by George Rossano
Shoma Uno (Team Japan) in Men's Short Program
Nathan Chen (Team USA) in Men's Short Program
Alexa Scimeca-Knierim & Chris Knierim (Team USA) in Pairs Short Program
(10 February 2018) Teams from ten countries faced off in the first of three days days of completion for the Team event, the first figure skating event of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. The men and pairs competed in their short programs, with the men starting off the day, and it wasn't pretty. Among the top ranked men, only Shoma Uno of team Japan skated a relatively clean program, with the others making one or more significant errors in their programs.
Uno stepped out of the opening quad flip in his program, but went on to cleanly land quad toe loop - triple toe loop and triple Axel. He scored 103.25 points and led the pack by nearly 15 points. It is my first time coming to the Olympics and I thought I would be very anxious, but I wasn't as anxious as I thought," he said. "I thought I was going to make a mistake on the quad flip and I did, but I was able to forget about it."
Alexei Bychenko from team Israel skated a clean program with triple Axel, quad toe loop and triple Lutz - triple toe loop. He outscored the higher ranked men in the group by virtue of his clean program and several errors from the higher ranked me. Afterwards he said, "I didn't feel pressure, for me it was just fun. Obviously I was nervous, after all this is the team event at the Olympic Games and we (Israel) take part i for the first time. I just wanted to enjoy it and skate well." He added, "I hoped to crack 90 points. I didn't quite make it. But there is still the individual event to come."
Patrick Chan of team Canada placed third thanks to his refined program component skills. He fell on quad toe loop and triple Axel, but was scored second in program components, averaging 9.02 for those marks. Chan is a shadow of his former self in the jumps department, but retains his highly developed performance skills. "Obviously, I am not happy with the skate," he said. "I am going to be here a while and there are a lot of programs to be completed. It's not the best start I wanted, but I have the support of my teammates. They make me feel so much better even when it's not the best skate, they are holding me up and making me feel like I belong here. That's the best team about the team event."
Team USA's Nathan Chen landed quad flip - double toe loop, with the flip landed a bit too much on the toe. Later though, he doubled a planned quad toe loop and fell on triple Axel. His component scores averaged 8.78. It was a dubious start for the skater the U.S. has pinned its gold medal hopes on in the Men's event. "Honestly, just let myself down," he said. "'Let the team down' was the first thing I thought. Definitely not a representation of who I am and what I can do. Definitely need to work harder for the next couple of days."
European champion Mikhail Kolyada of team OAR (Russia), put his team in an initial hole with an eighth place finish. He fell on quad Lutz, fell on quad toe loop and popped a planned triple Axel to a single. His component scores were also less than expectations, averaging 8.52. Only a strong performance from the Russian pair team later in the morning saved OARs bacon to keep them in medal contention.
Team China did not use Boyang Jin in the Short Program, selecting Han Yan instead. He placed seventh. As only the top five teams skate the free program, they really needed to put their best skaters forward in the short programs in order to make the cut.
In the skating of the pairs short program, Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov took the lead for team OAR, leading the group by 4.35 points. It was a technically strong performance, with an opening triple twist, level four, that received all 3s for GoEs. It was also a cold and sterile performance from an artistic point of view. Morozov said, "We are 100% satisfied with the performance. We did everything high quality and at the highest level." He added, "It was the best performance of the season and it's good to have done it now. Now we can relax our mind and body and focus on the next events."
Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford from team Canada placed second. It was a nearly clean program, with only some awkward landing edges from both skaters in side-by-side triple Lutzes. The program was scored third best in program components. "It was a pretty good performance," Duhamel said. "I think we were both a little bit tight on the landing of the side-by-side triple Lutzes. All of the other elements felt quite smooth and we did a great triple twist. It felt very strong and in control. It is going to be a long week for us so we are trying just to control our emotions and our energy.
Aljona Savchenko & Bruno Massot of team Germany, one of the favorites for the pairs gold medal, placed third courtesy of a fall on throw triple flip. The points lost due to this error cost them one place in this event, though not likely the lead. Like the Russians, their triple twist, level four, received all 3s for program components. Their program component score was just 0.11 points behind the Russians.
Team USA's Alexa Scimeca-Knierim & Chris Knierem placed fourth with a technically secure performance, but components that average only 7.84, insufficient to be competitive with the top international pairs. Scimeca-Knierim had a near fall exiting their group 3 lift, which was scored negative by a majority of the panel.
Xiaoyu Yu & Hao Zhang placed four for team China. Yu fell on a doubled toe loop, planned as a triple, after which their program was otherwise clean and securely skated. Their components averaged 8.24, rating them fifth in both element and component scores. Given the results from the team China's man and pair, by not using their top ranked skaters, they appear to have little chance now of making the cut to the free programs.
At the end of the first day team Canada leads the event with 17 points, followed by teams USA (14 points), Japan (13 points) OAR (13 points) and ISR (11 points). They are followed by teams CHN, ITA, and GER all with 10 points each, and teams KOR and FRA with 6 points each.
Copyright 2018 by George S. Rossano