With the beginning of the figure skating team event in PyeongChang just hours away, Team USA is beginning to take shape.
The U.S., which is looking to medal once again after taking bronze in Sochi in 2014, announced Nathan Chen will skate in the men’s short program, while the husband-and-wife duo of Chris Knierim and Alexa Scimeca-Knierim will skate in the pairs short program.
These athletes will begin competing on Friday in PyeongChang, although the men’s short will begin at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, with the pairs event beginning at 9:45 p.m. ET.
In figure skating’s team event, a short program and free skate is held in each of the four disciplines: men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance. Skaters are judged as usual, but teams are scored based on placements within their discipline. So a first-place performance would earn a country 10 points, a second-place performance would earn nine points, and so on. This is the second time the team event has been held at the Winter Games.
Chen enters this Olympics as one of Team USA’s brightest stars. The 18-year-old is coming off a win at the ISU Grand Prix Final two months ago and is the only undefeated men’s skater in the world this season. Known for his impressive quantity of quad jumps, Chen, the two-time defending U.S. champ, is expected to contend for individual gold in PyeongChang.
Adam Rippon and Vincent Zhou are the other U.S. men. One of them could still be chosen to represent Team USA in the men’s free skate, which takes place Feb. 12 (Feb. 11 in the U.S.).
The Knierims, a married couple who won their second national title last month, come in as the sole U.S. pairs team in PyeongChang, so they’ll skate both the short program and free skate in the team event.
Team USA has three entrants in each of the other three disciplines. Countries are allowed two substitutions, meaning that for two of those three disciplines a different skater or team can be used in the short and free.
U.S. Figure Skating selects the team participants based on an internal set of rankings and input from team officials. The rest of Team USA will be announced in the coming days, each one the day prior to competition.