The new team event in Olympic figure skating carries secrecy. Just ask the U.S. skaters.
“For us, we’ve been looking at it and evaluating what strategy to take for a while,” ice dancer Charlie White said. “Right now I don’t think we’re supposed to talk about too much strategy.”
The U.S. skaters in the team event have yet to be announced. The way they will be determined recalls the way the Olympic Team was decided after the U.S. Championships earlier this month. If you recall that, there was a little bit of drama.
The team event will begin the night before the Opening Ceremony (Thursday, Feb. 6) and wrap up two nights after the cauldron is lit (Sunday, Feb. 9).
The medal contenders are thought to be the U.S., Russia, Canada and Japan.
Each nation entered will have men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance skaters perform one short program and one free skate each. The event will include 10 nations with a cut down to five after the short programs.
Two skaters (or two couples or one skater and one couple) may be subbed out after the short program. For example, the U.S. could enter Gracie Gold in the women’s short and then Polina Edmunds or Ashley Wagner in the women’s free skate.
The key question at this point is who will compete for the U.S. There are procedures in place that provide an outline.
All skaters needed to submit intent to U.S. Figure Skating in December if they were interested in doing two programs, one program or no programs in the team event. They could still change their intent though.
From there, the first item to be determined is which two disciplines could be subbed out from among men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance.
Here’s how U.S. Figure Skating tells it, referring to the International Committee Management Subcommittee (ICMS).
The ICMS ranks the four disciplines based on their “opportunity to medal and/or provide the strongest field in the individual events.” It’s the same criteria that was used to determine the Olympic Team after the U.S. Championships earlier this month.
The top-ranked discipline will get first choice of subbing out. What are those rankings? Well, U.S. Figure Skating is keeping those internal.
Clearly, the best U.S. chance for a medal comes in ice dance with reigning world champions Meryl Davis and White, Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Maia and Alex Shibutani.
It is thought the next best chances for a medal are, in order, the women with Gold, Edmunds and Wagner followed by men with Jeremy Abbott and Jason Brown and then pairs with Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir and Felicia Zhang and Nate Bartholomay.
If the rankings go that way, ice dance and women will have the first option of being the two disciplines that may sub out after the short programs.
The next question, after it’s decided which disciplines will sub out, is which specific athletes will be subbed in and out?
Again, it’s determined by rankings, the same individual skater rankings that were used to determine the Olympic Team. Those rankings came under scrutiny when Wagner, who finished fourth at the U.S. Championships, was ranked above third place Mirai Nagasu and put on the three-woman Olympic Team.
The top-ranked skater(s) will get first choice of which program(s) they would like to enter. They could enter both programs, one program or no programs. Whatever’s left over goes to the second-ranked skater and then the third-ranked skater.
It is unknown what the specific ICMS rankings are. Gold won the U.S. Championship, but it’s not assured she’s ranked first. If Gold is ranked first, and women’s is one of the two disciplines able to sub out, she said she would prefer to skate one event and allow another woman to sub in.
“We talked it over, of course,” Gold said. “But it’s all trying to keep it super secret. We don’t want to share the USFS deep, dark secrets. But I think that it would be best, especially since it’s new, to probably split. So, just maybe do one program and let another lady step in. That way more people get to be on the team and experience it, and we don’t get too tired before the big [individual] competition starts.
“The long program is strong, and I’ve had a lot of really consistent runs with it. Competing is definitely easier for me once I get going, but the short program I am totally in love with. … Whichever one I’m selected for I’ll be very happy with.”
Here’s where it would get interesting.
If the U.S. enters different women for the short and long program, who goes? Will the rankings fall straight in line with U.S. Championships results — Gold, Edmunds, Wagner — or will they be different when factoring in U.S. Figure Skating’s criteria of looking at results in the year preceding the U.S. Championships?
The wait for answers to some of these questions could be long. U.S. Figure Skating said the entries for the short program are due Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. Sochi time.
The entries for the long program are due 10 minutes after the short program concludes.