Meet the countries fighting for a figure skating team medal

2018 Russian Figure Skating Championships: awards ceremony

At the Sochi Olympics in 2014, figure skating debuted a new event called the team event. The top 10 countries in the world competed for each discipline (men’s, ladies, pairs, and dance) for the team title. Each country was allowed two substitutions in a discipline (for example, using two different ladies in the short program vs. the free skate) and used them to their advantage.

Russia’s athletes won with the first-ever figure skating team event gold medal. Canada earned the silver while the U.S. team claimed the bronze.

After learning more about Team USA’s skaters, get to know the athletes that each of the countries vying for a team medal could use for their team event lineup.

Jump to a section: OAR/Russia | Team Canada | Team Japan | Team China | Wildcards

Meet the figure skaters on Team OAR

In Sochi, Russia’s lineup included nearly all of the skaters they brought to the Olympics. They used three-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko to skate the men’s short program and free skate; Plushenko earned his fourth medal via the team event. On the ladies’ side, teenager Yulia Lipnitskaya was thrust into the spotlight after her “Schindler’s List” program captured hearts around the world.

Russia used one substitution in pairs. While Tatiana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov skated the short program, teammates Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov did the free skate. Later in the pairs’ competition, Volosozhar and Trankov won gold, while Stolbova and Klimov earned silver right on their heels.

The other substitution was used in dance. Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev competed for the short dance while Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov skated the free dance. Ilinykh and Katsalapov, who have since ended their partnership, won the bronze medal in the ice dance event later in the Games.

So which Russian figure skaters will the country use in the team event this time? Russia qualified two men, three ladies, three pairs, and two ice dance couples for PyeongChang.

Men: Men: With the retirement of Yevgeny Plushenko, Russia has struggled to find its next men’s skating star. Mikhail Kolyada finished fourth and eighth in his two world championships appearances, while Dmitri Aliev captured a silver at the world junior championships last season. In January, he earned silver at the 2018 European Championships.

Ladies: Ladies’ skating in Russia has never been stronger. Expect Yevgenia Medvedeva to appear once in the team event, if not twice, as she is the 2016 and 2017 world champion. Russia may have learned a lesson on endurance from Sochi though: Yulia Lipnitskaya, who shined in the team event, only managed to finish fifth in the ladies event. Medvedeva’s partner Alina Zagitova, the recent European gold medalist could also make a splash. The third option is Maria Sotskova, who recently finished fourth at Europeans.

Pairs: 2017 World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov should be a force in the pairs’ short and long programs for the team event. They led a Russian podium sweep at Europeans in January.

Dance: Bobrova and Soloviev are still Russia’s best ice dance team, earning a silver at the Europeans last month. The other dance team, Tiffani Zagorski and Johnathan Guerrerio, were originally named as alternates but are now on the OAR roster.

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Meet Team Canada’s figure skaters

Canada’s lineup in the team event depended heavily on the use of their 2010 Olympic champion dance team, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. They did both the short dance and the free dance. They did not use a substitution in the ladies phase, choosing to have Kaetlyn Osmond do both the short program and the long program, as well.

On the men’s side, Patrick Chan skated the short program while Kevin Reynolds did the free skate. And for pairs, Canada elected to use their other available substitution. They chose Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford for the short program and let Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch do the free skate.

So which Canadian figure skaters will the country use in the team event this time? Canada qualified the most Olympic spots overall with two men, three ladies, three pairs, and three ice dance couples for PyeongChang.

Men: Patrick Chan is still Canada’s best men’s skater. The 2011, 2012 and 2013 world champion has struggled in recent years, with back-to-back fifth place Worlds finishes in 2016 and 2017. Meanwhile, Keegan Messing made his first Olympic team after finishing second to Chan at Canada’s nationals in January.

Ladies: Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman are paving the way for Canadian ladies, who are coming off a recent boon from the 2017 Worlds. Osmond and Daleman finished with silver and bronze medals, respectively. One or both could appear in the team event.

Pairs: Two-time world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford have decided that the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics will likely be their last competition. With team silver medals from Sochi, they’d like to upgrade their hardware. Kirsten Moore-Towers is coming back to the Olympic stage, but with a new partner.

Dance: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir own two silver medals from Sochi and gold from Vancouver, when they won the Olympics on home ice. They’ve joked in the past that they’re not looking to complete their collection (read: they don’t want bronzes) in PyeongChang, and they’ll likely be called on again to lead Canada in the team event.

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Meet Team Japan’s figure skaters

Japan finished fifth in the team event at the Sochi Games. They are seen as stronger in the singles events than in pairs or dance, but they could still inch closer to the team event podium in PyeongChang. They used substitutions in Sochi for their men’s and ladies’ events, employing the same strategy as Russia.

Eventual Olympic champion in the men’s event Yuzuru Hanyu skated the short program, while teammate Tatsuki Machida did the free skate. In the ladies event, Mao Asada did the short program while Akiko Suzuki was chosen for the free skate.

Narumi Takahashi and Ryuichi Kihara were chosen as Japan’s pairs team for the short program and the free skate. Japan used ice dancers (and brother-sister duo) Cathy Reed and Chris Reed in the short dance and the free dance.

So which Japanese figure skaters will the country use in the team event this time? Japan qualified three men and two ladies for PyeongChang, plus one pair and one dance team.

Men: Japanese media has already reported that Hanyu will not compete in the team event. That leaves new teenaged star Shoma Uno, who finished with a silver medal behind Hanyu at the 2017 World Championships and the country’s third men’s entrant, Keiji Tanaka.

Ladies: If they go the same route, both of the ladies Japan will have at the Olympics could participate in the team event. Look for Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto to be a threat in the ladies event. Miyahara was hurt in the second half of last season, missing the world championships, but Miyahara and Sakamoto finished 1-2 at nationals earlier this season.

Pairs: Kihara and his new partner, Miu Suzaki, will compete in the pairs’ event for Japan in the team event.

Dance:  Kana Muramoto is Chris Reed’s new partner, and they finished 23rd at the world championships in 2017. It was just their second season together as a team. They earned a bronze medal at the Four Continents Championships two weeks ago, the first ice dance medal ever for Japan at a senior international competition.

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Meet Team China’s figure skaters

After the short program phases of the team event, half the teams in the field are eliminated. In Sochi, China was among the teams eliminated, ultimately finishing seventh.

China tapped Yan Han for the short program while Zhang Kexin placed seventh in the ladies event. China’s best finish came in pairs, with Peng Cheng and Zhang Hao finishing third (though they have since split and found new partners). In dance, Huang Xintong and Zheng Xun finished last among the 10 teams.

However, the country has markedly improved in many disciplines in the past four years. With the recent surge in talent among China’s skaters, they should at least expect to advance to the free skate phase of competition.

So which Chinese figure skaters will the country use in the team event this time? China qualified two men, one lady, three pairs, and one ice dance couple for PyeongChang.

Men: In 2017, Jin Boyang captured a silver medal at the Asian Winter Games. He won back-to-back bronze medals at the 2016 and 2017 World Championships and most recently won the Four Continents Championships two weeks ago. Still, PyeongChang is Jin’s Olympic debut, so China may want to use a substitution here.

Ladies: As China is only bringing one ladies skater to PyeongChang, Xiangning Li is their only option. She competed at a world championships for the first time in 2017, where she placed 14th. She most recently finished 10th at the Four Continents Championships.

Pairs: After silvers at Worlds in 2015 and 2016, Sui Wenjing and Han Cong broke through for gold in 2017. The team, who have skated together for more than a decade, will make their Olympic debut in PyeongChang.

Dance: Ice dance is surely China’s weakest event. Wang Shiyue and Liu Xinyu have been the only dance team to compete for China at the past three world championships and their top finish was 16th in 2017. They placed fifth at Four Continents in January.

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Wildcard countries in the figure skating team event

Several countries who will compete in the team event shine in one or two disciplines, but fade in others.

Italy finished fourth in the team event in Sochi, missing the bronze medal by eight points. This time around, they’ve qualified one man, two ladies, two pairs, and two ice dance couples to bring to PyeongChang. One interesting athlete of note is Valentina Marchei, who competed as a ladies singles skater in Sochi but has switched teamed up with Ondrej Hotarek as a pairs duo. They broke into the top 10 at Worlds in 2017. But undoubtedly, Italy’s star should be Carolina Kostner, making her fourth Olympic appearance in PyeongChang and the surprising Sochi bronze medalist. Expect her to factor into Italy’s team event medal pursuit. Plus, Italy’s dance team, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, were world champions in 2014 and have remained in the upper echelon of the discipline since.

Germany, for example, finished eighth in the team event in Sochi. Their newly-minted pairs team of Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot won back-to-back silver medals at Europeans in 2016 and 2017. On the world stage, they’ve won bronze and silver medals. But without depth in the men’s, ladies, or pairs fields, their chance to reach the free skate phase seems slim. Germany qualified outright one man, one lady, and two pairs for PyeongChang, plus a dance team.

Another example of this is France, who finished sixth at the Sochi Olympics in the team event. Their best finish from the team event back then was in ice dance, with a fourth place. But ice dance – and their pairs team – have both flourished in the past four years. France qualified one man, one lady, two pairs, and two ice dance couples for the PyeongChang Olympics. Ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won two world titles (2015, 2016) and a silver in 2017. Likewise, pairs team of Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres have cracked into the top 10 in the world in recent years and even picked up a bronze medal at Europeans in 2017. Their men’s and ladies’ skaters have not been as successful.

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