Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States compete in the team ice dance short dance figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

It was equal parts a competition and a math equation when the team figure skating event resumed Saturday at Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace.

Midway through the preliminary phase of the 10-country battle, the United States was knotted with France and Germany for fifth, with only the top five countries advancing to Sunday’s medal round. So when the 10 couples took the ice for the dance competition, U.S. fortunes hinged not only on how Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White fared but also on how the duos from Germany and France did.

As expected, Davis and White, the reigning world champions, improved the United States’ precarious standing with a short dance that was scored first among the 10 countries jockeying for the right to advance to Sunday’s medal round. By finishing first (75.98 points), they earned 10 points for their team, doubling the U.S. score to 20 points.

With it, they lifted the U.S. from fifth to third, with only the women’s short program remaining to settle it.

Figure skating is one of the most iconic of all Winter Olympic sports. From U.S. ice dancing dominance to a battle for the ladies' singles gold, here are 10 numbers you need to know about figure skating at the 2014 Sochi Games. (Davin Coburn/The Washington Post)

As it stands, entering the women’s short, which will be skated by Alexandria’s Ashley Wagner, Russia is in first, with 27 points. Canada is second (26), followed by the U.S. (20), France (17) and China (16).

Skating second to last, Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 Olympic champions, performed a stylish foxtrot to Louis Armstrong’s rendition of “Dream a Little Dream” and earned the best marks to that point (72.98 poitns). Still it wasn’t enough to overtake Russia for the overall lead.

The Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev were cheered heartily when they skated out, Bobrova in a blinding red neon dress, with their countrymen waving Russian flags and chanting in unison. But the Russian fans’ volume didn’t obscure the fact that there were plenty of empty seats in the stands when the first couples took the ice, which was puzzling for several reasons. The Russians led the event after two of its four disciplines had been contested Thursday. And ice dance, which started off Saturday’s program, has historically been a Russian specialty and source of pride.