The first day of the inaugural Olympic team figure skating competition in Sochi wasn’t ideal for Team USA.
Jeremy Abbott finished seventh after a short program that saw him fall on the opening jump. On the other end of the spectrum, Yuzuru Hanyu scored a 97.98 in his short program to earn first place and ten points overall for Japan, while Russian hero Yevgeny Plushenko finished second with a score of 91.39 – much to the delight of the home crowd, who ate up the performance from the 2006 Olympic champion.
MORE: Even in second, Plushenko owns first night of team competition
With Abbott’s rough outing, the pressure was firmly on the pairs duo of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir (pictured) to make up ground for the Americans. They managed to earn a season-best score of 64.25 despite a bobble on side-by-side triple Salchows and finished fifth. The reigning world pairs champions, Russia’s Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, finished first by a margin of more than 10 points over Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford.
WATCH: Jeremy Abbott struggles during his program
After two events, Russia sits atop the overall team standings while the U.S. is in a three-way tie for fifth place alongside France and Germany. The competition continues on Saturday morning with the women’s short programs, short dance, and pairs’ free skate. Once all short programs are completed, only the top five teams will advance to the free skate portion.
TEAM FIGURE SKATING – STANDINGS (AFTER TWO EVENTS)
1. Russia – 19
2. Canada – 17
3. China – 15
4. Japan – 13
T-5. Germany – 10
T-5. France – 10
T-5. United States – 10
8. Italy – 8
9. Ukraine – 5
10. Great Britain – 3
Australian golfer Marc Leishman will miss the Rio Olympics due to his wife’s health.
“Many of you may know that last April my children and I almost lost my wife, Audrey, to toxic shock syndrome,” Leishman said in a statement. “Since then Audrey has been prone to infection and is far removed from 100 percent recovery of her immune system.
“We have consulted with Audrey’s physician and due to her ongoing recovery from toxic shock and potential risks associated with the transmission of the Zika virus, it was a difficult yet easy decision not to participate.
“I missed playing in the 2015 Masters tournament to be at her side when she was originally stricken and I cannot risk placing her health in jeopardy.
“The Masters and the Olympics are the two biggest tournaments to which a golfer can be invited; however, my family will always come before golf.”
Leishman, 32 with one PGA Tour win, joined the projected Olympic field when countryman Adam Scott said last month that he would skip Rio.
World No. 1 Jason Day is assured one of two Olympic spots for Australian men when the 60-man field is determined based on July 11 world rankings.
With No. 7 Scott and No. 35 Leishman out, the next-best Aussie is No. 63 Marcus Fraser.
Three more major champions — Vijay Singh, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel — also said in April they would not compete in Rio.
Golf returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.
MORE: Australia Olympic legend blasts Adam Scott
Rory McIlroy believes golf may not remain in the Olympics after 2020 following a string of major champions announcing they will skip the sport’s return at the Rio Games.
“Because of how [Olympic golf is] being approached in golf circles … I’m not sure if we’re going to have another opportunity to win a gold medal after [Tokyo 2020],” McIlroy said ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday.
In 2009, the International Olympic Committee voted to re-add golf and rugby to the Olympic program for the 2016 Olympics, with a review in 2017 if they would remain for the 2020 Olympics.
In 2013, Tokyo was elected host city for the 2020 Olympics with a plan that includes golf.
Beyond 2020, golf does not yet have a place in the Olympics. Its chances for the 2024 Olympics could come into focus when that host city is chosen in September 2017.
McIlroy, ranked No. 3 in the world, has repeated he will play for Ireland in the first Olympic golf tournament since 1904 in Rio in August.
Fellow major champions Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Vijay Singh said last month they will not play in the Rio Olympics.
MORE: Golf Channel’s Olympic broadcast schedule