Canada leads after opening day of figure skating team event
By DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Patrick Chan stood emotionless in the middle of the ice after a shaky short program, one the three-time world champion thought had doomed Canada’s chances in the team event at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
His teammates picked him up in more ways than one.
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford responded with a strong pairs program to cover Chan’s missteps and give Canada the lead over the United States, while the rest of the squad lifted his outlook considerably with the positive way they greeted him when he finally skated off the ice.
“It’s hard for figure skaters to think outside, and not think of individual performances,” Chan said. “The reaction when I got off the ice made me go from being poor to being fun and lighthearted, and I thought we carried that energy over to the pairs.”
The powerhouse Canadian squad, which is expected to challenge the Russians for the gold medal, finished with 17 points on the opening day of the figure skating program. The U.S. wound up with 14 points, followed by Japan and the Russians with 13 points apiece.
Nathan Chen got the Americans off to an unsteady start, failing to land any of his high-amplitude jumps without trouble, but the pairs team of Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim bailed him out with a strong performance set to music from “Moulin Rouge.”
“It wasn’t nerves, I was just not thinking about the right things technically on the ice,” said Chen, whose array of quads has made him a favorite in the men’s event. “I got ahead of myself and didn’t have the right ways to get into my jumps. I let the rest of the team down.
“This was a good opportunity to get on the Olympic ice and make some silly mistakes.”
Duhamel and Radford scored 76.57 points in their program set to “With or Without You” to finish behind only Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, whose season-best 80.92 dazzled a crowd that included a contingent of Russian fans wearing bright red shirts that spelled out “Russia In My Heart.”
Still, that big number couldn’t make up for teammate Mikhail Kolyada’s poor program. The bronze medalist at the grand prix final fell twice to finish eighth among the 10 skaters.
“Hard work is the key for every performer and for every performance. That was why we did so well today,” Tarasova said through a translator. “We were prepared for anything.”
The team competition, which debuted four years ago at the Sochi Games, awards points in descending of finish in each of the disciplines. It resumes Sunday with ice dance and women’s short programs, after which the top five nations will advance to free skates in each of the disciplines.
The first medals of the figure skating program will be handed out Monday.
Canada had hoped to get off to a fast start with Chan, but the two-time Olympic silver medalist fell on his opening quad and again on his triple axel. Chan skated off the ice certain that he had dug a hole for the rest of the team, only to watch some of his biggest rivals take big spills.
Chen had to double a triple toe loop and quad toe loop, two jumps he’d had little trouble with in practice, and the American fell on the triple axel that has caused him all kinds of trouble.
It was the kind of performance Chen can ill afford as he chases gold in the individual event.
“I need to mentally adjust to what happened,” he said. “Nobody wants to go down on the Olympic ice. It happens, you take it as you go and you move on and use it. Obviously this is not what you want to do on your first Olympic run, but I am glad I got the opportunity to come out here and get the program down. So we’ll just analyze what I did and learn to adjust.
“I know the rest of my team will pick me up with their skates. They’ll be able to do that.”
Not even a sublime skate from Tarasova and Morozov could make up for Kolyada’s problems. He fell on his opening quad lutz, again on a quad loop and had to single a triple axel, then sat morosely to await his scores.
Shoma Uno laid down the only standout men’s performance, filling in for reigning Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu quite capably. His only bobble came on his opening quad flip, but he breezed through a big quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination and easily landed his triple axel.
His performance helped Japan to a surprising tie for third after the opening day.
“I watched most of the performers and I know a lot of them made mistakes,” Uno said. “I thought I might make a mistake, too, and I did, but I was able to overcome it. You just move on, don’t think about the mistake and keep skating. I am quite satisfied with all of that.”
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