Olympic Figure Skating 2014: Who to Watch in Men's and Women's Individual Events

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Olympic Figure Skating 2014: Who to Watch in Men's and Women's Individual Events
Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

The team figure skating tilt at the 2014 Winter Olympics wrapped up when Russia took home the gold in front of its home crowd, and now the individual competitions will be taking place over the remainder of the Sochi Games.

Individual competitions are the more traditional events, and they give athletes more freedom to display their strengths to the judges. They are all about grace and precision, whereas team competitions factor in team chemistry and synchronicity as well.

As we head into said events, there are several stars to watch for in both the men's and women's brackets. Here are just a few from each bracket to keep an eye on.

 

Men's

The men's field is chock-full of stars, but the following two athletes will undoubtedly compete for the gold.

 

Patrick Chan, Canada

Bernat Armangue/Associated Press

Having never medalled in Olympic competition, Patrick Chan might appear to be a strange favorite to win the gold in Sochi. His fifth-place finish in Vancouver in 2010 is an indicator that he's ready to compete towards the top, and his success in international competitions since is an even better indicator.

He broke three world records at the ISU Grand Prix in Paris, France, last year. That type of hot streak could very well carry over into Olympic competition.

The pressure is on for Chan, though. Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun points out the major implications Chan's performance has for Team Canada:

The three-time defending world champion is hoping to become the first Canadian male to win the Olympic gold in men’s singles. A win would...possibly be the biggest story for Canada at these Games (barring another victory in men’s hockey). A loss and the curse of Canadian men in Olympic figure skating continues.

The pressure is on for Chan.

His success could very well come down to if he can execute his triple Axel, a maneuver Buffery points out that he landed at practice this past week. Historically, it has given him issues.

 

Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan

Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press

As a junior competitor, Yuzuru Hanyu has a ton of potential at the Olympic level. In fact, he has already proved himself at junior competition. He won gold medals in the men's singles events at the Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating in 2009-10 in Tokyo and also at the 2010 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in The Hague.

Hanyu already performed quite well in the men's short program, scoring a 97.98 and defeating his competition by over six points. That type of display is impressive, but he'll be looking for even more in the rest of his events.

In regards to the pressure, Hanyu wasn't phased. He told Nick McMarvel just how he was feeling:

For such a young competitor, Hanyu's ability to handle the immense pressure of performing on a world stage will be to his benefit. Look for him to make waves in men's figure skating both in Sochi and in the future.

 

Women's

The women's field is highlighted by big names looking to do big things. Here are two of the most exciting athletes to watch.

 

Ashley Wagner, United States

For someone critics didn't think belonged on the Team USA figure skating roster, Ashley Wagner has certainly performed like she belongs.

Jim Caple of ESPN.com provides a nice breakdown of how well she handled the pressure put on her by the critics:

Given that so many critics felt she shouldn't have been on the team, Wagner was actually under a great deal of pressure, but she handled it just fine. She skated a solid routine in Saturday's short program, landing all her jumps and sending the U.S. to the medal round in the new team competition. She finished fourth with a score of 63.10, just behind Japan's Mao Asada, who fell in her routine.

Wagner didn't expect the score she received, though, and Roxanna Scott captured the moment:

Wagner will be looking to best that score in individual competition, and that should happen if she can remain faultless and harness that negative emotion. Wagner has a bright future for Team USA, but it all begins at Sochi.

 

Mao Asada, Japan

Bernat Armangue/Associated Press

Mao Asada finished second at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver to South Korean Yuna Kim's record-breaking performance, thus making her a stiff opponent on the women's side at Sochi.

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Asada actually fell in the short program event, but still finished third overall. She finished one place ahead of Ashley Wagner.

The Japanese skater has been all business since arriving at Sochi. She told the Bangkok Post of her plans for the Sochi Games: "My physical fitness and skating have been very good since the start of the year. I will adjust my condition after arriving in Sochi and go out competing with a positive attitude."

Having never won an Olympic gold, Asada will be motivated to win one in 2014. Losing to Kim in 2010 was a product of the record breaker's unbelievable performance. For all intents and purposes, that was out of Asada's hands.

Now, she'll be looking to win a gold of her own.

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