by George Rossano
Mirai Nagasu (Team USA) Celebrates After Her Free Skate
(13 February 2018) Team Canada came to these Games singularly focused to win the Team competition, and they did so with dedication and resolve. After the competition Scott Moir said, "We believed in ourselves. We are really proud of the energy we brought and it helped in winning the gold medal. I think we had a sour taste in our mouth since Sochi. We wanted this medal for four years. It feels great.
Patrick Chan echoed this sentiment saying after his free skate earlier in the day, " We had determination this time around. We saw the potential we had in Sochi and didn't capitalize on it. This time we really want to nail it into the coffin and win this thing. It's such an exhilarating feeling because we're such a tight knit team, and we've been from the same generation so we want to win this medal for all of us."
Team Russia won the silver medal, putting out 100%. The used their top entry, or near equivalent, in each segment. In the free skate they substituted Alina Zagitova for Evgenia Medvediva (essentially 1A and 1B) and in pairs Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert for Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov.
The bronze medal was won by team USA, for the second Games in a row. They substituted Adam Rippon for Nathan Chen and Mirai Nagasu for Bradie Tennell. Questionable strategic choices and the appearance, at least, of a less than 100% commitment to go for as many points as possible, probably cost team USA the silver medal. Although each team USA competitor gave it their all, with Mirai Nagusa becoming the first USA lady to land a triple Axel in Olympic competition, a different lineup would have offered a much greater chance for the silver.
Going into the final day, team USA was only three points behind team OAR. Adam Rippon had a great skate, and placed third in the free skate, but using Nathan Chen instead had the potential for a first place result, despite his off skate in the short program. In addition, Mikhail Kolyada was a potential weak link for team OAR. Having Chen skate the free would have been a team strategy to compete for the silver, having Rippon skate was a strategy to hold onto the bronze.
It also can not be overlooked that despite the obvious team comradery among the U.S. skaters, team Canada and team OAR had their team boxes filled with skaters every day, while on day two and three the team USA box was often less than full, with several of those seated being team officials and not skaters. Kudos go to Madison Chock & Evan Bates who showed up to cheer the U.S. skaters though they were not even in the team event.
Other teams who did not put forward a 100% effort to maximize their team points were teams Japan, China and France, by not using their best skaters at the right time (e.g., China in the short programs) or at all (France in the ice dancing). Italy, on the other hand, made the most of the skaters available to them and placed an unexpected fourth in the event. Had team Japan used their best skaters in both the short and longs, they likely would have most likely placed fourth in the event.
We get it that for teams that were likely to not make the final round or not make the podium, not using their best skaters did not really cost them anything. But this is the Olympic Games, not World Team Trophy, and at the Olympics it is expected competitors (including teams) will strive for the best. There was a clear difference is attitude between skaters like Papadakis & Cizeron who had said that the team event was of no interest to them, and they would not participate, and skaters like Alex Shibutani and others in the team event who said that any chance they were offered to skate on Olympic ice they were going to take, individual events to come or not.
Men's Free Skate
Patrick Chan (CAN) stepped up to the task and had a much stronger skate than in he short program. He landed his two opening quad toe loops securely. His two triple Axels, however, did not work out so well. He double his first attempt, stepping out of the landing, and he fell on his second attempt, which was also called under-rotated. In typical Chan style, he did not let the errors prevent his performing the reast of the program cleanly, and presenting the artistic conent of the program, skated to "Hallelujah." His program components averaged 9.31, the best of the group.
Mikhail Kolyada (OAR), redeemed himself somewhat, after a flawed short program. He fell on his opening quad Lutz, and had a downgraded quad toe loop that he stepped out of - not surprising considering how slowly he skated into both jumps. Later in the program he landed a second quad toe loop with a bit of an off balance landing. As he did not complete either toe loop in a combination or sequence, the second attempt received the +REP designation, and lost 30% of the base value. Skating to an Elvis Presley medley, his program component scores averaged 8.62.
Third place was taken by Adam Rippon (USA), 0.59 points behind Kolyada. He did not attempt his usual opening quad Lutz, and executed a double Axel instead. He landed both triple Axels, but his final jump, triple Lutz, was called under-rotated. His components averaged 8.68.
Describing his performance he said, "I worked so hard for this moment. I still have another week of competition to go, but to have that moment and my family is here and have friends watching at home. To be able to do it in front of them who have supported me and have been with me on this long road that has been up and down is absolutely incredible." He added, "I am really excited I was able to get this competition off to a good stat. I am feeling good. I am feeling ready."
Ladies Free Skate
Alina Zagitova (OAR) gave a strong performance in her balletic style to "Don Quixote." In typical Russian fashion, all her jumps were back loaded into the second half, and many of the jumps were executed with the arm overhead. [Thank God that move will only receive credit once per program next season.] She landed seven triple jumps and two double Axels. Her components averaged 9.38. Her team mate Medvedeva averaged 9.56. These two skaters are the favorites for the gold, and if they both skate clean in the individual event, it will be a closely fought competition.
Like her team mate Medvedeva, Zagitova was tough on herself, despite the fine skate. "Today I got my best score, a season's best and I am pleased with that," she said. But then added, " I would give myself a four plus (out of five). There were some imperfections, but they are easy to fix. We'll work on that. I felt a little tense and the program could have been more expressive."
Mirai Nagasu (USA) made history by landing a triple Axel, the first U.S. lady to do so in Olympic competition. This season Nagasu has left the jump in the warm-up for several competition, but this attempt was rock solid, and a great accomplishment. She went on to land seven other triples and a double Axel, all clean and fully rotated. Skating to "Miss Saigon" her components averaged 8.02. It was a season best performance for her.
On landing the triple Axel she said, "Four years ago when I was left off the (USA Olympic) team, I wanted to make another Olympic team, and I knew I would really have to be something special. So to become the first American (ladies' figure skating) to land a triple Axel at he Olympic Games is historical, and no one can take that away from me."
Gabrielle Daleman (CAN) was a substitution for Kaitlyn Osmond. She placed third, 0.39 points behind Nagasu. The only error in her program, skated to "Rhapsody in Blue," was an under-rotation on triple loop. It was a season best performance. Her components averaged 8.54.
Afterwards she said, "I feel great, at the end of the day there are still some little things that could be better, but I have another chance in a week and a half, but overall I am very ecstatic and very happy with what I did today. I didn't feel any pressure. I felt more nervous, especially because I didn't want to let my team down. I am very happy with what I did."
Carolina Kostner (ITA) placed fourth, though her program components were second highest of the group, at an average of 9.28. Like Chan, she is mature and beautiful skater, but her jumping skills have eroded. She attempted six triple, but only three of those were fully clean.
On her thoughts about the performance she said, " Every competition is a new experience. Sometimes you feel good and the result is a bit less, and sometimes you don't feel good and the result is amazing, so I will go back and analyze everything I did. But the sensation, the joy was amazing, so that's very important to me." "I had some minor mistakes," she said, "maybe being a little too careful sometimes, and this shows me that I am ready and that I just go all in."
Dance Free Dance
The free dance was the last segment of the competition, and by this point the results were nearly set in stone. There weren't enough points left to make a difference, but each of the top three teams still needed their skaters to stand up and get the job done.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir again skated for team Canada and were in top form. All but one GoE was a 2 or three, with the straggler a 1 (in their spin) and they received 20 component marks of 10.0, mainly for the artistic components.
Maia & Alex Shibutani also skated again for team USA. It was a solid performance, that was distinctly better that their performance at U.S. Nationals last month. The received GoEs of mostly 2s and 3s, though in the last three elements, a handful of 1s were scored. The program components averaged 9.27.
Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (OAR) placed third, skating to "Oblivion" and "Beethoven's Five Secrets." They scored slight ahead of the Shibutanis in components (0.11 points total) and had the same base points as the Shibsibs, but the fell behind in the GoE points.
Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (ITA) placed fourth and Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed (JPN) placed fifth.
Copyright 2018 by George S. Rossano