Figure skating at the 2014 Winter Olympics started with a bang as powerhouse squads Russia, Canada and the United States each earned a podium spot in the first-ever team competition.
But the action inside the Iceberg Skating Palace is far from over as athletes from across the globe are gearing up for the individual events, which will begin with the top pairs contenders going head-to-head.
Team USA's hopes lay on the shoulders of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, who impressed during their two programs in the team competition. With the pair more determined and confident than ever before, expect another outstanding performance from the Americans.
But Shnapir and Castelli aren't the only medal contenders to watch for.
Below I'll highlight a few contenders sure to take home individual glory in Sochi this February.
Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir
|2014 Winter Olympics Figure Skating Schedule|
|Date||Event||Time||TV (U.S.)||TV (U.K.)|
|Feb. 11||Pairs Short Program||7 p.m. local time, 10 a.m. ET, 3 p.m. GMT||NBCSN||BBC Two|
|Feb. 12||Pairs Free Skating*||7:45 p.m. local time, 10:45 a.m. ET, 3:45 p.m. GMT||NBCSN||BBC Two|
|Feb. 13||Men's Short Program||7 p.m. local time, 10 a.m. ET, 3 p.m. GMT||NBCSN||BBC Two|
|Feb. 14||Men's Free Skating*||7 p.m. local time, 10 a.m. ET, 3 p.m. GMT||NBCSN||BBC Two|
|Feb. 16||Ice Dance Short Dance||7 p.m. local time, 10 a.m. ET, 3 p.m. GMT||NBCSN||BBC Two|
|Feb. 17||Ice Dance Free Dance*||7 p.m. local time, 10 a.m. ET, 3 p.m. GMT||NBCSN||BBC Two|
|Feb. 19||Ladies' Short Program||7 p.m. local time, 10 a.m. ET, 3 p.m. GMT||NBCSN||BBC Two|
|Feb. 20||Ladies' Free Skating*||7 p.m. local time, 10 a.m. ET, 3 p.m. GMT||NBCSN||BBC Two|
|*medal event. Info via Sochi2014.com|
The American pairs team of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir entered the 2014 Winter Games with high expectations after winning back-to-back United States National Championships in 2013 and 2014.
And after helping Team USA earn bronze in the team competition on Day 2, the duo is primed to make some noise in the pairs short program and free skate.
Shnapir described the team competition as a "great warm-up" while Castelli added that the individual competition "feels like another Olympics," according to The Boston Globe's John Powers. Clearly, the biggest benefit of having already skated two programs in Sochi is that the talented tandem has managed to acquire some invaluable Olympic experience.
That'll be critical for Shnapir and Castelli moving forward, as the only question mark coming into the Games was their lack of experience on the Olympic stage.
Canadian figure skating superstar Patrick Chan claimed Olympic hardware in the team competition this past weekend in Sochi, but will be looking to earn an individual medal in the men's free skate on Day 6.
A three-time gold medalist at the World Figure Skating Championships, Chan is more than capable of taking home gold in 2014.
The 23-year-old talked about the importance of participating in the team event ahead of the men's short program, per The Globe and Mail's Neil Davidson:
I got out early, got to get a sense of the rink and skating in front of the Russian audience. It’s very different from Vancouver and any Grand Prix circuit competition that I compete in during the season.
You have to get used to it. It helps also to come and watch and support my teammates as well and see, feel the energy in the rink. Because we don’t get to experience that very much in the season. Yeah, it all plays a huge role in the comfort of when my music starts begin, be able to be comfortable and be in the zone.
Having already picked up a medal alongside his compatriots in Sochi, Chan will be a heavy favorite to finish atop the podium on Thursday. After all, he finished third in the team men's short program over the weekend, posting a score of 89.71.
American teenager Gracie Gold is set to add to her fast-improving resume this February in Sochi.
After helping Team USA secure bronze in the team competition, the 18-year-old will turn her attention to the ladies' short program and free skate.
Russia's 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia presents one of the many challenges Gold will face in her quest for her first individual Olympic medal. Gold finished second behind the prodigy in the team ladies' free skate this past weekend but was stellar nonetheless and has the technique required to bounce back.
Whether she's skating on an imaginary tight rope or launching herself into the air, Gold is one of the more entertaining skaters to watch for and certainly one with podium potential this winter.
Her second-place finish behind Lipnitskaia will only motivate her further as she looks to become a household name before it's all said and done.
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