Olympic Figure Skating 2018: Complete Guide to Pyeongchang Winter Games

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2018

Olympic Figure Skating 2018: Complete Guide to Pyeongchang Winter Games

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    Nathan Chen is Team USA's greatest hope for gold in Pyeongchang.
    Nathan Chen is Team USA's greatest hope for gold in Pyeongchang.Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Every four years, figure skating demands the spotlight when the Winter Olympics arrive. Millions of viewers from all over the world schedule their viewing around the dazzling sport.

    The theatrics and passion of figure skating appeal to many an observer, no matter if they've watched a competition in the four years between Winter Olympics. The dramatic music, vibrant costumes and seemingly limitless emotion attract fans of all ages.

    It's easy to understand why. Stunning spins, sensational jumps and jaw-dropping throws highlight the spectacle that is figure skating. The sport's greatest athletes will convene in Pyeongchang for the 2018 edition of figure skating's grandest stage.

    Perhaps you're a seasoned pro. Maybe you have no idea what has happened since Sochi. Regardless of your background, if figure skating grips your attention, there are plenty of compelling storylines to follow.


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    Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir
    Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott MoirTOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/Getty Images

    Figure skating has a long, storied history at the Olympics.

    Interestingly, the competition first appeared at the Summer Games in 1908 and returned in 1920. From then on, though, figure skating has been an integral part of the Winter Olympics.

    The upcoming Pyeongchang Games will be the 25th overall appearance for figure skatingand 23rd in the winter.

    Three eventsladies' singles, men's singles and pairshave featured in all 25 cycles. Ice dancing joined that trio as a medal event in 1976 and has remained ever since. The team event debuted at Sochi in 2014 and will return in Pyeongchang.

Schedule, TV and Live Stream Info

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    Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu
    Japan's Yuzuru HanyuYURI KADOBNOV/Getty Images

    All times ET

    Thursday, Feb. 8
    Team Event: Men's short program, 8 p.m.
    Team Event: Pairs' short program. 9:45 p.m.

    Saturday, Feb. 10
    Team Event: Short dance, 8 p.m.
    Team Event: Ladies' short program, 9:45 p.m.
    Team Event: Pairs' free skate, 11:40 p.m.

    Sunday, Feb. 11
    Team Event: Men's free skate, 8 p.m.
    Team Event: Ladies' free skate, 9:10 p.m.
    Team Event: Free dance, 10:20 p.m.

    Tuesday, Feb. 13
    Pairs: Short program, 8 p.m.

    Wednesday, Feb. 14
    Pairs: Free skate, 8:30 p.m.

    Thursday, Feb. 15
    Men: Short program, 8 p.m.

    Friday, Feb. 16
    Men: Free skate, 8 p.m.

    Sunday, Feb. 18
    Ice Dance: Short dance, 8 p.m.

    Monday, Feb. 19
    Ice Dance: Free dance, 8 p.m.

    Tuesday, Feb. 20
    Ladies: Short program, 8 p.m.

    Thursday, Feb. 22
    Ladies: Free skate, 8 p.m.

    Note: All events will be streamed live on NBCOlympics.com.

Athletes to Watch

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Nathan Chen, United States

    Russian skater Evgeni Plushenko pushed the envelope with his quadruple jumps, and American rising star Nathan Chen has taken them to a new level. In 2017, the 18-year-old became the first skater ever to execute five quads in a single program. Chen won the 2017 Grand Prix Final.


    Evgenia Medvedeva, Olympic Athletes from Russia

    Another 18-year-old star, Evgenia Medvedeva recently finished second in her return from a broken foot. Not bad, right? Well, she hadn't lost an event since November 2015. Medvedeva earned gold in both the 2016 and 2017 World Championships and the 2015 and 2016 Grand Prix Finals.


    Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, France

    The United States' Meryl Davis and Charlie White won gold in ice dance during the Sochi Games, but they're no longer competing. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are the clear favorites to stand atop the podium in 2018. No other team has eclipsed 200 points in competition, yet Papadakis and Cizeron have crested the mark four times.


    Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, China

    The decorated Chinese tandem boasts four gold medals at Four Continents Championships and one at the World Championships, winning both events in 2017. However, this is the first Olympics trip for Sui Wenjing and Han Cong.

Team Trophy

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    Russia won the team event in 2014.
    Russia won the team event in 2014.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    What is it?

    The newest addition to the figure skating schedule is the team event, which serves as the appetizer to the individual competitions.

    Ten countries have qualified. Each nation will have one representative in the short programs for men's singles, women's singles, pairs and dance. In each discipline, the top finisher(s) will receive 10 points for their country, followed by nine points for second place and so on.

    After the short programs have concluded, the five highest-ranked countries will advance to the final roundthe free programs. The point system is the same, starting at 10 and ending at six for fifth place.

    All eight scores will be compiled to determine the podium.


    Who's in it?

    The United States, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Russian athletes will compete in the team event.


    One rule to know

    The five nations that advance to the final round may substitute two entries. In 2014, for example, Team USA used Jeremy Abbott and Ashley Wagner for the short programs but inserted Jason Brown and Gracie Gold for the long programs.

Ladies' Singles Outlook

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    Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva
    Russia's Evgenia MedvedevaMLADEN ANTONOV/Getty Images


    The ladies' singles field begins with 30 skaters competing and is pared to 24 following the short program.

    For each routine, skaters are given two sets of scores: the technical element score (TES) and program component score (PCS). Those scores are combined to find the total segment score (TSS)in other words, the score that determines the final standings.

    Factors for the TES include difficulty and execution of the routine, and the PCS focuses on presentation. Elements of the PCS are skating skills, transitions, performance, composition and interpretation.


    Storylines to watch

    Evgenia Medvedeva is the obvious choice for gold, but fellow Russian skater Alina Zagitova is also a medal contender. At the 2018 European Championships, she ended Medvedeva's two-year streak of event victories.

    But no podium spot will come easily. Russian Maria Sotskova, the 2017 Grand Prix silver medalist, will also compete, while Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond and Italy's Carolina Kostner are respected skaters. Japan's Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto further crowd a talented field.

    Team USA is sending Karen Chen, Mirai Nagasuwho finished fourth in the 2010 Vancouver Gamesand Bradie Tennell to Pyeongchang.

Men's Singles Outlook

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    Japan's Shoma Uno
    Japan's Shoma UnoANTHONY WALLACE/Getty Images


    Men's singles is identical to the women's competition. Thirty skaters participate in the short program, and 24 continue to the free program. Their two scores shape the standings.


    Storylines to watch

    Nathan Chen undoubtedly will attempt to land a diverse set of quadruple jumps. But if he doesn't land them allwhich happened at the 2017 World Championshipsthe door will be wide open for Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, who earned gold there and during the 2014 Sochi Games.

    Japan's Shoma Uno and Spain's Javier Fernandez, who finished fourth in Sochi, are the leading contenders for bronze.

    Adam Rippon, an alternate for the 2010 Vancouver Games, and 17-year-old Vincent Zhou will also represent the United States.

Pairs Outlook

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    China's Han Cong and Sui Wenjing
    China's Han Cong and Sui WenjingTOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/Getty Images


    Similar to singles, pairs has a cutoff following the short program. However, 20 couples will skate the first routine before 16 advance to the free. Combine the scores, celebrate the medals.


    Storylines to watch

    Joining the Chinese team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong as top contenders are Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot. They are expected to challenge for gold and silver.

    Canada may swipe a bronze medal with Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, especially since two-time Russian medalist Ksenia Stolbova has been banned. Russian compatriots Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov will try to reach the podium in her stead.

    The husband-wife team of Chris Knierim and Alexa Scimeca Knierim will be the lone American couple in the field.

Dance Outlook

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    France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron
    France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume CizeronYURI KADOBNOV/Getty Images


    Ice dance starts with 24 teams in the short program, and 20 of those tandems reach the free dance. The scores from their two routines are then combined to determine medal winners.


    Storylines to watch

    Although Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are favored, their recent history against Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir isn't perfect. The Canadian pair set a then-world record and earned gold at the 2017 World Championships, which followed wins at the Grand Prix Final and Four Continents Championships in 2016-17.

    It's extremely likely France and Canada will occupy the top two spots, leaving only bronze for the remainder of the field. There's an excellent chance an American team will capture that medal.

Team USA Outlook

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    Alex and Maia Shibutani are medal contenders for Team USA.
    Alex and Maia Shibutani are medal contenders for Team USA.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Chen is Team USA's premier hope for a gold medal, so a podium finish from the 18-year-old star is anticipated. Beyond him, the possibilities are apparent but limited.

    In ice dance, the sibling duo of Maia and Alex Shibutani and reigning U.S. champion pairing of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are expected to contend for bronze. Madison Chock and Evan Bates round out a strong contingent in the discipline.

    Team USA could also match its bronze finish in the 2014 team event, though winning gold in that event would be a major upset.

    Tennell and Nagasu could be in the conversation for a singles medal, but it would be a welcome surprise if they earned one. The Knierims face a daunting climb to the podium in pairs.

    Overall, the American figure skating team is positioned well to continue a five-cycle streak of multiple medals.

Medal Predictions

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    Projected Medal Tally (by country)

    Olympic Athletes from Russia: 4 (1 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze)
    Canada: 3 (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)
    United States
    : 3 (1 gold, 2 bronze)
    France: 1 (1 gold)
    China: 1 (1 gold)
    Germany: 1 (1 silver)
    Japan: 1 (1 silver)
    Spain: 1 (1 bronze)

    Russia has stood atop the figure skating medal count in all six Olympics the nation has participated in, boasting five outright No. 1 finishes and one tie for first. Japan is a sleeper to earn a higher spot in the final count, and Italy is the most likely nation to join the list.