Figure skating at the Olympics is already underway and skaters from all over the world have spent years honing their skills for these 2014 winter games. Just ten teams from around will compete in the men’s’ and women’s’ singles competition, pairs (mixed), and ice dance competitions. Only 24 of 108 qualified skaters will make a podium appearance in Sochi. An examination of the Top 10 teams from around the world takes a look at which teams have a chance to compete for a medal.
Canada (17 Athletes)
The Canadian team qualified the most skaters of any team, a total of 17 skaters. Defending gold medal winners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir return to Sochi to defend their Ice Dance win in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Patrick Chan is a men’s’ singles champion and has been to the Olympics before, but never won a medal. The remaining 14 athletes from Canada are rookies.
United States (15 Athletes)
Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the only medalists returning, winning a silver medal in the Ice Dancing competition in Vancouver. The total medal count for the US in 2010 was two. Expectations are high for Ashley Wagner, Jeremy Abbott, and Gracie Gold, all singles competitors. Men’s singles competition has been shut out since Timothy Goebel’s bronze in 2002 in Salt Lake City. Gold has eluded the men since winning back-to-back gold medals in 1994 (Scott Hamilton) and 1998 (Brian Boitano).
Russian Federation (15 Athletes)
The only medal returner from Russia is men’s singles silver medal winner, Evgeny Plyushchenko, however Russia is hosting, and the pressure is immense. Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov have shown early promise in the mixed competition and have thrust Russia into an early lead in the team competition. Russia will challenge in all competitions.
Italy (11 Athletes)
The Italian team’s last figure skating medal came in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City in the Ice Dancing competition. The focus seems to be on Paul Parkinson, born in Ottawa and training often in the US, a single men’s short program skater wearing Armani styled suits. Carolina Kostner is one to watch, since she finished second in the world championships behind 2010 gold medalist, Kim Yu-Nah from South Korea. Since medals are not given to best dressed, this team will need near flawless performances to earn medals.
Germany (10 Athletes)
German figure skaters rarely medal in individual events, and have never won a medal in the Winter Olympics in the ice dancing competition. Look for the German team to compete for a medal in the mixed competition. The team of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy will be the team to watch for most Germans.
The favorites to win figure skating medals in Sochi and finish in the Top 10 are most likely the aforementioned teams. The remainder of the field are profiled below.
France (9 Athletes)
France is hopeful the team of Lloyd Jones and Pernelle Carron can skate their way to a medal in the ice dancing competition. Jones, who was born in the UK, recently gained French citizenship and will be making his first trip to the Olympics. The France team won gold in the ice dance competition in Salt Lake City in 2002, bronze in Nagano in 1998, but has yet to medal in the last two Olympic Games. The last singles medal from the French team came from Phillippe Candeloro, with a bronze in Nagano in 1998 and Lillehammer in 1994.
China (9 Athletes)
The China team is no stranger to the podium in the mixed team competition in previous Winter Olypmic competitions. During the last two Winter Olympics, China has won four of six medals in the mixed competition. China also brings competitors to the women’s singles event, having won medals in two of the last five winter Olympics. Michelle Kwan was the last major figure to emerge from China, but watch for Kexin Zhang and Zijun Li to compete for a medal in the singles competition.
Ukraine (6 Athletes)
The Ukraine team has participated as its own team since 1994. Athletes from the Ukraine formerly participated in the Olympics as part of Russia. The National Olympic Committee of Ukraine was developed in 1990 and recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 1993. Very little information comes from this nation, but we do know six athletes from this country have qualified to participate, and they have yet to win an Olympic medal in this sport.
Great Britain (6 Athletes)
Great Britain, otherwise known as the United Kingdom, is not a frequent medal winner in figure skating. In fact, during the last three winter Olympics, the United Kingdom has yet to produce a medal. The 70’s were good for the UK, but this team is the marked underdog and will be fortunate to be in contention.
Skaters will have the opportunity to earn points on behalf of their nation and to push their team into a Top 10 finish during the figure skating competition in Sochi. Let the 2014 games begin.
By Joel Thompson