olympic gold.
The reigning and three-time world champion is certainly the favorite, though Japan teenager Yuzuru Hanyu beat him at the Grand Prix Final in December. Spain’s Javier Fernandez has a World Championships medal to his name as well as two straight European Championshisps golds. Meanwhile, Yevgeny Plushenko, 12 years after debuting at the Olympics with a silver, will look for a fourth consecutive Olympic medal after a controversial naming as Russia’s lone men’s skater following an injury-riddled and spotty two years of competition.
And Daisuke Takahashi, the Japanese man who finished in third behind Plushenko in Vancouver, looks for another solid performance for the podium in Sochi. American outlook: Veteran Jeremy Abbott launched himself into his second straight Olympics with a fourth national title and will look to break a bad habit of international duds at these Games while 19-year-old Jason Brown brings his viral “Riverdance” free skate and a fresh personality onto the ice in Sochi.
Embedded video_content_type: Getting emotional over figure skating's Kiss and Cry
Like ice dance, the two top favorites return from the Vancouver Games, but unlike ice dance, it’s wildly uncertain where they might land. Yuna Kim was dazzling in 2010, setting records with her skates and beating out Japan’s Mao Asada. Four years later they’ve both had their inconsistences, though the South Korean won the World Championships going away last March while Asada had a strong Grand Prix season, including a gold at the Final in December. Two Russian teenagers – 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya and Adelina Sotnikova, 17 – are peaking for a medal performance for the home crowd, while 26-year-old Carolina Kostner, the world champion in 2012, will try to rise to the occasion herself.
Meanwhile, Americans Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner both have legitimate shots at the podium, Gold having won the U.S. Championships in January and Wagner being a consistent force on the international circuit over the last three years. Also: Polina Edmunds, 15, will make her international senior debut at the Olympics, the San Jose resident having vaulted herself to silver at Nationals last month.
Embedded video_content_type: Preview: Figure skating's old and new stars collide