Before the 2014 Winter Olympics began, it was impossible not to wonder what the mood would be like inside Sochi’s venues.
Would the city let loose and party? Would concerns over terrorist threats leave thousands of seats unfilled?
A preliminary answer to those questions came Thursday, when throngs of people packed the Iceberg Skating Palace for the team figure-skating event, and proceeded to start a wave. Then another. And another.
Seeing the wave at a sporting event isn’t usually worth mentioning. But starting one at figure skating – that’s something you don’t get every day.
“It was interesting to see the wave go around,” Canada team captain Scott Moir said, adding he couldn’t help but be reminded of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where raucous crowds cheered on the Canadians. This time, the noise was again for the hometown skaters, but the crowd was chanting “Ru-sseee-aaah” during breaks in the competition.
The levity seemed to work. Russia scored 19 points after the mens’s and pairs short programs, which was good enough for first place after Day 1 of the three-day competition.
Canada sits second with 17 points, followed by China with 15, and Japan with 13.
The team event, which is being contested for the first time at an Olympics, involves each participating country skating a short program in four disciplines – men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance. First place is awarded 10 points, second gets nine, and so on. The same point system is then awarded for the long programs.
Gold-medal favourite Patrick Chan led Canada into the event, skating the men’s short program well, but stumbled on a key jump and touched the ice on another, putting him in third place. Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan was first, followed by Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko in second.
Where Chan experienced minor glitches in his execution – not sticking his landings the way he hoped – Canadian pairs skaters Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were nearly flawless, placing second behind Russian powerhouse pairs team Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. China’s Peng Cheng and Zhang Hao placed third.
“To perform like that [at the Olympics] and finish the program with that feeling we had, it was every athlete’s dream,” Duhamel said.
She said the noise from the crowd during warmups, when the Russian pair was also on the ice, made it hard to concentrate.
“The crowd on the warmup kind of threw me off a little bit, I wasn’t expecting it,” Duhamel said. “That was the craziest I’ve ever stepped on the ice and heard. It was unbelievable.”
Plushenko, a veteran of three previous Olympics, said even he was caught off guard. “I was like knocked down, you know? But sometimes it helps,” he said. “It’s difficult and also helped.”
The team event continues Saturday, with the ice dance and women’s short programs, as well as the pairs long program. The competition wraps Sunday with the men’s, ladies’ and ice dance long programs.
Chan said he was happy with the way he skated, and pleased to have his contribution to the team event done, so he can focus on his individual programs a little more than a week from now. His short program in the team competition was a good warm-up for the individual competition, he said.
“Now that it’s out of the way I can sit back and enjoy it, and see my teammates do their job and pull Canada through,” Chan said.
“It was a trial run. There’s many times in my career where I went out and did the program and came back off the ice and said, ‘Oh I wish I could do it again.’ And that’s a great opportunity, this event, to do that.”