One of the new offerings at Steel City Blitz this offseason is coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The 23rd Winter Olympics will take place in PyeongChang, South Korea, beginning on Friday, February 9th. Over the week before the Games kick off, we will be previewing each of the 15 events that will comprise the Olympics. For many people, they only pay attention to some of these events once every four years, so consider this a quick refresher on how they work and who to watch for as the Olympics take over the sporting world for a fortnight in February.
You can check out all of our Winter Olympics event previews here.
Today’s preview covers Figure Skating, which is always one of the highlights of the Winter Games.
Mixed Ice Dancing
Mixed Team Event
February 9: Team event – Pairs short and Men’s short
February 11: Team event – Ice Dance short, Women’s short, Pairs free
February 12: Team event – Men’s free, Ice Dance free, Women’s free
February 14: Pairs short
February 15: Pairs free
February 16: Men’s singles short
February 17: Men’s singles free
February 19: Ice Dance short
February 20: Ice Dance free
February 21: Women’s singles short
February 23: Women’s singles free
Twenty four years ago the eyes of the world were on the figure skating rink at the Olympics as the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding ordeal reached its pinnacle. There isn’t a soap-opera-esque storyline propelling figure skating this year in Pyeongchang, but the individual figure skating competitions are always one of the highlights of the winter games. Men and women complete both a short and a long program with the highest combined score taking home the medals. The Team Competition was introduced in Sochi 2014 in which one woman and one man skate individual routines, a pairs duo skates a routine then an ice dancing team completes a routine. The nations that have the highest total score across the four routines will win.
Figure skating is one of the most publicized events of the games, but for the casual fan that only watches it once every four years, there are a lot of intricacies that go into the event that not many people will catch. There are six different kinds of jumps that skaters complete.
The biggest difference between the jumps is how they start. There are two types of jumps: toe jumps (where a skater kicks the toe of their skate into the ice in order to push off) and edge jumps (where the skater jumps off the edge of the skate blade).
You can see here that the skater kicks his right foot into the ice in order to push off into the jump. Compare that to the Triple Loop:
This is essentially the same jump as the Toe Loop, but instead of kicking off with the toe, the skater pushes off the edge of their skate blade.
The Salchow has the coolest name and is another edge jump and involves taking off with one foot and landing with the other. In the gif here we see the skater taking off from the inside edge of her left foot and landing on the outside edge of her right foot.
The flip is basically the same as the Salchow but with a less cool name and is a toe jump instead of an edge jump.
Like the Salchow, the Lutz involves taking off from one foot and landing on the other. However, as you can see, the Lutz is a toe jump. This Triple Lutz was the anchor jump for Vancouver Gold Medalist Kim Yu-na of South Korea.
If you saw the ESPN 30 for 30 on the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan drama, you’ll remember that Harding was the first US woman to land a triple axel. The Axel is the hardest jump because skaters enter it facing forwards instead of backwards so it actually involves an extra half turn, unlike the other jumps. The Triple Axel shown here is Vancouver Silver Medalist Mao Asada of Japan.
Russians have traditionally fared very well in figure skating events, and despite the Russian team’s ban from the Olympics a number of Russian skaters were able to individually qualify. On the men’s side defending Olympic gold medalist and reigning world champion Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan looks to become the first back-to-back Olympic Champion in over 50 years. All three men’s medalists from Sochi 2014 return as silver medalist Patrick Chan of Canada and Denis Ten of Kazakhstan also qualified for Pyeongchang. On the women’s side, Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva won the 2017 World Championships ahead of Canadians Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman. Canada is poised for a big year in 2018 with Chan in the men’s side, Osmond and Daleman on the women’s side and two-time Olympic medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir returning to Ice Dancing fresh off winning the 2017 World Championships. Canada also is the top-ranked nation in the team event standings.
The United States has seen a lot of turnover in their figure skating roster since Sochi 2014 and won just one medal at the 2017 World Championships. However, there are a number of athletes poised to make a run at the podium this year. Men’s skaters Nathan Chen and Jason Brown, along with women’s skaters Karen Chen and Ashley Wagner all finished in the top 7 at the World Championships. Ice Dancers Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani were the only Americans to medal, bringing home bronze. The US enters the Olympics ranked third in the team standings.