U.S. athletes won a bronze medal in the first-ever team event at the Sochi Olympics. Despite some Olympic experience on the 2018 roster, all skaters will be new to the Olympic team event competition. Nevertheless, they are in pursuit of a second team event medal.
In Sochi, the U.S. team elected to utilize their two allowed substitutions in the ladies’ and men’s events. While Ashley Wagner competed the short program, Gracie Gold competed in the free skate. Similarly, Jeremy Abbott was selected for the short program, and Jason Brown was given the nod for his long program. Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir competed both phases of the pairs’ event, while the U.S. used eventual Olympic ice dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White in both the short dance and the free dance.
If the U.S. decides to employ a similar strategy, the team event lineup could look something like this:
Men: With three Olympic rookies, the U.S. has some choices to make in the men’s event. National champion Nathan Chen could make his Olympic debut in the team event, but the U.S. will likely want to ensure he doesn’t burn out before the men’s event, beginning just four days later. Look for a substitution to be applied in the men’s event, either using the artistic elder statesman Adam Rippon or the quad machine Vincent Zhou, a decade younger than Rippon.
“If I were to be put on the team [event] it would be… I put out really strong performances – with the exception of one – all season,” Rippon said. “I have a lot of experience. I think I could be a useful asset to the team. Given the opportunity I would obviously take it, jump at it, and I would skate my little butt off.”
Ladies: The ladies have the most time off between the team event and their individual event – about 10 days. The U.S. has the most flexibility here. They could have 2018 national champion Bradie Tennell perform her short program, set to music from a famous South Korean film. They could use Karen Chen’s self-choreographed programs, or ask Mirai Nagasu to compete, especially with her big-ticket triple Axel.
“I would love to be in the team event,” Nagasu said. “Something that I saw in Sochi that I didn’t get the opportunity to have in Vancouver was the team holding hands with arms in the air and medals around their neck. I’m a solo skater; the sport can be lonely. I would really like to have that opportunity.”
Pairs: With only one pair team at the Olympics, the U.S. cannot use a substitution between the pairs’ short and long programs. Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim will be called upon to perform in the team event, and then again a few days later in the pairs’ event.
“We’re both really excited being in the team event,” Chris told media on a recent teleconference. “Even if there was another pair team, we would still be doing both of the events. It’s a big opportunity when you go to an Olympics and you get to compete your short and long for a normal Olympics. But now, for the team event, we have the opportunity to compete two more times in front of the world.”
Dance: Though ice dance teams Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates competed at the Sochi Olympics, the more seasoned Meryl Davis and Charlie White competed in the short dance and free dance in Sochi. The new national champions, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, will want to debut in the team event prior to their ice dance competition. Both the Shibutanis and Chock/Bates have national titles and world championship medals to their name, so the U.S. has a deep talent pool to choose from if they want to use a substitution.