Figure skating’s team event concludes tonight; USA in bronze medal territory


(NBC) — The figure skating team event concludes Sunday after the men’s and ladies’ free skates and the free dance. The PyeongChang Olympics are just the second Games to include a team event in figure skating. In Sochi, Russia won gold, followed by Canada for silver, and the U.S. squad captured the bronze.

So far, Nathan Chen, Bradie Tennell, and married pair Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim have contributed to the team event. They’ll all receive medals if the U.S. lands on the podium. The rest of the U.S. contingent includes Maia and Alex Shibutani (dance), plus Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu.

Heading into the event, Team USA sat third with 36 points behind both Canada (45 points) and the Olympic Athletes from Russia (39 points). With Italy (35 points) and Japan (32 points) not far behind, what can we expect from the action?

First, the men’s free skate field.

The U.S. gave the nod to Adam Rippon, who is making his Olympic debut at age 28. He’s up against three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada but could still place well. In the team event, the skaters’ scores are ranked and then they receive points based on their standings.

2014 Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan elected not to compete in the team event, and their second-best man, Shoma Uno, skated the short program. Japan is swapping out Uno for their third skater, Keiji Tanaka.

Mikhail Kolyada, competing for the Olympic Athletes from Russia, is a wildcard. He’s capable of quadruple jumps, but they are inconsistent.

Then, the ladies will take the ice for the free skate.

Mirai Nagasu, who finished fourth at the 2010 Olympics but missed the 2014 Games, will compete for the U.S. The team event didn’t exist in 2010, so this will be Nagasu’s first crack at it. Nagasu is expected to go for her triple Axel, and could become just the third female to land it in the Olympics. It’s a risky element, which could prove consequential if the other skaters – specifically those from Italy and Russia – are clean in the free skate.

Nagasu will face Team OAR’s Alina Zagitova who, at just 15 years old, is an Olympic medal favorite. Zagitova trains alongside Yevgenia Medvedeva, who won the short program phase on Saturday night. Also in the field is 2017 World Championships bronze medalist and Canadian national champion Gabrielle Daleman. Italy will deploy Carolina Kostner, who won a bronze medal in the ladies’ event in Sochi and celebrated her 31st birthday on Feb. 8. 17-year-old Kaori Sakamoto, from Japan, is making her Olympic debut.

The results will all come down to the free dance. Canada is utilizing Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 Olympic ice dance champions. The duo won two silver medals in Sochi and with another medal here, could join the exclusive club of most decorated figure skaters in history. They’ll be able to stand alone with five medals a piece after the dance event, should they also capture a medal there, as they are favored to do.

Team USA is sending out Maia and Alex Shibutani, the brother-sister ice dance team who finished second to Virtue/Moir in the short dance phase of the team event. They finished ninth in the ice dance event in Sochi, but this is their first time participating in the team event.

Also in the field are Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, part of Russia’s gold medal-winning squad from Sochi. Plus, Italy’s 2014 world champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lannote.

The award ceremony, where the athletes will receive their medals, is scheduled for 5 a.m. ET on Sunday. You can stream it live, below:

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