SOCHI — U.S. Figure Skating’s lineup for the initial phase of the inaugural Olympic team medal has been set.
The athletes chosen to compete their short programs in the pairs and men’s disciplines when the competition gets under way Thursday, the day before opening ceremonies, are two-time U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir (pairs) and four-time and defending U.S. champion Jeremey Abbott (men).
The competition will continue Saturday, with the dance and women’s short programs, followed by the pairs long program. Two-time U.S. Champion Ashley Wagner will be tapped for that phase of the competition, according to a source, although those selections won’t be announced until Friday at 10 a.m. And the competition concludes with the long programs in the remaining four disciplines on Sunday.
The team event, contested for the first time at the Sochi Games, represents the United States’ first chance to claim a figure-skating medal. Ten nations qualified to compete based on their skaters’ international results over the past season.
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 five countries with the lowest combined totals will be eliminated.
The countries that advance will choose six skaters to perform their long programs on Sunday, granted the option of making substitutions.
Thursday’s announcement all but confirms that Jason Brown, 19, the surprise U.S. silver medalist, will compete his long program set to music from “Riverdance” on the final day of the competition. That represents a significant honor and vote of confidence in Brown’s showmanship. The Illinois teen is among the few male Olympians who doesn’t perform a quadruple jump, but he has consistently won over audiences with his flair for performance—particular in the rousing long program.
Abbott, by contrast, excels in his short program, which includes an impressive quadruple toe-triple toe combination. The short has been Wagner’s strong suit, as well. Reigning U.S. women’s champion Gracie Gold, 18, is expected to be chosen to perform her long program.