Ice Network

Veterans lead Canada to Olympic team gold medal

Chan delivers winning men's free; Nagasu, Rippon shine for Team USA
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The members of gold medal-winning Team Canada -- Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, Kaetlyn Osmond, Gabrielle Daleman and Patrick Chan -- proudly display the Canadian flag with a gold maple leaf on it. -Getty Images

With wins from Patrick Chan, and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Canada romped to victory on Day 3 of the figure skating team event at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, held Monday at Gangneung Ice Arena.

The close-knit and determined team's three-day tally was 73 points, which included a solid third-place free skate from Gabby Daleman and a win from Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford in the pairs free skate Sunday.

"It feels pretty freakin' amazing," Radford said. "We came here with this goal in mind and we all went out there and had amazing skates and made it happen. We're so proud of ourselves, so proud of one another and so proud of Team Canada."

Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) scored 66 points to claim silver, largely on the strength of wins from Evgenia Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova in the ladies short program and free skate, respectively. For the second consecutive Olympics, the United States won the team bronze medal, earning 62 points after Mirai Nagasu, Adam Rippon and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani all put out strong efforts on the final day of the competition.

But the day belonged Canada, with veterans Chan, Duhamel and Radford, and Virtue and Moir -- all multiple-time Olympians -- paying tribute to their many years of international competition.

"We've experienced so much together, I'm talking outside of figure skating, outside of the Olympics," Chan, 27, said. "We've lived our lives together for so many years. We've grown up together. They've taught me so much as a person; they've nurtured me as a child, and look at where we are now."

The win was especially sweet for Chan. The three-time world champion redeemed himself after an abysmal short program by landing two quad toe loops and four triple jumps in a captivating free skate to "Hallelujah." The triple axel -- a career-long nemesis that likely cost him gold at the 2014 Sochi Games -- again eluded him, with his first effort popped into a double and a fall on his second try. Strong program components helped give him 179.75 points and clinch gold.

"Before the short program, I kind of nodded and stuck my tongue out at Scott (Moir), feeling really confident, and look what happened," Chan said. "This time I focused on what I had to do."

Chan, who relocated from Detroit to Vancouver in late fall after placing fourth at Skate Canada and withdrawing from the NHK Trophy, has clearly hinted this may be his final eligible competition.

"Looking back to the summer, I was struggling," he said. "The stages of getting the national title, making the team and doing the team event seemed so daunting, so far away. Now I'm standing here after all of that and I survived."

One final hurdle remains: the individual men's event, beginning with the short program on Feb. 16. It is unlikely Chan, who lacks the technical arsenal of skaters like Yuzuru Hanyu, Nathan Chen, Boyang Jin and Shoma Uno, will claim a medal. But dreams die hard.

"I've been sticking around for so long," Chan said. "I think it's more for me. The one common denominator is the triple axel, and I'll be honest, it's been a challenge my entire life. Maybe it was the wrong technique I grew up with, or the body type I have, but I'm so determined to really achieve this last challenge and smoke a great triple axel at the Olympics."

Mikhail Kolyada fell on his quad lutz, but landed a quad toe and two triple axels in his Elvis Presley free to place second and earn nine points for OAR.

Team USA's Rippon, Nagasu steal the spotlight

Skating a clean free to "Arrival of the Birds," Rippon had the best performance of the men's event. Substituting a double axel for his previously planned opening quad lutz infused the program with energy and freedom, and each move was nuanced and perfectly finished. He earned 172.98 points to take third place and earn eight points for the United States.

Rippon's score for a clean skate, when Chan and Kolyada made jumping mistakes, raised a degree of outrage on twitter.

"I can't control the score, but to the people that were distressed, I hope maybe you can be on a judging panel sometime," Rippon quipped in the mixed zone, adding, "I'm so glad I was able to have a really great performance today. Heading into the individual event, I definitely want to get a few more points. Talk to those people on twitter. Maybe we can get them a last-minute switch."

With the United States opening Day 3 just one point ahead of Italy, Rippon's defeat of Italian Matteo Rizzo, who placed fourth, was key.

"I don't think I've ever been so nervous at 10 a.m. in my entire life," Rippon said. "And I was like, 'OK, I'm going to get out there and I'm going to take it one thing at a time and I know that I can do this.' I've done it a million times here, I've done it a million times in practice. (My coach) Rafael (Arutunian) looked at me and said, one thing at a time and just enjoy yourself, you're here."

Zagitova, Russia's latest teen phenomenon, handily won the ladies free skate with 158.08 points. The 15-year-old European champion did not put a foot wrong in her free to Don Quixote, landing seven triple jumps, including a triple lutz-triple loop combination, in the program's second half.

But once again, a U.S. skater stole the show: Nagasu became the third lady, after Japan's Midori Ito and Mao Asada, to land a triple axel at the Olympics. Her big moment was the opening element of her Miss Saigon program and earned 10.07 points. She went on to land a triple flip-triple toe combination and five more triple jumps, all fully rotated. Her second-place score, 137.53, was a personal best and earned nine points for the United States team.

"This is definitely history, or herstory, whatever way you want to put it," Nagasu said. "This is really exciting and I cannot wait to go give everybody a hug, because I am so proud of myself and so proud of my teammates."

"From Mirai's point of view, if (the triple axel) is not 100 percent, it's not consistent," said Tom Zakrajsek, who coaches Nagasu in Colorado Springs. "She is anywhere between 85 and 95 percent on a daily basis. A lot of people in figure skating consider Mirai a dark horse for the podium and this just cements it."

As expected, Virtue and Moir added 10 points to Canada's tally, winning the free dance with a spellbinding program to selections from Moulin Rouge! that showcased their superb storytelling skills, as well as Virtue's fluid upper body and Moir's strong dramatic presence. The score, 118.10, was just a shade off the personal best mark they set at the Grand Prix Final in December.

The Shibutanis did their part for the United States team by placing second to Virtue and Moir with a free dance to Coldplay's Paradise that was faster, crisper and more compelling than their effort at the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships last month.

"I'm speechless," Maia said. "It's been such a journey for us, so much work. To experience this Olympic medal not just with each other, but also with our friends and teammates, is a great way to start our second Olympic Games."

"The plan has been to compete in the team event and also bring home a medal at the individual event," Alex said, and then added, "This was our first team event, we've never participated in an event like this before, so it is an honor to be selected to skate in both the short and free."

The siblings' score, 112.01 points, was about three points less than their season's best, earned at Skate America in November; it edged European champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev on the technical mark, but the Russians earned slightly higher program components.

"I know our confidence is going to be at another level next week," Alex said. "Having had not only the experience of winning a medal, but also the experience of being out there on the ice and taking away the things we can learn from our performance and making improvements."