Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Let the Games begin!

Photos from
The 2014 Winter Olympic Games kicks off this weekend in Sochi, Russia. The Opening Ceremonies are on Friday (tape delayed for the US, of course), but there are events happening the day before - and they're awesome.

Anyone who's followed my blog for any length of time knows that I'm a figure skating fan. I'm not one that know every rule, every technical term, or what not - but I've followed the sport for *gulp* 25 years. I won't ever meet the requirements for ISU judge, but that doesn't stop me from having predictions that have at least a little knowledge behind them.

This is the first Olympics that there's a TEAM figure skating event. Don't confuse it with synchronized skating - this ain't it. The ISU has been toying around with the concept for a few years, and they've recently implemented it in their line up of competitions - it typically is after the World Championships.

Apparently the different skating federations have decided that choosing the skaters to represent in the team event is to be closely guarded for strategy. I'm not sure how or why that works, but the teams are being named as close to competition as possible. The Team consists of one skater or team per discipline per country. Two substitutes per country can be added/switched for the long programs. Skaters for the Team Event must also have qualified for the Individual Event of their discipline at both their Federation and the International Skating Union (ISU) level.

Skating fans have been discussing for weeks now as to who will be skating in what portion of the team event. The skaters for Thursday's competition have been named, and there's no surprise on the list. The Sochi Official site does not have any info past the Men's and Pair's short program entrants, and only a few teams have gone on to list their entire team. Team USA made statements throughout Wednesday naming who they planned to send out for the short programs, with some news reports also listing the long (a lot of contradictions).

Here's what we know about Team USA going into the Team Event:

Men's Short - Jeremy Abbot
Pairs Short & Long - Castelli & Shnapir
Ladies Short - Ashley Wagner
Dance Short & Long - Davis & White

It's rumored that Gracie Gold will take the Ladies Long. One should also safely assume that Jeremy Abbot will get to skate both short and long, however fans are hoping Jason Brown gets to skate his long to River Dance in the team event.

Looking at rosters, it's a good chance that Team USA will be on the podium, but they're not a lock for gold. Russia has a strong team with several skaters looking at medals in the individual events which bodes well for a team event (Pairs, Mens is possible with Evgeny Plushenko, though he is not unbeatable). Couple that with them skating in their Home Country and it's a good bet that they're looking at a gold. Team Canada is also incredibly strong (Mens & Dance). Team Japan have strong ladies and men, but don't come close in pairs or dance. USA has only one discipline where we realistically have a chance to win and that's ice dance. Our pairs are mediocre at best (when it comes to the best in the world), and our ladies and men are good skaters when they're on... but they aren't always on.

The US media, and NBC in particular will breeze over this fact... but don't let them fool you. USA *could* win, but it will take a lot of determination on the part of the team - and faltering from other skaters - to make it happen. It's possible, but not likely. Still, I expect them on the podium.

I look at Russia or Canada taking gold.

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