Russia continued its domination in the early stages of figure skating on Wednesday during Day 5 of competitions at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The host country claimed the gold and silver in the pairs event—another big victory on its home ice—after winning the team competition earlier in the week.
So, will President Vladimir Putin have another gold medal to celebrate when the men's singles competition takes place on Thursday and Friday?
Here's the event schedule followed by a look at the top three contenders for gold. Both the short and free programs will be televised live online and on NBC Sports Network and featured during NBC's primetime coverage at 8 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday.
|Short Program||Thursday, Feb. 13||10 a.m.||NBC SN|
|Free Program||Friday, Feb. 14||10 a.m.||NBC SN|
Patrick Chan, Canada
The draw has been set for the men's short program, and gold-medal favorite Patrick Chan has been picked to start 21st out of 30 participants. In general, skaters prefer to go later in the rounds, when the judges have a better idea of the scope of the competition.
Though he finished fifth at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games as a 19-year-old, Chan has won the past three world championships. But he's also had a history of being inconsistent on the big stage, as he finished third in his portion of the team program earlier this week.
Still, he helped Canada earn the silver medal in the team event, marking the first Olympic hardware of Chan's career.
Chan spoke to Neil Davidson of the Canadian Press about the atmosphere in Sochi and how the team event served as a nice tuneup:
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.
While Chan has all the credentials to win a gold medal, he has some tough competition as well.
Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan
In the past year, Japanese star Yuzuru Hanyu has emerged as Chan's top adversary.
About two months ago, Hanyu stole the show at the ISU Grand Prix final in front of his hometown fans in Fukuoka, Japan, setting a world record with 99.84 points in the short program before winning the event outright.
The 19-year-old has elevated his game since moving to Canada to train, per Jim Armstrong of the Associated Press.
Moving to Toronto to train under renowned coach Brian Orser has already paid off for the 19-year-old Hanyu, who beat three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada at the International Skating Union's Grand Prix final in December.
Following a win at Japan's nationals last month, it's clear Hanyu is peaking at the right time as he attempts to become the first Japanese male to win gold at the Olympics.
Leaving home at such a young age was difficult, but Hanyu is convinced the move in April of 2012 was the right one.
As it stands now, Hanyu is ranked as the No. 1 men's skater in the world, according to ISUresults.com. Hanyu placed first with a 97.98 score in the short program during the team event, as detailed by Cam Cole of Canada.com.
Hanyu, the young ISU Grand Prix champion who already had the record high score for a short program, reinforced his season-long superiority over Chan with a very solid skate that featured a big triple Axel and a quad and more than enough of the details favoured by the modern scoring system to finish first on the evening.
With so much momentum going into this event, Hanyu is poised to make a serious run at the gold medal.
Evgeni Plushenko, Russia
The old guy can still hang with the young fellas after all.
Who Will Win?
At 31 years old, Russian Olympic star Evegeni Plushenko is at the far end of the spectrum when it comes to age in world-class figure skating.
But if the team event was any indication, Plushenko still has plenty in the tank, as he claimed second in the short program before winning the free skate, helping Russia win the gold medal.
Given Plushenko's age and Russia's possession of just one spot, there were doubts he would take part in the men's singles competition. But according to Barry Wilner of the Associated Press, the veteran wasn't having it:
But Plushenko made it clear after the team competition that if his doctors gave him the go-ahead—he says he's had 12 operations, and he has been plagued by knee and back problems in recent years—he would remain in the games.
Father time might be catching up with Plushenko, who will have to do four programs in the span of nine days, but he's been here before. With a gold in 2006 and silvers in 2002 and 2010, Plushenko will be looking to add to his decorated trophy cabinet.