Team IDC journalist Anne Calder is blogging about her experience watching the Olympics from her home in Arizona.
Over the next two weeks I’ll have numerous opportunities to enjoy the Olympic experience. Of course, it will be virtual since I’m at home in Arizona. NBC will telecast 80 hours on several television channels and streaming devices.
In 1960, the first year of live coverage in the US, only 31 hours were shown by CBS. My biggest regret is not hearing the live swishing sound when the skate blade meets the ice.
Thursday evening figure skating began its competition with the Team Event. The Men and Pairs skated their short programs, while the ice dancers competed the Rhythm Dance. Watching the almost empty arena made me sad for the athletes who draw adrenaline from an enthusiastically supporting audience.
“How much noise can 800 people make,” asked NBC commentator Terry Gannon sympathetically.
I watched the Men and Pairs on Peacock because I prefer silence during the skating. However, I switched to NBC for the Rhythm Dance to hear Tanith (Belbin) White’s technical expertise.
The competing nations were assigned “Team Kiss & Cry” areas for the skaters to cheer on their mates and wait for the announced scores. One skater from each of the ten qualifying countries competed in each discipline. Points were awarded in reverse finishing order beginning with the winners earning ten.
Men were up first. Unfortunately, Ivan Shmuratko tested positive for the coronavirus, so Ukraine scored no points in the men’s section of the Team Event. Since he’s the only male singles skater representing his country at the Olympics, he can’t be replaced. Shmuratko is devastated and hopes to recover in time to compete in the men’s individual event.
The top three men included USA’s Nathan Chen’s with an international personal best 111.71 points, followed by Japan’s Shoma Uno’s personal best 105.46 and the ROC’s Mark Kondratiuk’s 95.81.
On whether he will perform the free skate, Nathan Chen noted, “There’s a lot of different variables in play. I don’t even know exactly what team is going to be put out for the free program, so it’s hard to say. Either way is cool for me. We have a really strong team, so we have a lot of chess pieces to play with.”
Janet and Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, the Commodores, Joe Crocker and Elton John were only a few of the popular artists whose music I recognized during the Rhythm Dance. The athletes were required to do one Midnight Blues pattern and “Street Dance” rhythms.
Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA) finished first with 86.56 personal best points. Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (ROC) scored 85.05 points for second place, followed by Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri (ITA) with 83.83 points. Hubbell was thrilled to have her fiancé, Spanish ice dancer Adrian Diaz be in the audience to see their performance.
Nikita Katsalapov commented on Team ROC’s performances at the first day of the team event. “It was a very good performance. We are looking forward to the girls’ short programs. I am sure Kamila Valieva will do very well. There is no doubt she is very well prepared. All of those who have done their short programs now have time to catch their breath and prepare for free skating.”
The top two Pair teams were separated by a razor thin .19 points. China’s Wenjing Sui & Cong Han earned 82.83 points and ROC’s Anastasia Mishina & Aleksandr Galliamov followed with 82.64. USA’s Alexa Knierim & Brandon Frazier scored a personal best 75.00 points for a third place finish. Sui & Han’s score broke the World record set by Mishina & Galliamov at the 2022 European Championships.
Cong Han was asked about sitting in third place over-all with a season-best score. “It’s wonderful to be able to compete in the Olympics and also to get a very good result. It’s a great recognition for all of us.”
The Captains of the top three teams spoke at the post event Press Conference. Four-time USA Olympian Evan Bates summed up his feelings about the day’s skating. “We’re very, very proud of Team USA today. They really set the tone for the Team Event. I was really excited to be sitting rink side and to witness those Olympic performances. It was just a very special day for USA.”
After competing the Men’s and Pairs Short Programs and the Rhythm Dance, the teams are in the following order: USA (28), ROC (26), CHN (21), JPN (20), ITA (18), CAN (16), GEO (15), CZE (12), UKR (4) and GER (3). Only the top five are eligible to compete their Free Skates and win medals.
After taking a day off for the Opening Ceremony and Parade of Athletes, the Team Event resumes on Saturday evening in Arizona (MST) with the Women’s short programs and Men’s Free Skates.