Sport writer Tasha Burden looks forward to the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea, and what may occur on the figure-skating rink
With the Winter Olympics fast approaching it can be difficult to understand the events that many of us only watch once every four years. With that, here is a breakdown of some of what we can expect to happen at the ice rink in Pyeongchang this February.
There are numerous medals up for grabs in the different figure skating events at the Winter Olympics: women’s singles, men’s singles, pairs, ice dance, and a team event. The winners of these events are decided by the judges scores, which are admittedly very confusing to even those in the figure skating world because the ISU often changes the classifications and levels of elements.
The basic premise of the scoring system is that there are two sets of scores for each performance, an artistic score and a technical score. The technical score is worked out by the base value of the elements performed (eg. A triple salchow is worth a certain amount of points) and points can be deducted or added to this score based on how well the elements are performed. So, if a skater performs a difficult variation of an element, (eg. a jump with their arm in the air) or performs an element exceptionally well, (eg. a jump with a lot of height), they will get points added to their scores. If they perform the element worse than the base value, they can have points deducted, which often occurs if skaters land jumps with two feet rather than one foot on the ice. The artistic score is based on the skater’s interpretation of their music and their overall performance.
The skills to look out for at Pyeongchang that will give skaters an edge over their opponents if performed well are: in singles skating- jumps, spins and step sequences. Particularly in the men’s event, we can look forward to seeing more quad jumps than ever before. In pairs skating, the most spectacular skills on display include twists, in which the man throws his partner in the air and twists them horizontally above him before catching her, complex lifts, throw jumps, and the ominously named death spiral. In ice dance, which includes different skills to the other skating events, the judges are particularly looking for perfectly timed twizzles, as well as other dance elements such as lifts. The key to finding out whether the skaters are in sync when they are spinning or twizzling is to look in the space between them on the TV.
There are a lot of exciting names who will be appearing in Pyeongchang. In the mens singles event the ones to watch are Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning champion from Sochi 2014. He is a popular Japanese skater who is famed for his flexibility and his difficult entry into triple axels, which he often performs from a spread eagle. Javier Fernandez of Spain is competing in his last Olympics this year, and he is known for his highly entertaining performances, combined with his extremely powerful jumps. Competing from America are Nathen Chen, Adam Rippon and Vincent Zhou, Nathen Chen is a one to watch, whilst Adam Rippon marks a step forward in history as the first openly gay American athlete to qualify for any Winter Olympics.
In the womens event, the Russian skaters dominate; Evgenia Medvedeva is the reigning world champion, who has recently lost an almost two year long unbeaten streak. At only eighteen years old, this will be her first Olympics, however the teenager is no stranger to the world stage, having already won two consecutive world championships. Medvedeva’s winning streak was broken by fellow Russian Alina Zagitova at the European championships earlier in January, meaning that the fifteen-year-old in with chance to win the gold. Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond has also been predicted to win big after her silver medal at the 2017 world championships, whilst a thirty-year-old Carolina Kostner is making a comeback after a break from skating which followed a drugs scandal surrounding her ex-boyfriend.
The biggest shock to Olympic selection so far has come from the American Selection, the lack of both Gracie Gold, who has withdrawn from competition for health reasons, and Ashley Wagner, who placed an agonising fourth place in the US championships. This means that we will now see none of the famous front runners of the last Olympics in Pyeongchang. Instead Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen will be representing the USA and each of them is in with a medal chance.
As for British Medal hopes, the only people competing in the figure skating events this year are Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland in the ice dance competition. After coming back from a horrific knee injury, they have recently placed seventh in the European championships, standing them in good stead to give a performance that they can be proud of in Pyeongchang.