Patrick Chan leads Canada into figure skating team event
3-time world champ seeks 1st Olympic gold
Canada’s Patrick Chan is hoping his early arrival in Sochi will give him an early advantage over his competition.
Chan, who showed up last weekend to begin practice, will officially begin his quest for an Olympic gold medal. He competes in the men’s short program in the inaugural team figure skating event at the 2014 Winter Olympics Thursday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10:30 a.m. ET).
Joining him in representing Canada are Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who will be skating in the pairs short program later on at the Iceberg Skating Palace (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 12:10 p.m. ET).
The new team event includes one entry in each of the four disciplines from the top 10 countries in the world. Each country will field a competitor in men’s and ladies’ singles, pairs and ice dance. The top five countries after the short programs will move on to the long programs, while placement points will be handed out to the athletes. First-place finishers will earn 10 points, and second-place competitors will get nine points, etc., with the highest combined totals earning medals.
Each country gets a chance to switch up two competitors between the short and long programs, which may mean Chan would give way to Kevin Reynolds after the short, while Dylan Moscovitch and Kirsten Moore-Towers may replace Duhamel and Radford.
The team event provides the Canucks -- who are considered to be among the favourites heading into the event -- with another opportunity to win a medal.
Chan’s world-record setting performance at the Trophee Bompard this season (295.27) also has him in a strong position heading into the Olympics, although he’s still trying to improve on a fifth-place finish in Vancouver.
Even with such expectations the competition will be fierce for the Canadians. Here are some other skaters to look out for:
Standing in the way of the 23-year-old Toronto native Chan – a three-time world and seven-time national champion – is the experienced veteran and hometown favourite Evgeni Plushenko.
The 31-year-old Russian has proven himself on the Olympic stage, having medalled in three straight Winter Games. The three-time world champion won silver in 2002 in Salt Lake City, gold at the 2006 Games in Turin and is the defending Vancouver 2010 silver medallist.
He is coming off back surgery but will have the fans in his corner.
Rising star Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan should also provide stiff competition for Chan. The 19-year-old is competing in his first Olympics but has already built an impressive resume in his young career.
He’s the 2012 world bronze medallist and the Grand Prix final champion in 2013, beating out Chan, who finished second. Hanyu set a world record in the short program at the event (99.84).
Duhamel, of Lively, Ont., and Radford, who hails from Balmertown, Ont., will be skating to music composed by the 29-year-old Radford himself.
The 2013 world bronze medallists and Four Continents champions will again skate to ‘Tribute’ in their short program, which is an ode to former coach Paul Wirtz who passed away several years ago due to non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
The tandem is competing in its first Olympics and is the reigning Canadian national figure skating champion.
Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov
The Russian duo of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov have excelled this season and are hoping to continue the momentum in front of their home fans.
As 2013 world champions, they have also won the European championships three times. They are six-time winners on the Grand Prix series including this season’s NHK Trophy and Skate America titles. Their accolades also include a second-place performance in the Grand Prix Final.
Cheng Peng/Hao Zhang
The Chinese team has enjoyed a solid season, including bronze at the Grand Prix Cup of China and a silver-medal performance at the NHK Trophy.
They are also the reigning Chinese national champions.
Next up in the team event are the ice dance short, ladies’ short and pairs free programs on Saturday (Sportsnet, beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET).
The event wraps up Sunday with the men’s and ladies’ free, followed by the ice dance free which will determine the medallists.