Preview Canada has the depth to win figure skating's team event

Well-rounded squad hopes to upgrade from silver in 2014

Canada has the depth to win figure skating's team event
Ice dance superstars Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are key to Canada's gold-medal hopes in the team event. © Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press

By Pj Kwong, CBC Sports

Figure skating gets underway in Pyeongchang even before the opening ceremony. The team event kicks things off Thursday at 8 p.m. ET (watch live on and the CBC Olympics app).

This is the second appearance for this competition at the Olympics, and already it has lots of fans.

The event is open to figure skating's top 10 nations and, for the 2018 Games, Canada has qualified in first with the most number of points.

It begins with all 10 countries choosing one skater (or pair of skaters) to perform in each of the men's, ladies', ice dance and pairs' short competitions. Their programs are judged and scored in the usual way, with one exception — the standings in each discipline are converted into placement points, with first place worth 10 points, second worth nine, third worth eight, and so on.

When all the short programs are done, each country's points from all four disciplines are added together, and the top five countries earn the right to compete in the final.

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The free programs are judged in the same way as the short programs. Ultimately, the placement points from both the short and free competitions are added together, and the team with the most points wins the gold medal.

There are a couple more wrinkles that make things interesting: one is we don't know for sure who will be representing each nation until 24 hours before the start of the event. On Wednesday, Canada announced that Patrick Chan will compete in Thursday's men's short program while Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford will skate in the pairs' short.

The second wrinkle is that each country is allowed to make skater substitutions in two of the four disciplines before the free skates.

Talent across the board for Canada

Having a well-rounded — and tight-knit — team is the key to victory, explains Olympic coach and CBC commentator Carol Lane.

"In order to win the Olympic team event, each team must hope that all the disciplines skate well enough to surmount any possible errors and believe, trust and support in their teammates," she says.

This is great news for Team Canada, which has talent across the board and boasts world championship medallists in all four disciplines.

For three-time Olympian and four-time world champion Kurt Browning, the recipe for Canadian success looks like this: "Canada needs to not let a Russian win both the short and the long [in the ladies' event]. Canada needs Patrick Chan to be "Super Chan" again. Canada needs to save nothing in the pairs event and give everything they have. Canada needs Tessa [Virtue] and Scott [Moir] to skate both the short and the free dance."

At the inaugural Olympic team event four years ago in Sochi, Canada finished behind Russia and ahead of the United States to take the silver medal. I fully expect the same teams on the podium this time, only Canada will win gold.