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Japan, Canada bring strong teams to Sochi

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 24, 2014 at 6:23 am •  Published: January 24, 2014

South Korea's Queen Yuna and America's Marlie should be the big headliners at the Winter Olympics. Otherwise, there's not likely to be much to look at on the Russian ice for their countries.

Defending champion Yuna Kim and U.S. ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White are heavy favorites for the Sochi Games. They very likely will be the only medalists for their nations, too.

Figure skating power lies in Japan and Canada these days, even though it's entirely possible neither nation will win gold in any of the standard events: men's and women's singles, pairs, ice dance.

The brand new team event, however, is another Sochi story.

Canada is loaded in all four disciplines, from three-time men's world champion Patrick Chan to defending Olympic dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Japan is equally strong in the individual competitions, with 2010 women's silver medalist Mao Asada and a trio of potential men's contenders, including Vancouver Games bronze winner Daisuke Takahashi.

The Americans, led by two-time dance world champs Davis and White, the 2010 Olympic silver medalists, are talking bravely about grabbing team gold. But they'll need to overcome a weakness in pairs and two unpredictable men, Jeremy Abbott and Jason Brown, to get on the podium.

They can't wait to try.

"It's something we are really excited to be a part of," said White, who has partnered with Davis for 16 years and recently set a U.S. record with a sixth straight national ice dance crown. "It is exciting for our sport. Really, figure skating is in the limelight during the Olympics, and for us to have an opportunity to share in even a bigger experience is amazing.

"Obviously getting to compete twice at the Olympics is something we are not going to take for granted. We look forward to being very supportive teammates. We have a fantastic team, the U.S. does, and we are really in the medal hunt."

Perhaps. But the Americans' best shot for gold clearly lies with the dancing feet of Davis and White.

And if they don't get it, look for Virtue and Moir — who train in the same Michigan rink with Davis and White — to stand atop the medals stand again. Ice dance appears to be a two-couple gig.

Like Virtue and Moir, Kim returns to defend her title. Unlike the Canadians, she took a long hiatus from competition following her mesmerizing performances in Vancouver.

Kim returned last season and won the world title with marks almost as good as in her record-setting Vancouver showing, winning by 20 points. She's trying to be only the third woman (Katarina Witt and Sonja Henie) to win successive Olympic figure skating championships, but had been plagued by a foot injury that forced her out of the Grand Prix series.

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