SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Figure skaters will temporarily put aside their pursuit of individual glory in a new team event debuting at the Sochi Games and Canada’s skaters are eager to get their hands on the gold.
“It’s awesome. It’s a great idea. In a sense it is kind of crowning the best figure skating nation in the world,” said pairs skater Dylan Moscovitch, who finished fourth at last year’s world championships with partner Kirsten Moore-Towers.
“We are definitely looking forward to the opportunity for our country to win gold ... that would be our goal but let’s see.”
Team mate Meagan Duhamel, who placed just ahead of the pair at worlds with Eric Radford, was a little less diplomatic.
“I am just going to add that we did qualify in first place,” she chirped.
The debut of an event in a sport that has long been famed for individual rivalries is still a novelty to many of the skaters in Sochi.
The United States, host nation Russia and Japan will be Canada’s top rivals to win the gold medal.
“We were all a little envious of the speed skaters, swimmers and those events where they had multiple chances at a medal,” Radford said. “Skating was for the longest time an event in which you had one shot at a medal.”
But the new competition format - in which 10 nations perform a short program in men‘s, women‘s, pairs and ice dancing and five will move on to a free skate - also raises some questions for competitors and fans.
Will nations pick their top skaters to compete in back-to-back, adrenaline-steeped competitions at the risk of tiring them out for the main event? How will they use the option of two substitutions for the long program?
“We are the guinea pigs,” Moore-Towers said.
Some, like Canada’s gold medal favorite Patrick Chan, see the team event as a chance to calm the nerves ahead of the individual contest.
“Imagine we could hold a medal before the individual event, how much relief it will bring and how much excitement and motivation,” said Chan.
“It is a great chance to break the ice, not only for the figure skating team but also the whole Canadian team.”
Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Peter Rutherford