Ashley Wagner to compete short program for Olympic team medal

SOCHI — Ashley Wagner will play a key role in U.S. Figure Skating’s attempt to win gold when the Olympic team event is contested for the first time at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Wagner, 22, of Alexandria, has been tapped to perform her short program for the team event when the women take the ice at Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace Saturday night, according to a source.

The full U.S. line-up for the short-dance portion of the team event will be announced Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Wagner’s selection represents a vote of confidence in the 2012 and 2013 U.S. champion, who earned her spot on the 2104 Olympic team despite a rocky performance at U.S. Championships last month. Wagner fell twice during her long program and finished fourth, while 18-year-old Gracie Gold won the title with two strong performances. Gold, no doubt, will be U.S. Figure Skating’s choice to skate the long program Sunday, the final night of the team competition, when the medals will be awarded.

Ten nations will compete in the inaugural Olympic team event.

Under the format, each country will designate one man, one woman, one pair and one dance couple to compete their short programs, with points awarded for each performance. The men’s and pairs compete Thursday, the day before Opening Ceremonies, while the dance couples and women compete Saturday. The five countries with the lowest combined totals will be eliminated.

The countries that advance will choose six skaters to perform their long programs, granted the option of making substitutions.

Canada, Japan, Russia and the United States are considered favorites for the team medal. The others that have qualified: Britain, China, France, Germany, Italy and Ukraine.

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