Team figure skating at the 2014 Winter Olympics continued on Day 2 with the men’s free program.
Evgeny Plyushchenko was able to claim the top marks of the evening, putting together an incredible routine and earning a score of 168.20 from the judges. His efforts gave Russia 10 more points toward its ultimate goal of winning a gold in the team event.
Kevin Reynolds of Canada finished in second with a score of 167.92, while Japan’s Tatsuki Machida was the third-place contestant after he earned a 165.85 from the judges.
Jorge Andres Mondaca of Fox Sports noted the current standings after the competition:
PLYUSHCHENKO wins free skate for men in team comp - solidifies Russia's lead. Canada second - USA sticking to third (3 pts over Japan)— Jorge Andres Mondaca (@JorgeMondacaFOX) February 9, 2014
With the field reduced to just five participating countries after the qualifying events, it was imperative for each and every competitor to give his best performance with a medal in reach.
Let’s take a look at how these men did on the final day of the team event at Sochi.
|Position||Country||Name||Total Segment Score||Team Points|
|5||ITA||Paul Bonifacio Parkinson||121.23||6|
Italy’s Paul Bonifacio Parkinson was the first athlete to step on the ice and put on a performance in the men’s free program.
Unfortunately, it was also the worst of the day as he fell twice and wasn’t able to recover when he made a few more mistakes during the routine. He finished in fifth with a score of 121.23.
Team USA sent out Jason Brown next, hoping to improve their position in the standings with an elite performance.
While it wasn’t the best rated of the competition, he did win plenty of fans with a graceful showing after a fall threatened to derail his chances of a decent score.
The judges graded his efforts worthy of a 153.67, the fourth-best mark in this event. Joe Lago of Yahoo! Sports noted that this was a bit off from Brown’s top marks of the season:
Jason Brown's 153.67 was well off season best of 158.32. USA in first with three to go in men's free skate of team competition. #Sochi2014— Joe Lago (@joelago) February 9, 2014
Kevin Reynolds of Canada was up third, putting on a technically difficult performance full of jumps, but his lack of artistry would wind up holding him back.
The judges did respect the difficulty of his moves, doling out a score of 167.92—which would put him in second-place by a nose due to the elite outings from the next competitor.
The host nation, Russia, sent out a veteran skater in Plyushchenko with the intent to strengthen their hold on the top mark in the team figure skating event. It was the right call, as the 31-year-old did not disappoint.
According to Richard Demak of Sports Illustrated, the music that Plyushchenko chose was entitled “Best of Plyushchenko”, showing that he has quite a long resume and spectacular history in this sport:
Plyushchenko skated well, making the most of his opportunity. His music? "Best of Plyushchenko"— Richard Demak (@rdemak) February 9, 2014
The Olympic gold medalist (stemming from the 2006 Turin men’s singles event) showed off some veteran savvy and poise in front of the raucous home crowd. He hit a number of tough moves, including a quad toe loop-triple toe combo, and the judges were more than impressed.
Plyushchenko earned the top marks of the competition, getting a 168.20 and earning 10 points for Russia in the overall team event.
Tatsuki Machida had a tough act to follow and may have wilted a bit under the pressure.
While the Japanese star attempted to do his best to impress the judges—who were likely still picking their jaws off the floor after the Russian performance—he wasn’t able to do enough to place more than third.
Machida earned eight points for Japan with a score of 165.85, ending a great men’s free program team competition in Sochi.
The winner of the overall team event will be decided later on Sunday, with the Ladies' Free and Free Dance still to be determined. Russia and Canada are near locks for the podium, while the USA must do battle with Italy and Japan to earn a medal.
With just five representatives of each nation left to compete in each of these competitions, points are going to be tough to come by. One single fall from a United States performer could mean the difference between a bronze medal and a disappointing fourth-place finish.
That undoubtedly makes this a must-see conclusion to an epic event, so make sure you tune in to find out which nation will be honored on the podium and which goes home empty-handed.
Here's a look at the current points table for the event.
Team Figure Skating Standings
|Rank||Country||Pair Short||Men's Short||Short Dance||Ladies' Short||Pair Free||Men's Free||Total|
|1||Russia - Q||10||9||8||10||10||10||57|
|2||Canada - Q||9||8||9||6||9||9||50|
|3||United States - Q||6||4||10||7||7||7||41|
|4||Japan - Q||3||10||3||8||6||8||38|
|5||Italy - Q||7||1||6||9||8||6||37|