Winter Olympics: Figure skating capsule outlook
By Philip Hersh
Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver
MEN, FEB. 16, 18
Best of the U.S.: One of strongest U.S. men’s team’s ever, with 2006 veterans Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir, who finished fourth and fifth in Turin, and Jeremy Abbott, winner of last two U.S. titles. Lysacek is reigning world champion and Grand Prix Final winner.
Best of the rest: Three former world champions from Europe (Evgeny Plushenko of Russia, Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland and Brian Joubert of France), plus 2009 world silver medalist Patrick Chan of Canada and two strong Japanese, Daisuke Takahashi and Nobunari Oda, join the U.S. trio in making this an extraordinarily competitive event.
Prediction: 1. Plushenko, Russia. 2. Lysacek, U.S. 3. Takahashi, Japan.
WOMEN, FEB. 23, 25
Best of the U.S.: For the first time since 1994, the U.S. women earned only two Olympic spots based on results at the previous year’s worlds. Rachael Flatt, 17, and Mirai Nagasu, 16, won those spots, but neither is favored for a medal.
Best of the rest: If Yuna Kim of South Korea skates error-free, this will be a walkover. Her rivals include two Japanese world champions, Miki Ando (2007) and Mao Asada (2008), the only woman here doing triple axels.
Prediction: 1. Kim, South Korea. 2. Ando, Japan. 3. Asada, Japan.
PAIRS, FEB. 14, 15
Best of the U.S.: Two teams from Florida are representing the United States. No chance for either to win the first U.S. pairs medal since 1988; if either Caydee Denney/Jeremy Barrett or Amana Evora/Mark Ladwig make the top eight, that would be a triumph.
Best of the rest: Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, winners of last two world titles, looked like a lock when the season began, but they struggled to second at recent European Championships. Could legendary Russian coach Tamara Moskvina have her fifth Olympic champion team in emigre Yuko Kavaguti (known as Kawaguchi in her native Japan) and Alexander Smirnov, extending Russia’s Olympic pairs win streak to 13?
Prediction: 1. Shen/Zhao, China. 2. Savchenko/Szoklowy, Germany. 3. Kavaguti/ Smirnov, Russia.
DANCE, FEB. 19, 21, 22
Best of the U.S.: The country that has won just two ice-dance medals in the nine Olympics the event has been on the program suddenly is a power. In Meryl Davis/Charlie White, the reigning Grand Prix champions, and Tanith Belbin/Ben Agosto, reigning Olympic and world silver medalists, the U.S. has a shot at its first Olympic gold.
Best of the rest: All eyes will be on reigning world champs Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin to see if they have changed their controversial “aboriginal” costume in the short program (one report has them doing so). In this most subjective discipline of a subjective sport, look for the judges to give love to the hometown team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
Prediction: 1. Davis/White, U.S. 2. Virtue/Moir, Canada. 3. Domnina/Shabalin, Russia.