- Figure Skating
U.S. announces Castelli/ Shnapir and Jeremy Abbott for debut team event
SOCHI, Russia – The U.S. announced just part of its team for the new Olympic figure skating event Wednesday, tapping two-time national champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir to skate the pairs short program while reigning national champion Jeremy Abbott will skate the men’s short program on Thursday night.
In a surprise move, the ladies singles and ice dance line-ups were not announced, however, nor were the free skate selections for the pairs and men's events. Those skaters will be announced in a rolling schedule over the weekend by the U.S. Figure Skating Association.
"I was hoping to find out the entire team today," said Johnny Weir, a former Olympian and current NBC Sports figure skating analyst. "I think it's a great opportunity for Simon and Marissa as well as Jeremy to start off the Olympics on the right foot."
The team event gets underway Thursday night in Sochi with the men’s short program, followed by pairs. The ladies and ice dance will skate Saturday, giving Team USA more time to decide who will represent it in an event it has a legitimate shot to win gold in. That announcement will come Friday morning at 10 AM local time.
Reigning world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White are expected in the ice dance, but the ladies line-up could go any of several ways with new national champion Gracie Gold, two-time U.S. winner Ashley Wagner and rising star Polina Edmunds all serving as options for the event.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Team USA figure skaters named for Sochi Olympics
Teams are allowed two substitutions for the event. Jason Brown, he of "Riverdance" viral fame from Nationals, could be one of those subs for Abbott in the free skate, meaning the U.S. would have one more substitution at their disposal.
Many speculated before the announcement that Wagner would be named for the short program and Gold the free skate, each program playing to their strengths. But the U.S. Figure Skating Association needed another day to decide, meaning whatever the line-up could be will ultimately be a surprise.
"It's an intriguing decision by the USFSA not to announce the dance, ladies or the free skates for the men's and pairs," Weir added. "With the event getting so close, you can't just spring that pressure on the participants. However, I'm sure the athletes already know [what they're skating]."
Wagner skated Tuesday night in a practice session at the Olympic training rink, saying she felt good after a long day of travel from Munich. The 22-year-old has reverted back to her long program from the 2012-13 season after a dismal fourth-place finish at the U.S. Championships in January. Her short program, to Pink Floyd’s “Shine on me Crazy Diamond,” has been her strength throughout the year, though she fell on her triple-triple combination last month.
Gold, meanwhile, set a record with her overall score at Nationals and skated well in both her short and free skate programs. The 19-year-old Brown won the men's free skate with his crowd-pleasing Riverdance, landing eight triple jumps.
"Whoever they send out for short or free skate I believe the outcome will be positive," said 1998 Olympic champion and NBC Sports analyst Tara Lipinski. "Selecting Ashley for the short could be a nice way for her to shake off all the hype from Nationals and settle into the ice. She has a very powerful short program that could set the tone well for her individual event. Gracie is a solid choice for both programs. It would be beneficial for her to use this opportunity to acclimate to Olympic competition especially since she doesn’t like surprises and excels when she can focus in and feel at home."
Lipinski also added that Edmunds, making her debut in a senior international event, would be a strong free skate option.
Along with Japan, Russia and Canada the U.S. is seen as a threat for a medal in the team event, which is making its Olympic debut. Canada announced Wednesday that reigning and three-time world champion Patrick Chan will skate in the men's short program while Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, third at the World Championships in 2013, will skate in the pairs short.
Embedded video_content_type: Meet the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Olympic Team
Best of Sochi
Best of Day 5
Best of day 4