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Olympics-Figure skating-Russians the favourites as team competition kicks off marquee event

Randy Mancini 5 Feb 3
Figure Skating - Training
2022 Beijing Olympics - Figure Skating - Training - Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing, China - February 2, 2022. Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee in action during training. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

February 3, 2022

By Chang-Ran Kim and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

BEIJING (Reuters) – The Russians may not have their national flag at the Beijing Games but they will send out a stellar line-up packed with youth and experience for the team event which kicks off the figure skating competition on Friday.

Though not one of the sport’s four traditional disciplines, the team competition offers the first chance to see the world’s best skaters and possibly the first of many medals expected to be won by ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) athletes.

Fifteen-year-old sensation Kamila Valieva and 17-year-olds Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova are part of the ROC team, along with 2021 pairs world champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov.

The three teenagers are widely expected to sweep the podium when they compete in the women’s singles event.

“I’m glad I don’t have to compete against them,” American gold medal contender and triple world champion Nathan Chen said of the three Russians, who are all expected to include quadruple jumps in their programmes.

“They’re doing spectacular things.”

The official start list has yet to be announced.

The team event debuted in Sochi in 2014, when Russia took gold. Points are awarded based on finishing positions in the four traditional categories – men’s and women’s singles, pairs, and ice dance – and go towards an overall team total.

Stripped of their national flag due to doping sanctions https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/olympics-why-are-russians-not-competing-under-their-flag-beijing-2022-02-01, the Russians competing under the ROC flag took silver in Pyeongchang in 2018 while Canada took gold and the United States bronze.

Canada are facing problems in Beijing, however, with national champion Keegan Messing https://www.reuters.com/article/olympics-2022-figureskating-canada-messi/olympics-figure-skating-canadas-messing-awaits-travel-clearance-idUSL8N2UD1QK yet to be cleared to travel to Beijing as he awaits COVID-19 testing results.

Elsewhere, Team Germany were hit with news of a second positive https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/figure-skating-germanys-seegert-out-teams-event-with-covid-2022-02-03 COVID-19 test for pairs skater Nolan Seegert, who is isolating and has been ruled out of the team competition with partner Minerva Fabienne Hase.

“Of course, it was a shock for me as well,” Hase told reporters after her solo training session on Thursday. “We were careful. I struggle a bit right now. I will try to get back on track in the next days.”

A CZECH FIRST

Japan has a good shot at the podium this year, particularly with a deep roster of top-tier men, although the participation of double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu remains doubtful given his conspicuous no-show https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/figure-skating-wheres-hanyu-no-sign-defending-champion-games-near-2022-02-03 in Beijing so far.

“Last time (in 2018), everyone knew that it would be difficult for Japan to come in within the top three,” said Shoma Uno, who took the men’s silver in Pyeongchang.

“But this time, we can go for it.”

For Czech siblings Michal Brezina and Eliska Brezinova, just being able to compete for their country is a dream come true.

“It’s amazing that we made the team event for the first time and we qualified in all the categories,” Brezinova told Reuters this week.

The 10-team event also includes Georgia, Italy, China and Ukraine and starts with the men’s short programme, ice dancers’ rhythm dance and the pairs’ event on Friday.

(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, editing by Ed Osmond)