The Team Event is now in its second Olympics. And in a lot of ways, the race for the short program is as much of a battle as the race for the medals. So I split this preview into two parts - the first for the short and the second for the free. As I ran through the scenarios, one thing is for sure, the top three teams are heavy favorites to qualify, whereas it could be anyone’s game for the next two spots among for countries.
A quick primer on the Team Event rules and scoring:
- Each team sends one entry per discipline for the short program
- Team scores are calculated using the placements of their entries (10 points for 1st place, 9 points for 2nd place, all the way to 1 point for 10th place)
- The top five teams move on to the free skate, where they send one entry per discipline for the free skate
- In the free skate, teams are allowed to substitute in up to two disciplines if they have qualified multiple entries into those disciplines
- Free skate placements earn the same number of points (10 for 1st, 9 for 2nd, 8 for 3rd, 7 for 4th, 6 for 5th) and are added to the short program scores to determine the final standings
A couple of factors come into play. The first is the scoring via placement rather than via actual scores - this provides equal weight for all discipline and ignores the margin of victory. The second is how teams who don’t have a chance at a medal position (or not position) their skaters - it’s the unpredictability here that could make a huge difference in the closer races. A third factor that changes the dynamic is the relatively high volatility of the short vs the free because to the range of scores possible - because the lowest you can score is 6 points for a 5th place in the free (as opposed to 1 point for 10th in the short), watch for countries to sub in skaters based on how they feel about their medal chances.
I went through over 20 scenarios to get to the range of scores I’m listing below. The moral of my scenarios, though, is that this fight for the free skate may hinge on the very first event, the pairs. Because the pairs individual event happens closest to the Team Event, there’s potential fear of mental and physical fatigue, which will play into who skates and who doesn’t. Depending on how the pairs skate and which pairs *actually* decide to skate - looking at you, Savchenko/Massot and Sui/Han - those 4th through 7th spots could change a good bit.
Olympic Team Event SP/SD predictions
Official hashtag: #PyeongChang2018
Top 5 qualify for the free
1. Olympic Athletes of Russia (OAR) - 29-34pts
Assumed team: Medvedeva, Kolyada, Tarasova/Morozov, Bobrova/Soloviev
The defending champions come into PyeongChang with a similarly strong team as they did four years ago, with consistency from Evgenia Medvedeva (who has had a stronger set of short programs than Alina Zagitova has this season) and Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev.
The biggest unknown comes in the form of Mikhail Kolyada, who has really shown some incredible skating this season, but has also dug himself into a hole in the short program. It’s tough to imagine OAR starting Dmitri Aliev in the short, even with Kolyada’s inconsistency. Aliev has an SP ceiling in the low-90s, whereas Kolyada’s is in the low-100s. You then also have to wonder if Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov have gotten past that errant short program at Europeans. Still, odds are slightly in OAR’s favor to go into the free with the lead.
2. Canada - 28-34 pts
Assumed team: Osmond, Chan, Duhamel/Radford, Virtue/Moir
I’d think if I were Canada, this short program team would be a pretty easy one to call. Patrick Chan, Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford, and Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir are the veterans, all with team silver from four years ago, and have the highest scoring potential. Between Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman, Osmond - Olympic team silver medalist herself from 2014 - has the higher scoring potential and base value in the short, and it’s also the program that Osmond is most comfortable with. The question mark here for me is what kind of consistency we will see from Osmond and Chan, especially Chan, who has had a few rough skates this season.
3. United States - 27-32 pts
Assumed team: Tennell, N. Chen, Knierim/Knierim, Shibutani/Shibutani
For the U.S., it’s really about trying to keep as close as possible to OAR and Canada in the short program. Because of that volatility in the short program, the Americans’ chances at the gold or silver could very well be decided here. And so getting the consistency and scoring potential out there is absolutely imperative.
Nathan Chen has the highest scoring potential for the men and has had strong short programs all season. Bradie Tennell is the most consistent American woman this season, and 68-72 score for her short could even get her up into the top four depending on how others skate. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani’s strength this season is in the short dance, and they have a clear shot at those eight points in third. And so the potential volatility comes in with Alexa Knierim/Chris Knierim, who could realistically be anywhere from fourth to seventh depending on how those side-by-sides go. If the U.S. can somehow muster a second place or an extremely close third after the short, they will still have a shot at moving up.
Update: It has been confirmed that Nathan Chen and Adam Rippon will do the Team Event (Chen SP and Rippon FS)
4. Japan - 19-24 pts
Assumed team: Miyahara, Uno, Suzaki/Kihara, Muramoto/Reed
As always, Japan’s strength is in their singles entries. With Yuzuru Hanyu still recovering from his injury, it’s tough to see them putting him in unless he really feels fresh and wants a little bit of warmup. Absent Hanyu, it would be Shoma Uno looking to give Japan a big push to the free skate. Given Satoko Miyahara’s issues in the free skate this season, the short program is a likely scenario for her. Even without a fully clean skate, Miyahara would likely be fifth at worst, so the volatility isn’t there.
Without multiple dance entries from the powerhouse countries, Japan’s Kana Muramoto/Chris Reed will keep things interesting with a finish in the middle of the pack, making up for pairs, which will be their weakest placement. Perhaps the biggest question of whether or not Japan will prevail in the fight for the top five will be their ladies’ entrant.
Update: Yuzuru Hanyu has been confirmed to not do the team event; Shoma Uno for SP and Keiji Tanaka for FS
5. France - 16-24 pts
Assumed team: Meite, Besseghier, James/Cipres, Papadakis/Cizeron
France has only one spot in men, ladies, and pairs, so they Chafik Besseghier, Mae Berenice Meite, and Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres will skate in the Team Event. The question of whether or not Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron skate here will depend on the kind of strategy they are thinking.
Ice dance doesn’t take place until the 2nd week of the Olympics, so physical fatigue won’t be an issue. But with France not figuring into the medals, a huge reason for Papadakis/Cizeron to skate here is for them to continue building momentum against Virtue/Moir, who are absolutely going to skate in the Team Event. For that head-to-head alone, I’d say Papadakis/Cizeron skate Team, and that will push them into the conversation for the free skate.
Update: Lauriault/Le Gac were at Team SD practice, which changes makes it unlikely that Papadakis/Cizeron will compete team; France's chances of qualifying for the FS drops significantly
6. Italy - 18-23 pts
Assumed team: Kostner, Rizzo, Marchei/Hotarek, Cappellini/Lanotte
For Italy to make it to the free skate, they will have to count on clean performances from both Carolina Kostner and Valentina Marchei/Ondrej Hotarek (assuming they get the spot). It’s so close in the ladies and pairs’ events that one mistake could be a 2-3 placement point swing, which could knock them completely out. The pairs, once again, could be the clincher - whoever wins out between James/Cipres and Marchei/Hotarek in the very first event will be a clear signal as to which country advances to the free skate. All that said, if France does not decide to start Papadakis/Cizeron, then Italy becomes the favorite to qualify.
7. China - 15-24 pts
Assumed team: Li, Jin, Peng/Jin, Wang/Liu
Knowing that they have virtually no shot at a medal here and potentially two shots at medals in the pairs’ event, it may very well be China’s #3 in pairs who get the call for this Team Event. If that’s the case, the horizon for the pairs team short changes dramatically (also, see Germany below). Using that same logic, you could see them putting Han Yan in instead of Boyang Jin, though it does seem like Jin would benefit from having another skate under his belt after recovering from his ankle injury.
Update: Han Yan looks to be likely to be in the Team SP for China
8. Germany - 9-16 pts
Assumed team: Schott, Fentz, Savchenko/Massot, Lorenz/Polizoakis
For Germany, their placement is completely dependent on whether or not Aljona Savchenko/Bruno Massot decide to do the Team Event. They missed Europeans to get more training, and potentially to rest Massot, who has been nursing a back injury all season. They could very well use the short program as a warmup for the pairs event - and for them, the short program is less of a strain than the free skate is. And I have them in 8th solely for that reason, otherwise, they could finish as low as tenth given the relative strength of their other three disciplines.
9. South Korea - 11-14 pts
Assumed team: Choi, Cha, Kim/Kam, Min/Gamelin
The home country doesn’t have a shot at qualifying, but it will certainly be a great way for its skaters to get extra time to shine at home. They have two solid single skaters and one solid dance team, with the relative weakness in pairs keeping them from competing for a free skate spot.
10. Israel 8-11 pts
Assumed team: Buchanan. Bychenko, Conners/Krasnopolski, Tankova/Zilberberg
The men’s event will be Israel’s specialty here, especially since Isabella Tobias/Ilia Tkachenko couldn’t skater here after Tkachenko did not get his Israeli citizenship. Given Alexei Bychenko’s stronger season, you would imagine that he would get the chance to get a bit of a warmup for the men’s event.