PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – With the dust now settled on an eventful opening day of the figure skating team event at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, Team Canada is right where they want to be.
With two of the four short programs kicking off the team event on the first day, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford finished second in pairs and Patrick Chan placed third in men’s, vaulting Canada into top spot in the ten-team showdown.
Canada gained 17 of a possible 20 points on the opening day, putting them three points ahead of the United States. The Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) have 13 points and share third spot with Japan.
Coming off their seventh straight Canadian title, two-time world champions Duhamel and Radford scored 76.57 in an almost-flawless short program to earn nine points for Canada. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (OAR) finished in top spot with 80.92 points.
“That was the plan,” laughed Duhamel when told their performance had put the Canadians atop the standings.
“It was a good skate. That’s one of our higher scores, so we’re happy with that.”
A boisterous Team Canada sat in the kiss and cry at rinkside, cheering their teammates on loudly throughout the two programs.
“We’re a very strongly connected team,” said Radford. “There’s a great energy that’s building around the entire team.”
Earlier in the day, three-time world and ten-time Canadian champion Chan had a shaky short program but scored 81.66 to finish third and secure eight points for the Canadian squad. Shoma Uno of Japan won the men’s short program with 103.25, while Israel’s Alexei Bychenko finished second.
“I think it’s just the early jitters at being at the Olympics again,” admitted Chan, who fell on both his quad toe loop and triple Axel. “I’m glad I got this out of the way. I’m looking forward to the rest of the performances.”
Chan, wasn’t the only skater in the final group to struggle. Mikhail Kolyada, competing for Olympics Athletes from Russia, was a surprising eighth while Nathan Chen of the United States finished fourth.
The team event is a unique competition at the Olympics, with the top ten skating nations skating short programs in all four disciplines. Points are awarded in descending order, with the first-place finisher earning ten points and the competitor placing 10th receiving one point. Only the top five teams will advance to the free program.
Canada placed second to Russia in the inaugural team event at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games.
The team event continues Saturday at 8:00 pm ET (Sunday morning in PyeongChang) with the short dance, women’s short program and pairs free program.
Photo: Greg Kolz