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The Team Trophy -- Sochi 2014
by Sonia Bianchetti Garbato
February 2014

The figure skating events in Sochi started the eve before the official Opening Ceremonies with a brand new competition, the Team Trophy. The event was introduced this year by the International Skating Union, mainly for the purpose of giving the athletes one more chance to win a medal. Ten countries had qualified through a very complicated system and, based on the results of the short program or short dance, only the best five qualified for the final free skating.

Russia won the gold medal, which gave Evgeni Plushenko the chance to win his 4th and last Olympic medal. The silver medal went to Canada and the bronze to the United States.

This new event has been questioned and criticized since before it started and also after it concluded.

In principle, the idea of a Team Trophy might have merit, encouraging more countries to promote all four of the skating disciplines, which at the present is not the case. But the ISU should consider deep revisions if this event must continue.

The first error was the time scheduling. To have this kind of event before the start of the Games, before the more important and serious individual competitions, did not encourage the top skaters to participate. Furthermore, it caused problems for some of them, who had to leave Sochi and go to train somewhere else in Europe while waiting for their own competition to start.

The second mistake, in my opinion, was to allow two competitors per team to be replaced by another skater or couple after the short program. Some of the top competitors -- Patrick Chan of Canada, Yuzuru Hanyu and Mao Asada of Japan, Carolina Kostner and Anna Capellini/Luca Lanotte of Italy, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov from Russia, Jeremy Abbott and Ashley Wagner of the U.S. -- took part only in the short program, and, as allowed by the rules, skipped the long program portion. This was a good and understandable strategy for skaters aiming for a medal. They surely do not need extra stress. But the consequence was that the long program lost much of its interest. And how can a medal won only for having skated the short program, as Chan or Volosozhar/Trankov did, be considered a real Olympic medal and added to their record? This devalues the merit of the medals earned by the athletes who compete against their toughest rivals and come out on top.

The scoring system was not correct, either. To assign the same ranking for the placements of the skaters in the short and free is wrong. By the time the ice dancers were able to skate, the medals had already been decided. In my opinion, to reflect the difference in value between the short program and the free skating, it would make more sense to award points 10-8-6-4-2 for the placements in the free skating.

Besides, this event was much too long.

If this new event has to be maintained, perhaps some changes should be considered:

a) Reduce to six the number of participating countries, taking into consideration only those that, in theory, have the chance to medal, thus avoiding some miserable skating. On the other hand, this is the format of the very successful Team Trophy annually organized by the ISU.

b) Reduce the length of the event; only the free program should be executed.

c) The medals should be determined just by combining the competitors. total points.

d) The event should be scheduled at the end of the Games.

Just a few thoughts.