Canada Wins Team Event Over the Russians as U.S. Takes Bronze
Patrick Chan redeems himself by winning the men’s free; Zagitova wins ladies free as Nagasu lands a triple axel; Virtue & Moir cap off Canada’s win with their winning free dance.
Going into the final day of the Team competition, Canada had done its job well over the first two days. They’d already won the short dance and pairs free, and finished second in the pairs short and third in the men’s and ladies’ shorts. That left them looking very good for gold, especially when it was extremely unlikely they wouldn’t win the free dance. The Olympic Athletes from Russia, after a rough start in the men’s short, had rallied to get a firm grip on silver. They had wins in the ladies and pairs shorts to their names, as well as a third in the short dance, and were favored to win the ladies free.
The main point of suspense was the battle for bronze. The U.S. had been favored for it from the start, and were in position. But Italy had managed multiple showings higher than expected, and were only a point behind. Japan wasn’t two far behind the two teams either, but the odds were against them when they were already presumed to be finishing last in the free dance. And that was even discounting that neither of the top singles skaters who done the short would be doing the free.
In the end, things went pretty much as expected. Canada and the team from Russia got more or less the results they were supposed to get, and reversed their placements from four years ago on the Olympic podium. The U.S. held off Italy to repeat for bronze, though they ended up doing so with aid from an unanticipated source, who made a little history in the process.
It was a fairly good day of skating too. The men, though they had their issues, were nothing like the trainwreck they’d been on Friday, with only one truly bad program. The ladies were high quality, with a couple pieces of history made. And the dance left the audience disappointed when the top two teams weren’t scored higher, so greatly had they impressed them.
Team Men’s Free
For the men’s free, two new skaters came in. Two more, Patrick Chan and Mikhail Kolyada, tried to redeem themselves after their bad shorts. They did end up going 1-2, which probably counts as success there. Chan landed two beautiful opening quadruple jumps, messed up his triple axels, put a hand down on the loop, and won the segment on his artistry. Kolyada messed up two opening quadruple jumps, landed a shaky quad toe loop later, and did his triples fine for second. Canada gained another point on the Olympic Athletes from Russia, with their scores now 55 and 48 respectively.
But it was a placement Kolyada lucked into at best, when he squeaked it out by half a point over Adam Rippon. Rippon, wearing a special costume specifically for the team event, tried to strategize, going quadless in the hopes of skating completely clean. The free skate was definitely as beautiful as he could make it, and was pretty much the performance of the night. And technically, it was nearly perfect. But there was one underrotated lutz, leaving him with technical content far lower than Kolyada’s. Still he would’ve beaten him, except his presentation scores were less than a point higher, despite his superiority to the Russian there being far more than that. He should’ve gotten the U.S. up to 45; instead they only went up to 44.
It was still a gain on Italy, but only by a point. Matteo Rizzo too stayed up and skated beautifully throughout his program. He too tried no quads, and he too was nearly technically perfect. He too also had an underrotation, on his triple axel. His program had already been the easiest attempted technically, and artistically he’s advancing, but of course isn’t on Rippon’s level right now. Still, he did his part for Italy, keeping them close with 42.
When Keiji Tanaka took the ice instead of Shoma Uno, that looked like Japan giving up any chance of medaling right there. It certainly was over when he met with disaster on all three of his quad attempts, and threw in a couple of smaller errors on top of that. He came in a distance fifth, and Japan was left with only 38 points.
Team Ladies’ Free
Four new ladies came in for the free skate. Among them was Alina Zagitova, the only lady in existence whose replacing Evgenia Medvedeva wasn’t necessarily a bad idea. It certainly wasn’t once she threw down a clean free skate, which pretty much made her winning the segment certain no matter what the other four did. She actually had to hold onto a handful of her jumps just a smidge, including the super difficult triple lutz-triple loop combination. Not that this stopped her technical score from being the highest one ever given. She got closer to the world record free score than she ought to have. Still, her deserving the segment was beyond dispute. The Olympic Athletes from Russia went up to 58 points and made themselves more or less secure for silver.
The other lady to skate clean was the surprise of the entire team event. Mirai Nagasu started her Olympics finally landing a completely clean triple axel, becoming the eighth lady to do so in international competition and first American lady to land it the Olympics. After holding onto her triple flip-triple toe, she proceeded to land the rest of her jumps too, including a nice double axel-triple toe-double toe. The technical panel reviewed some of them, but in the end they ratified everything, leaving her having landed all eight triples to boot. She would squeak out second and take the U.S. up to 53 points.
This actually pretty much secured them the bronze over Italy when Carolina Kostner faltered. She at least got rid of her lime-green bodysuit from Europeans, but she didn’t do much more right. Even those jumps she landed clean were shaky, her flip enough so she couldn’t get more than a double toe on it. Two underrotations took a further toll on her already lower technical content. Even her still superhigh presentation scores couldn’t get her higher than fourth; Italy was left with only 49 points.
In between them, Gabrielle Daleman came within half a point of Nagasu. She came close to skating clean, although she had an underrotated loop. Some of her other jumps were on the shaky side, though, including her usually solid triple toe-triple toe. Had she been more steady, she might have taken second. But as it was, third meant she conceded only two points to the Russians, and with 63 points Canada headed into the free dance just fine for gold.
Kaori Sakamoto came in as someone who, while not Satoko Miyahara, was still theoretically capable of holding her own against the field. But she really needed to landed all her jumps, and things when wrong from the start, when she failed to rotate her opening flip or do her toe. She managed the triple flip-triple toe later in the program, but then failed to do her double axel-triple toe-double toe, doing only an easier three-jump later. It was a night where a merely good program left her with only fifth, and Japan got only 44 points.
Team Free Dance
By the time the same five teams who’d skated the short dance took the ice for the free, the medals, barring shocking events, were settled. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir threw an exclamation point onto Canada’s gold both by winning the segment to take the total up to 73, and by their performance itself. The other four teams varied with how much they showed of technical ability, storytelling, emotional engagement, softness, and just plain beauty. Virtue & Moir did it all, and did it better. The audience was even a little disappointed when, after maxing out the score of only their opening lift, they *only* scored 118!
On the other hand, they were similarly disappointed with the 112 of second place Maia & Alex Shibutani, who also brought the house down with their performance. After a mixed reaction or two to the alterations to their program from Nationals, they changed up the entire music scheme, integrating the “Fix You” throwback more firmly into it, and coming up with a new, perfect ending buildup. It was accompanied by various choreographic changes, including an extra twizzle thrown onto their set of them just for kicks. Taking the U.S.’s total up to 62 sealed up the bronze behind the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev took that team’s total up to 66 with their third place showing. Theirs was a much quieter program and reaction, and perhaps the audience was unhappy with the Shibutanis getting presentation scores a hair lower than theirs. Things were solidly done rather than spectacularly done. The top three teams all tied in the technical tariff, but the Shibutanis still firmly beat them technically. Still, that helped them easily stay ahead of Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte, whose tariff was a point and a half back after they got hit with a level two on their straight-line lift. Their program had the most potential for storytelling and emotion. But perhaps they got a little too into it. The lift wasn’t the only moment where they weren’t as solid as they could’ve been technically. They took Italy up to a total of 56 points and fourth place.
Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed, not being on the same tier as the rest of the field, were only expected to take the fifth place they did and leave Japan with the expected total of 50. Still, it was a disappointment when he fell in the early circular step sequence, marring the soft, delicate, beautiful free dance they were trying to contribute to the day. Hopefully they’ll do it justice in the individual event.
View full results here. The individual events start Wednesday morning with the pairs short.