U.S. Olympic figure skating entered Day 1 of the 2014 Winter Games at a disadvantage after a miserable outing on opening day, but all of the country's competitors turned in strong performances to put them in a position to win a medal.
In the new team event, the U.S. sat in seventh before strong showings from all. Ashley Wagner and Co. now sit in third place behind Canada and Russia going into Day 2 in an event where the top five countries advance to participate in the final.
While only one event saw the U.S. come away with the top prize, the day was exactly what the United States needed from its top figure skaters.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White
Things started with a bang for the U.S. thanks to Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
"Marlie" came out hot, thumped their Canadian rivals—Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir—and scored a 72.98 mark in the team short dance to boost the U.S. from seventh to third, as the New York Times illustrates:
Meryl Davis and Charlie White take first in the ice dance short program of the team event. U.S. moves up to third; Russia still leads.— NYT Olympics (@SochiNYT) February 8, 2014
White said after the performance that he and Davis do not feel any pressure, as the team event is just that, per the Associated Press (via Fox Sports): "We don't feel like we're trying to carry any sort of burden or load. We're counting on the whole team to pull through together and I think that's what makes us such a strong team."
Whether Davis wants to admit it or not, their performance gave the country a massive boost, which was in turn upheld by the Americans who hit the ice afterward in subsequent events.
As arguably America's most polarizing Olympian entering the games, Ashley Wagner had plenty of pressure on her shoulders to post a big performance in the team short program—especially with the team counting on her after Davis and White's result.
Wagner responded in a big way with a program to Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” which gave her a score of 63.10 and a fourth-place finish.
In turn, the United States earned seven more points and remained in third place.
The performance was a bit of retribution for Wagner, who was criticized for her selection to the Games after a miserable path leading up to them. Alas, performances such as this are why she was selected in the first place, although she clearly felt like the scoreboard slighted her on Saturday:
Wagner admitted that the score got to her, but she said that the overall impact of the performance to help her turn things around was far more important, via Nancy Armour of USA Today:
I know roughly when I skate a good program where the score should end up. ... So yeah to score that low was very disappointing for me. But honestly this performance was more for myself and mentally getting beyond this past couple of weeks. And I wanted to do everything I could to help out the team, and I really feel that I delivered on that part.
With positive momentum fully on her side, fans may have yet to see what Wagner is capable of on the international stage.
Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir
While Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir will not receive much of the credit for the United State's turnaround on Day 1, they put together a creative program to properly finish the day.
Castelli and Shnapir came out in style from the opening gun, as Nick McCarvel of NBC illustrates:
James Bond music in tow, the duo managed a score of 117.94 and a fourth-place finish. While second-to-last in a field of five seems mediocre, the placement still gave the United States seven more points to put toward its top-five bid.
To be fair, no team stood a chance in the face of the home-crowd favorites, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, who scored a 135.09 to take first place—much like Wagner did not stand a chance against 15-year-old Russian sensation Julia Lipnitskaia.
Like the rest of the American participants from Day 1, Castelli and Shnapir now have a strong opening performance to build on as the Games progress.