SOCHI, Russia — Meryl Davis and Charlie White comforted and cheered their fellow Americans on a tough first night of competition for the U.S. in the new Olympic event of team figure skating.
Nice to have their support, no doubt. But the biggest pick-me-up they can provide? Two dazzling performances in ice dancing.
The United States team was tied for the fifth-most points after the Thursday short programs for the men and pairs, technically resting in seventh after tiebreakers among 10 nations.
Only the top five countries advance to the free skates, a cut made after the women and ice dancers complete their short programs. But the Americans are hardly in a precarious position, because they boast the reigning world ice dancing champs in Davis and White.
Russia leads with 19 points, and the other favorite, Canada, has 17. The U.S. earned just 10 on Thursday, but has better balance then most of the squads ahead of it and two wins from its ice dancers would be worth 20 points.
Still, after the falls and botched jumps from U.S. champions Jeremy Abbott and the pairs team of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, bronze may be the team’s best hope.
For Abbott, it was yet another rocky performance at a major international event. A four-time U.S. champ, he has never captured that magic on the biggest of stages. Before the 2010 Olympics, he beat Evan Lysacek at nationals, only to finish ninth in Vancouver while his compatriot won gold.
Thursday’s short program looked a lot like his first outing at the games four years ago, with Abbott crashing into the boards after falling on his opening quad jump. Yet he insisted this was completely different.
He dubbed the team event a “run through.” Afterward, he said he told himself: “All right, I had my Olympic disaster, and now I can move on and do what I came here to do.”