Even though the Opening Ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi still awaits, the competition is already underway. One of the events on Day 1 was pairs short-program figure skating as a part of the new team event.
The host nation of Russia is expecting big things over the next couple weeks, and its figure skating pair certainly got things off to a rousing start with an outstanding run. They were far from the only team to put their best foot forward on the Olympic stage, though.
Let's check out how the 10 pairs stacked up after several well-rounded programs and recap all the action from the Iceberg Skating Palace.
|1||Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov||RUS||83.79||10|
|2||Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford||CAN||73.10||9|
|3||Peng Cheng & Zhang Hao||CHN||71.01||8|
|4||Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek||ITA||70.31||7|
|5||Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir||USA||64.25||6|
|6||Maylin Wende & Daniel Wende||GER||60.82||5|
|7||Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres||FRA||57.45||4|
|8||Narumi Takahashi & Ryuichi Kihara||JPN||46.56||3|
|9||Julia Lavrentieva & Yuri Rudyk||UKR||46.34||2|
|10||Stacey Kemp & David King||GBR||44.70||1|
Japan's Narumi Takahashi and Ryuichi Kihara got the competition started. A very young tandem at just 22 and 21 years old respectively, the pair seemed to lack rhythm throughout. Their lack of experience, both as a team and on the major stage, likely played a major role in that.
They didn't make any crucial mistakes, however, which helped them salvage a decent score. As TSN Skate points out, this discipline of the event was expected to check in as the weakest for Japan:
Takahashi and Kihara score a 46.56 this is the weakest discipline of the Japanese team here— TSN Skate (@SkateTSN) February 6, 2014
Stacey Kemp and David King from Great Britain viewed their tremendous chemistry as an advantage coming into the Olympics. Colin Bateman of the Daily Express passed along comments from King, who said their natural connection creates work for other teams:
We have a connection that a lot of teams strive for. It definitely also helps at times when we can go home and plan what we will be doing and casually talk through things that other teams have to plan to prepare for.
That was evident throughout most of their routine, but a couple mistakes on key throws ended up costing them. Above all else, it seemed like nerves played a role as they couldn't come together at the big moments to vault them up the standings.
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Julia Lavrentieva and Yuri Rudyk of Ukraine followed with an average performance. Much like the Japanese pair, there were some hiccups along the way but they avoided any potential disaster in order to salvage a respectable score.
The competition began to heat up starting with the German tandem of Maylin and Daniel Wende. They were the first team to really find a rhythm, stringing their routine together well, and the judges rewarded them with a score that cracked 60.
Despite the nice showing, the German lead didn't last for long as Peng Cheng and Zhang Hao of China shined. They put together a routine that was very good from a technical standpoint. NBC Olympics' Rachel Lutz noted their score was a new high:
The United States followed with Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir. They faced some added pressure after the great run by China. Although they weren't able to match it, the pair was able to complete a great routine, highlighted by a seamless death-spiral transition and a great throw.
U.S. Figure Skating provided word the run amounted to a season-best score:
At that point, it appeared the pairs were each building off each other's positive momentum. But then there was a break to resurface the ice, and when the competition continued the France pair struggled to find their rhythm.
A couple mistakes ended up getting strung together during the fast-paced routine and it prevented Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres from coming close to their potential.
Canada didn't suffer a similar letdown. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford hit every key point in their routine with very few flaws along the way. They knew a near perfect run was necessary to take over the lead and delivered.
Skate Canada applauded the effort:
Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek of Italy followed with a short program that at least forced the Canadians onto the edge of their seat until the scores were revealed. The result was a season high, but not enough to overcome Canada, as TSN Skate noted:
Berton/Hotarek score a 70.31 and a new season best for them and they sit 4th. So Canada assured of at least 9 points.— TSN Skate (@SkateTSN) February 6, 2014
The crowd, which was only moderately involved throughout most of the competition, came alive for the final pair—Russia's own Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. The immense crowd support is always something special for athletes from the host nation.
It was enough to fuel the Russian pair into first place with a score that left every other team in the dust. They were simply a step above the rest.