(Associated Press)

The United States is knotted in a three-way tie for fifth midway through the first phase of the team figure-skating event at the Sochi Olympics after its reigning national champions in men’s and pairs delivered rocky short programs Thursday at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

Despite a lengthy resume and past Olympic experience, four-time U.S. Jeremy Abbott got the country’s quest for gold off to a poor start, falling on his opening quadruple toe loop and popping a subsequent jump to finish seventh among the 10 men in the field.

Then came Bostonians Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, two-time U.S. Champions, who botched their triple Salchow. Scripted to be executed in unison, the element went awry on both skaters’ parts, with Castelli falling and Shnapir failing to complete the rotations. They ended up fifth among 10.

When the final placements were tallied—with Abbott earning four points for his effort and Castelli-Shnapir earning six—the U.S. was in a three-way battle to advance to Sunday’s medal round. Saturday’s women’s and dance short programs will decide which five countries advance.

That puts the pressure on first-time Olympian Ashley Wagner of Alexandria, who has been tapped to perform her short, and reigning world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, to get the U.S. team into the top five.

With the team event pausing for Friday’s Opening Ceremonies, the top four are: Russia (19 points), Canada (17), China (15), Japan (13). Knotted in a three-way tie for fifth, with 10 points each, are Germany, France and the United States.