US Men's Olympic Figure Skating 2014: Breaking Down Top Contenders on Team

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2014

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 06:  Jeremy Abbott of the USA competes in the Figure Skating Men's Short Program during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Jeremy Abbott is probably the best chance the United States has at medaling in the individual men's competition.

Unfortunately, he's already gotten off to a poor start in the team competition, a foreboding performance so early in the Sochi Games.

From Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press:

After an outstanding week of practice, Abbott had a disastrous performance during the men’s short program today, part of a new team event at the Winter Olympics.

Abbott, who trains at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, botched a quad and didn’t attempt a triple axel, finishing with 65.65 points.

The team event combines the results of the four disciplines: men’s, women’s, pairs and dance.

Abbott is a four-time U.S. champion, but the big stage at the Olympics hasn't always been so kind. Especially four years ago, when he finished ninth in the Vancouver Games.

Unlike four years ago, when Evan Lysacek won gold for the United States, the men this year are unlikely to medal in the individual competition.

It would take a pretty miraculous performance for Abbott to crack the top three, while 19-year-old Jason Brown is still probably a bit out of his element in Sochi.

Abbott knows what it feels like to be out of his element. He felt that way four years ago but told that he feels far more prepared this time around:

After having gone through the last Olympic experience, I’ve learned so much. I really think I know how to handle the pressure this time. It’s a whole different ballgame for me. Last time I was really kind of jumping in blind. This time it’s very different. It’s very planned, it’s very organized.

I feel like I’ve given myself the best opportunity to be calm and focused as I can be in Russia.

Of course, Brown's exuberance may exceed his inexperience on the Olympic stage.

For anyone who saw his U.S. Figure Skating Championship performance in Boston, the belief that his artistry and enthusiasm can win over the fans and judges alike will be shared.

He understands the power of the performance, indeed. Of course, a huge aspect will be his ability to nail technically difficult feats as well. Should he combine both, he may be a surprise contender. It would be a surprise, but not a shock.

Of course, the United States may need to turn to men like Simon Shnapir (partnered with Marissa Castelli) or 2010 silver medalist Charlie White (partnered with Meryl Davis in ice dancing) to reach the medal stand.

The United States will be disappointing if the men in the individual events can't earn a medal on their own, but medaling in the team competition, pairs or ice dancing will be a welcome consolation.

After Lysacek's epic performance in 2010, a more modest showing by the U.S. men this time around should be expected.

But that just leaves us room to be pleasantly surprised.

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