What is the figure skating team event?

Olympics: Figure Skating-Team Ladies Free Skating

Figure skating is often thought of as an individual event, but the team event allows for a change in that mentality. It’s similar to the gymnastics team event in that all disciplines are contested and it’s an opportunity for a country to win another Olympic medal during the Games. The event is contested before the individual disciplines and lasts three days.

A nation assembles its best skaters from each discipline – ladies, men’s, pairs, and ice dance – and is allowed two substitutions. For example, at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, these skaters competed for the U.S. in the team event, and each earned a bronze medal for their efforts:

  • Ladies: Ashley Wagner (short program only) and Gracie Gold (free skate only)
  • Men: Jeremy Abbott (short program only) and Jason Brown (free skate only)
  • Pairs: Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir (short program and free skate)
  • Ice dance: Meryl Davis and Charlie White (short dance and free dance)

The programs in the team event are scored in the same way that the disciplines are scored. Then, the skaters earn points based on their rankings. For example, if the U.S. skaters were to place 5th in men’s, 7th in pairs, 1st in dance and 4th in ladies during the short programs, the U.S. team would earn 27 points (6+4+10+7).

After each of the short programs, the top five highest-scoring teams advance to the free program round. For example, the U.S. could advance from the short phase to the free phase with their score of 27 points. Then, the U.S. could place 2nd in men’s, 4th in pairs, 1st in dance and 2nd in ladies during the free skates, and its total placement points score for the free skates would be 35 (9+7+10+9) and its aggregate score for the entire team competition would be 62 (27 points in the short phase + 35 points in the free phase). The team with the most points after both phases wins the gold medal, followed by the silver and bronze medal winners, respectively.

The team event is most similar to the World Team Trophy, which has been contested in Japan in 2009, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017. (The 2011 event was rescheduled due to the earthquake and tsunami.) The U.S. won the 2009, 2013 and 2015 events.  In 2017, teammates Ashley Wagner, Karen Chen, Nathan Chen, Jason Brown, Madison Chock and Evan Bates (ice dance), and Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc (pairs) earned a bronze medal.  

After the Sochi team event, where Russia won the inaugural gold, followed by Canada for silver, many skaters spoke about how they felt about the event overall.

Simon Shnapir told media at the time that he thought the idea would stick around, adding, “To be able to cheer one another on in the team boxes is something that we’re not used to. It shows a different side to the sport.”

“You want to do the best that you can because this is another shot at a medal, but you also know that you have – I don’t want to say a second chance – but you have ore left to skate,” Gracie Gold told reporters during Sochi.

1992 Olympic gold medalist Viktor Petrenko, who skated for the Unified team, told NBCOlympics.com during Sochi that he was sorry the event didn’t exist in his time. “I would have liked that. I think having the individual event first and then them team event would be better, however.”

Kristi Yamaguchi, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist on the ladies side, then agreed with Petrenko, telling NBCOlympics.com that her preference would’ve been to skate the team event after individual competitions if she competed at a time when such a thing existed. “But I’ve talked to some of the skaters here and they say that they like having the team event first because it gets them out on the ice and gives them more experience in the Olympic venue,” she said.

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