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2014 Winter Olympics

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Opining on Sochi: Much ado about nothing, Asada's triple axel

The second day of the Team Event took place today, determining the final five teams who qualify for the free skate/free dance portion - the medal round, if you will. And what happened today for Team USA was exactly as expected, completely going against all the doomsday theorists who surfaced after Jeremy Abbott's seventh-place short program finish. Let's have a look at day two and what it means for the final round tomorrow.

Photos from day two of the Team Event at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia
Photos from day two of the Team Event at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia
Photo by Pool/Getty Images
Meryl Davis/Charlie White (USA) at the 2014 Winter Olympics
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Related: Opining on Day 1

Team USA was never "out of the medals"
It was always in the numbers. Though many expected Abbott to be in the 4-5 position in the short program, the U.S. has such an advantage over Team Japan, the only other team to really be in medal contention, that his seventh-place finish just made it close. A great performance from Abbott would have actually put the U.S. in silver medal contention. The disaster that he had basically took them out of contention for the silver, but keep them as favorites for the bronze.

Play-by-play/videos: Team ladies' short

Why? A few reasons:

  1. Meryl Davis/Charlie White were guaranteed either first or second - not guaranteed in the judging-fix sense, but guaranteed in the sense that it's ice dance and they are just that much better than everyone else except for Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir.
  2. As much as people have ragged on Ashley Wagner since Nationals, it would've taken a performance poorer than anything she's done in the past few years to put her anywhere below fifth among that group of ladies. And she, of course, got fourth.
  3. Japan's Cathy Reed/Chris Reed just don't match up that well with the phenomenal dance teams who were in the team event. They skated well in the short dance, and eighth was really as high as they could've hoped for.

Play-by-play/videos: Team short dance

Now the Team USA has a four-point lead over Team Japan. With tomorrow's free dance and men's and ladies' free skates, here's how it's shaping up:

  • The U.S. will gain at least another three points on Japan in dance (with Davis/White at least second and the Reeds fifth), which will put them seven points ahead. It wouldn't be a surprise if they are eight points ahead, which would put enough of a cushion for the U.S. to pretty much clinch it.
  • The U.S. will finish no lower than fourth in the men's event, because Team Italy has to put in Paul Bonifacio Parkinson, their lone men's competitor, who is a few levels below the other four guys in the field. So even if Team Japan grabs first in the men's free skate, they will gain at most three points on the U.S.
  • That means that the Team USA will need to be at least fourth in the ladies' free skate to clinch it. That said, it's a pretty tough field there.

So what does that mean? The worst-case scenario for the U.S. would have them tied with Japan, which would require Team Japan to win both the men and the ladies free skate portions. There's a lot that Team Japan will need to do to get on the podium.

Asada's triple axel
One thing that came out of today's competition was the condition of Mao Asada's triple axel. Obviously, we only saw one - the one in her team short program - but it did not look great. If you're an Asada fan, the bright side is that she didn't single it. But the fact of the matter is that the jump was downgraded. In order for her to take advantage of the point differential of the triple axel, the last thing she wants is a complete downgrade.

The point difference is huge - a rotated triple axel has a base value of 8.50, an underrotated triple axel has a base value of 6.00, but a downgraded triple axel has a base value of 3.30. It'll be interesting to see if Team Japan will put Asada in for the free skate. Either way, though, Asada can't win gold in the ladies' event without the triple axel, so her decision to keep it in today was the way to go.

Head-scratching PCS
One other thing that came out today's competition was some program component scores that left me scratching my head.

Julia Lipnitskaia was fantastic, but having her PCS almost as high as that of Mao Asada was a bit over the top. And the fact that Wagner and Kaetlyn Osmond were a good three to five points behind Lipnitskaia in PCS does not make that much sense. But credit due - Lipnitskaia deserved to be first over Carolina Kostner on the relative strength of her technical content.

But perhaps more egregious was Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev's third place in the short dance. Compared to Nathalie Pechalat/Fabian Bourzat and even Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte, they are just not as strong on the components side, yet they beat both teams in PCS.

Another day in ice dance.

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