Early Medal Predictions for Figure Skating at the 2014 Winter Olympics
After a tense and entertaining weekend at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating National Championships in Boston, the United States has officially named the team that will be representing the nation in the Winter Olympics next month.
With that selection in the rearview mirror, it's now time to look ahead at the figure-skating prospects across the board in Sochi.
With renewed rivalries and pending retirements, it is going to be a drama-filled competition, full of opportunities for stars to grow their legacy and up-and-comers to steal the show.
Here are the figure-skating storylines to look out for and the athletes to watch next month as the Games begin:
Team USA's Biggest Storylines
Will Meryl Davis and Charlie White finally win Olympic gold?
Despite the decorated history of figure skating in America, the nation has never won a gold medal in ice dancing. But Meryl Davis and Charlie White, winners of six straight national championships and two world championships, are looking to change that. The Vancouver silver medalists are Team USA's best chance at figure-skating gold in Sochi.
Can Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold or Polina Edmunds sneak onto the podium?
The 2010 Games were the first time that an American female figure skater didn't medal at the Olympics since 1964, and despite a charismatic team, that's not expected to change this time around. But Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold and Polina Edmunds will all be looking to make waves by skating their best on the Sochi ice.
The bronze medal seems to be up for grabs, so all eyes will be upon the American trio to see if they can get the United States back on the medal stand.
Can Jeremy Abbott finish his career with an Olympic medal?
Before the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, 28-year-old Jeremy Abbott announced that this would be his final year of skating. Then, the four-time national champion skated the routines of his life to win the gold medal and book his spot on the team to Sochi.
Abbott has never skated his best in international competitions, but Americans will be watching to see if he is simply saving the best for last.
Top International Storylines
Can Mao Asada finally beat Kim Yu-Na in her final big competition?
Mao Asada and Kim Yu-Na, who have both announced that this will be their last Olympics, have been rivals since they were in juniors and medalling on the world stage consistently since 2007. More times than not, Kim has gotten the best of Asada on the biggest stages, such as the Vancouver Olympics. Will Asada be able to topple her biggest rival on the biggest figure-skating stage before her career ends?
Will Yevgeny Plushenko compete?
It's not a shock to anyone that it's been a roller-coaster will-he, won't-he ride with Yevgeny Plushenko over the past few years when it comes to his desire to compete in Sochi.
But the latest word is that he does want to compete, and now it's just up to the Russian Federation to see if he will skate in place of Russian national champion Maksim Kovtun. If Plushenko does compete in singles, one of the most-decorated skaters in figure-skating history will certainly be one to watch.
Will three-time world champion Patrick Chan be able to win Canada's first gold medal in men's singles figure skating?
He won't have quite the pressure on him that he did at the Vancouver Olympics, but Canadians are still salivating at the chance for a figure-skating gold medal in men's singles. It will be up to 23-year-old Patrick Chan, winner of the past three world championships, to deliver.
Dark Horses to Watch
Gracie Gold (United States)
Gold hasn't finished higher than sixth in any international competition, but she is only 18 and therefore isn't that experienced on the world stage. If she skates in Sochi the way she skated in Boston when she ran away with the U.S. Championship title, she could sneak onto the podium.
Javier Fernandez (Spain)
The first figure skater from Spain to ever medal at the world championships, Javier Fernandez has an outside shot to win a rare Winter Olympics medal for Spain. He won the bronze at the world championships in 2013, and with a wide-open field, he could do the same in Sochi.
Daisuke Takahashi (Japan)
Though he hasn't had a good season, Daisuke Takahashi is still a bronze medalist from Vancouver and a two-time silver medalist at the world championships who has proved that, even when struggling, he can skate his best when it matters. That might get him back into the medal picture this year.
Patrick Chan (Canada)
Chan has won the past three world championships, and now that he has grown up and learned from his mistakes in Vancouver, the 23-year-old shouldn't have a problem grabbing the gold in Sochi.
Kim Yu-Na (South Korea)
An icon in her country, Kim will be skating in her final Olympics in 2014. With the pressure off after her Olympic gold medal back in Vancouver, and a 2013 world championship title in her back pocket, 23-year-old Kim should finish her illustrious career on a high note.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White (United States)
Davis and White are the faces of American figure skating at these Games, and they couldn't be coming into Sochi with any more momentum. They haven't lost since the 2012 world championships, and nobody is expecting them to lose in Sochi.
This is the first year for the team figure-skating competition in the Olympics, and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
While Team USA isn't expected to bring home a lot of individual medals in Sochi, their depth and consistency in all factions—with ice dancers White and Davis leading the way—make them a favorite for the team gold. Japan, with strong male and female singles skaters, and Canada, led by their ice dancers and Chan, could join them on the podium for the inaugural event.
Bronze: Qing Pang and Jian Tong (China)
Silver: Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (Germany)
Gold: Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov (Russia)
Coming off their world championship last year, Volosozhar and Trankov have a chance to give Russian figure-skating a much-needed boost and skate their way to the top of the podium in front of their hometown crowd. Four-time world champions Savchenko and Szolkowy and Pang and Tong, the Vancouver semifinalists who are a couple off the ice as well, could round out the medals.
Bronze: Denis Ten (Kazakstan)
Silver: Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan)
Gold: Patrick Chan (Canada)
The 19-year-old Hanyu has really pushed Chan over the past year, but Chan's maturity should shine through in Sochi and secure the gold medal he's been working so hard for. The bronze is anyone's game, but Ten, who won the silver medal at the world championships last year and has lived in Moscow, will have an edge.
Bronze: Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA)
Silver: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (Canada)
Gold: Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA)
Davis and White will be able to get the ultimate revenge over their rivals and training partners Virtue and Moir by winning the gold that eluded them in Vancouver. And with Team USA riding an ice-dancing high, Chock and Bates, who finished second to Davis and White in nationals, have a great chance to capture the up-for-grabs bronze.
Bronze: Carolina Kostner (Italy)
Silver: Mao Asada (Japan)
Gold: Kim Yu-Na (South Korea)
Yu-Na and Asada are both skating in their final Olympics, and the duo that has defined women's skating since 2007 will likely finish in the gold-silver order that has dominated their careers. Kostner, the 2012 world champion, has a good shot to make it onto the podium as well.