Former U.S. champion Ashley Wagner and reigning World, U.S. and Grand Prix Final champion ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White will skate short programs for the nation during the all-new team event at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, according to a Feb. 6 announcement by U.S. Figure Skating.
Men's national champion Jeremy Abbott fell apart during his Feb. 6 short program, delivering a disappointing mark of 65.65 and earning the U.S. only four out of 10 possible points. U.S. pairs champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir skated later in the day and fared better, posting a season-best score of 64.25 that earned them fifth place and six team points.
As a result, team USA enters the Feb. 8 ladies' short program tied with France and Germany with 10 points, but alone in seventh place after tie-break procedures are employed. They trail first place Russia, which was buoyed by electric performances by both 2010 men's silver medalist Evgeni Plushenko and pairs super stars Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, by a whopping nine points and are in danger of being excluded from the five-team roster that will advance to the free skate round.
Although Davis and White are the obvious ice dance selection for the U.S., Wagner's inclusion is potentially risky. Though the 22-year old two-time national champion has enjoyed success in international competition, she crumbled at nationals in January, finishing a devastating fourth and igniting controversy over whether or not she deserved a spot on the Sochi-bound team. With a poor mark by Abbott already endangering the nation's podium hopes, Wagner will need to deliver near-perfection on the world's biggest stage. She's more than capable of pulling off a high-scoring routine, but whether she'll be able to keep her focus remains to be seen.