With the Super Bowl over for another year and our mighty hockey teams about to chase after Olympic gold yet again, it seems a little strange to be talking about “team” when it comes to figure skating.
When you think teams you imagine a group of people who all shop at the same jersey store and move together in a large pack with a common goal, which is usually scoring goals. But at these Olympic Games the idea of becoming a team in figure skating makes perfect sense because of a new event called, shockingly, the Team Event.
Now before you get your mind all fired up with images of Patrick Chan spinning through the air and passing off a baton to Tessa Virtue as she floats by on the back of Scott Moir, I must tell you that it is not quite that interactive. And there are a few rules.
First, teams are made up only of skaters who have qualified in their own discipline and will be competing at the Games. Canada will be able to choose its team members from the three men, two women, three pairs and three dance teams that it is sending to Sochi. One man, one woman, one pair and one dance couple from each qualified country will skate their short programs. Before the long program, two of the disciplines can be changed out.
For example, Canada might choose to have different skaters compete in the long in the men's and women's events, meaning the pair and dance teams could not be changed. They skate, scores are given, math happens and voila, medals are handed out to the team with the highest total.
If that sounds like it lacks a tad in the creative aspect of team play you would be right. Skaters are expected to pretty much repeat the exact same program, with maybe a few new elements, when they compete in their non-team events for the individual medals. Just for fun imagine the six members of the “team” all skating at once wearing matching uniforms... oh wait, that's hockey.
If it all seems like it needs some intrigue, then consider that when picking the team certain questions of strategy come to mind.
If you use only your best skaters, do you risk taking away from their chances for individual medals?
With two possible changes before the long programs, do you split the duties up for the pair teams because they have their individual event first and have the least amount of time to recover ?
Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won Olympic gold in Vancouver but lost recently to the Americans at the Grand Prix Final. Do you keep them away from a head-to-head before their actual event?
If you're Patrick Chan, reigning world champion in search of a gold medal, do you throw all those quads and hope you have some more left when your individual event begins on Day 6?
I bet you that it would be a tad easier to make these decisions if you already knew who the other teams were... hmm?
Personally, I am very excited for this team event. Not only is it more figure skating for fans and another chance at an Olympic medal for these athletes and the country they love, but it is going to be fun. It will bring the skaters together in a way that has never happened before in our sport. Those key decisions I mentioned will keep the water cooler conversations rolling.
Oh, and I can hardly wait for the inevitable team chants.
" Jump up high / Spin down low / Go Team Canada / Go! Go! Go! "
Hey, it's our first time at this team thing, give us a break.