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Figure skaters balance singles vs new team event

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 9, 2014 at 5:22 pm •  Published: February 9, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The fans in the arena loved the first Olympic figure skating team event.

They might have been a little biased, of course: What wasn't to like when host Russia won gold in a sport adored in this country?

The skaters themselves had mostly nice things to say about the inaugural competition, though their actions suggested slightly more ambivalent feelings.

The concept is popular. The actual logistics, maybe not so much. For the men in particular, the quick turnaround between the team free skate and the individual short program was a concern.

Two of the gold medal favorites, Canada's Patrick Chan and Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, did not take the ice Sunday, saving energy for the singles event, which starts Thursday. Under the team competition rules, each country could switch up its entry between the short and long programs for two of the four disciplines.

"It feels good to be able to hand it off," Chan said Thursday after his short program, speaking about figure skating's version of passing the baton. "Come the 13th, I don't want to hand if off, of course."

The flexibility made the team event feasible, if a bit less credible and exciting when the top skaters weren't always on the ice.

There were plenty of empty seats throughout the team competition, though that has also been the case in other venues. The fans who showed up seemed to be having a blast; there's no way of knowing what the atmosphere would have been like had the Russians struggled.

NBC's prime-time ratings have been strong so far.

Alexei Mishin, Evgeni Plushenko's coach, says fans can't get enough figure skating.

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