Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir of the United States compete in the team pairs short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

U.S. pairs champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir had their work cut out for them when they took the ice for their short program in figure skating’s team event at the Sochi Olympics Thursday.

Four-time and defending U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott had put the country’s hopes of advancing to Sunday’s medal round in jeopardy with an error-strewn performance that relegated the U.S. to seventh among the 10 nations contesting the new Olympic event.

Skating after Russian icon Evgeni Plushenko, who was wildly cheered by adoring countrymen for his showy jumps and artistic brio, Abbott managed to “find a silent place amid the noise,” as his coach advised. But he fell on his opening jump, a quadruple toe loop, slid into the wall and popped a subsequent jump. From there, Abbott remained upright but fell emotionally flat, finishing seventh and describing himself afterward as “torn apart” that he hadn’t performed better for his teammates.

Under the event’s format, each country selects six skaters—one man, one woman, one pairs duo and one ice dance couple, to perform their short programs, with points awarded for their finishes. After pausing for Friday’s Opening Ceremonies, the team competition resumes with the women’s and dance short programs Saturday. Only the five highest-scoring teams advance to Sunday’s medal round.

Competing sixth, Castelli and the Russian-born Shnapir flubbed their triple Salchow early in the program, with Castelli falling and Shnapir popping the jump. Their score (64.25) placed them second among pairs, with four pairs yet to go.