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Sochi Figure Skating preview (Team): Handicapping the teams (Part 1)

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New event, ten teams, three medals. If you're one of the powerhouse teams (Canada, Japan, Russia, U.S.), then you've got to be feeling pretty good about your chances. If you're one of the underdog teams, then many of your skaters are likely thrilled to be participating in the Olympics and hoping to make some miracles happen.

Related: Team event entrants

Not all of the teams have been officially announced yet, so we'll have to do a little hypothesizing for these predictions. Let's have a look at the first five teams in alphabetical order.

CANADA
M: Chan, P: Duhamel/Radford, L: TBA, D: TBA
The first of our powerhouses is Canada. The dynamic here versus the one at World Team Trophy, where there are four singles skaters total, is very different. At WTT, the singles disciplines were a weaker link relative to the other power teams because of the second skaters. Here, we've got Patrick Chan, Olympic gold medal favorite, and Kaetlyn Osmond, who had a stellar Canadians and looks like she's peaking at the right time.

We haven't seen the ladies and dance lineups yet, but it's likely that Osmond and Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir will take both portions of the event. Dance is the one event where guarantees are most likely, and Virtue/Moir are almost certainly taking first or second. Osmond is so much more well-respected than up-and-coming Gabrielle Daleman that it's unlikely Canada will risk the gold to give Daleman more experience.

Which brings us to the semi-wildcard, Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford, who are the current World bronze medalists but have been inconsistent internationally. But like Osmond, they also had a superb Canadians, and their technical prowess could keep help Team Canada make some noise.

CHINA
M: Yan, P: Peng/Zhang, L: TBA, D: Huang/Zheng
China's strong link? Pairs. China's weak link? Dance. The men and ladies are somewhere in between. That said, even their strongest link in pairs is probably third to fifth at best because of the other strong teams in the field. But though Team China isn't expected to medal, it does come with some skaters to watch.

The fact that Cheng Peng/Hao Zhang are entered in the pairs' short makes it clear that China may not be looking to do too much contending for medals here. Reigning Olympic silver medalists Qing Pang/Jian Tong are being rested for the pairs competition, which is the first up of the four after the team even. Make no mistake, though, Peng/Zhang have improved a good bit this season, and it's great to see them representing Team China.

The two to watch look to be up-and-comers Han Yan and Zijun Li, both of whom have shown some great skating in the past few seasons. It's inconsistency that pops up with both of them, especially in the larger competitions. But if they skate well, it's not tough to see them challenging for top five in their respective team disciplines.

Related: Sochi figure skating schedule

FRANCE
M: Amodio, P: James/Cipres, L: Meite, D: TBA
Team France has an outside shot for a medal, and a lot of it has to do with how Florent Amodio fares in the short program. Why? Because if he does well, then France will likely put Nathalie Pechalat/Fabian Bourzat in, which will boost their chances. If not, then they may save Pechalat/Bourzat for the main event.

It's an interesting team, because Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres and Mae Berenice Meite are middle-of-the-pack skaters in these fields. But because it's so much about placement points, they skate flawlessly, they could put France in a great position as the dark horse. Amodio is the biggest question mark, as he can put up big numbers but has not done so all that often the past two seasons.

But keep an eye out for Team France, a couple of great performances could give them a whole lot of momentum.

GERMANY
M: Liebers, P: Wende/Wende, L: Weinzierl, D: TBA
The first thing to notice, of course, is that Team Germany, like Team China, has saved their best pair for the main competition. Defending bronze medalists Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy won't be in the team event; rather, it will be Maylin Wende/Daniel Wende.

Both the Wendes and Peter Liebers have had strong breakout seasons leading into Sochi. And though Team Germany will certainly not be contending for a medal, it will be great to see them get more exposure on the big stage.

GREAT BRITAIN
M: Parr, P: Kemp/King, L: McCorkell, D: Coomes/Buckland
Certainly a team who are excited to just be competing, Team Great Britain will not be doing too much in the arena of medal-contending here. But they are led by veteran Jenna McCorkell, who is skating in her second Olympics, and up-and-coming dance team Penny Coomes/Nicholas Buckland, who just grabbed a career-best third at Europeans.

NEXT: Handicapping the teams (Part 2)

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