Skating fans might witness a new addition to the Olympic roster in 2014: a team competition.
The elimination of the compulsory dance has made the inclusion of this event in the Olympic program possible.
“We launched and tested the World Team Trophy event in Japan [two years ago], and it has been very successful,” International Skating Union (ISU) president Ottavio Cinquanta told IFS in late November. “Our sport is a marquee event at the Winter Olympics. I believe it is the right time to add a new event to our sport.”
Six national teams qualified to compete at the World Team Trophy in Japan next April. Currently, each team is composed of two men, two ladies, one pair and one ice dance team, but the format for the Olympics would be slightly different.
“According to the results of the 2013 World Championships, 10 national teams would qualify for this event in Sochi,” Cinquanta explained. “After the short programs, the top five nations would compete for the Olympic title.”
One major difference from the World Team Trophy is that in Sochi there would only be one competitor from each of the singles disciplines.
“I remember there was a lot of fun in every team’s kiss and cry corner last season,” French skater Florent Amodio recalled. “It was a cool atmosphere, especially because the season ended with that event.”
In other sports, team events traditionally take place at the conclusion of the individual competitions, but the ISU’s proposal is for this event to take place at the start of the Olympic Games.
“I suppose that if we stick with the same agenda as other disciplines, the individual gold medalists would not want to tarnish their reputation and risk not medaling at the team event,” Cinquanta acknowledged. “But by switching the order, we spice up our disciplines. Our task is to stimulate, not to pull the “brakes.”
Holding back-to-back competitions so close might be an issue. “I do not know any athlete who does not give 100 percent at every event,” Cinquanta said.
“Have you seen, for example, the 2008 Olympic track champion Usain Bolt from Jamaica falling on the track? Personally, I have not. Falling is part of our sport. It is risky compared to many others. That is the beauty of figure skating.”
Some athletes are less convinced. “Of course I would not sacrifice my chances in the team event, if we are in the medal hunt,” said French ice dancer Fabian Bourzat. “But I consider it a good warm-up for our event.”
His on-ice partner, Nathalie Péchalat, was not so convinced. “It is a good way to multiply our chances for a medal but also to lose them,” she said.
“Our sport is such an individual one,” Brian Joubert said. “We could really develop a team spirit, support and cheer everyone else.”
Only four nations had skaters competing in all four disciplines in Vancouver: Canada, Russia, the U.S. and Italy. Nine other nations had skaters in three of the disciplines. “This means they will have to improve their weaknesses,” Cinquanta said.
The executive board of the International Olympic Committee has empowered its president, Jacques Rogge, to make a final decision on the inclusion of a team comp-etition, which he will render in April.
Originally published in February 2011