Thursday, February 6, 2014

No surprises so far in Team Event

A Russian Cinderella story on ice.
Photo by Ivan Sekretarev/AP
People who are surprised with the results after the first day of Team Competition in Sochi are the ones that don't follow the sport, pure and simple. That the US media has done such a poor job of being realistic has not helped people understand or prepare for the idea that the rest of the world has caught us up.

As I stated in my previous post (Let the Games begin!), Team USA is going to be fighting for a podium placement, but it will not be gold. After the first two disiplines results for the team event - USA will be lucky to make the podium at all. But there are still more chances to win points, and we have the best coming up.

The skating events started (early morning for those of us in North America) Thursday with the men of the ten countries represented. Over all it was a well skated event, though many came crashing down at least once. By far the most talked about skater going into today was Evgeni Plushenko of Russia. Plushenko is the elder statesman in the event being 31, and this is his fourth Olympics. Should Team Russia make the podium - a good possibility - Plushenko will have medaled in all four games - which would seal his name in the record books. Plushenko has been absent from the sport for some time as he battled with injuries and surgeries, but he battled back to make the team. Russia had one spot in the men's event, and it was highly controversial that they went with Plushenko who had rough competitions at nationals and did not compete at the European Championships.

However, Plushenko showed the world he is not to be written off so easily. While visibly slow and scratchy on landings and spins, and obviously winded at the end of his short program, Plushenko found himself finishing 2nd out of 10. Not too shabby for the "grandpa".

Evgeny Plushenko showed emotion
after he finished his program.
Photo by Ivan Sekretarev/AP
Also, unsurprising, Patrick Chan and Yuzuru Hanyu are also in the top three, with Hanyu on top. Helping Japan secure the (very temporary) lead, which is well needed since Japan's pairs and dance teams are their weak links. Hanyu was nearly flawless in his short program, while Canada's Patrick Chan had some minor issues. If there's one thing to be surprised about - it's that the judging seems quite fair so far in these Winter Olympic Games. And, in of all places, RUSSIA.

On the not so great end of things, Jeremy Abbott once again reminded fans and viewers alike why he's the skater that is so great - who's never won anything of actual substance internationally. Abbott's done this to us before - four years ago in Vancouver. And he repeatedly does as he did Thursday. Abbott went out and wiped the ice. You could tell as he took his starting position that he was nervous, and that the nerves would take over. With the fall on the quad you could see in his face it was done, and for the next two minutes Abbot and skating fans alike let out a collective groan. So much talent in a skater who just was not made for competition.

The pairs short program also had a lack of surprises. Russia was clearly the front runner going into this event, and it showed. Canada and China join the Russians for the top three. And, in a good effort the US pair managed a fifth place finish after the short program. They had an issue on their side by side jumps, but overall had a great performance and were rewarded for it. That helped Team USA a bit, but there's a giant hole for the team to dig out of if they hope to make it to the final.

As it stands, the points after day one of Team Event are as follows:

1 - Russia - 19 points
2 - Canada - 17 points
3 - China - 15 points
4 - Japan - 13 points
5 - Germany - 10 points
6 - France - 10 points
7 - USA - 10 points
8 - Italy - 8 points
9 - Ukraine - 5 points
10 - Great Britain - 3 points

Tomorrow there is no competition for the skaters as it will be the Opening Ceremonies. Skating resumes Saturday with the Short Dance and Ladies' short program. the USA should make a big jump up in the standings after the dance portion, but it's anyone's guess if Ashley can shake off the results at nationals - and all the naysayers and haters that followed - and take on the pressure put on her to make the final. She has the ability to be great, but she has to have a handle on the nerves. Otherwise we'll see another skate like Abbott's. And there'll be no way to stop the hate.

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