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Sochi Figure Skating preview (Team): Prediction time

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If you want to skip right to the entree, here you go. After previewing the first five teams and the last five teams in alphabetical order, it's time to draw some conclusions. Up until last season, it seemed like it was a four-horse race for the medals in the Team Event. But it is looking like a super close battle for gold between Canada, Russia, and the United States.

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Related: What is the Team Event?

GOLD Team Canada - I wrote about the fact that having one male skater and one female skater at the Olympic Team Event takes away much of the disadvantage that Team Canada had at the World Team Trophy, which requires each team to field two male skaters and two female skaters. And this mere dynamic will vault them into contention for the gold here. With the strength of Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir and Patrick Chan, if Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford and Kaetlyn Osmond can skate to their potentials, the gold could very well be theirs, but likely only by a point or two.

SILVER Team United States - It really could be any spot on the podium for Team USA. And of the top three teams, Team USA carries the most unknowns into the competition. Will the Jeremy Abbott we saw at Nationals finally skate a great program at the Olympics? Will Jason Brown's conservative approach fight through the riskier programs? Will Ashley Wagner's confidence be back? Will Gracie Gold skate strongly in international competition? Will Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir continue to hit their side-by-side jumps? And, likely least volatile but possibly just as important, will Meryl Davis/Charlie White hold off Virtue/Moir?

BRONZE Team Russia - Team Russia could very well end up with the gold too, if Evgeni Plushenko can withstand two full programs and if Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev can regain their status at Worlds last season. The first one, especially, is a big if. But if there is any time that Plushenko could make his mark, chances are it will be now.

4. Team Japan - Having weaknesses in pairs and dance will most certainly prevent Team Japan from getting a spot on the podium. As it is, they could very well be fighting to get into the free skate round because of that. But once they get into the free skate, their weaknesses will not be as weak, since their relative placements will be much closer than they were with ten pairs/teams.

5. Team Italy - Even with Paul Bonifacio Parkinson as the potential weak link, Team Italy boasts a strong set of skaters, with Carolina Kostner being the most decorated of them. But perhaps even more important for their chances of qualifying to the free skate will be the placements of their pairs and dance teams. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte, in particular, could be in for a close one in the short dance.

Related: Sochi figure skating schedule

-- Missing the cut --

6. Team France - It might be a heartbreaker for Team France. But if Florent Amodio can get his act together and hit a short program, he can single-handedly vault the team up to the free skate round.

7. Team China - Without a strong dance team and any superstars in their lineup - Qing Pang/Jian Tong will rest for the pairs individual event - Team China will likely be relegated to the bottom five.

8. Team Germany - Like Team China, Team Germany is without their stars in the lineup. Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy will be saving their energy for a medal they have a much better chance of winning.

9. Team Great Britain - With European silver medalists Penny Coomes/Nicholas Buckland in the lineup, Team GB will likely escape from the very bottom of the heap.

10. Team Ukraine - Rounding out the happy-to-be-heres, Team Ukraine just doesn't have the firepower to even contend with the sorta-contenders.

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