Team event scores perfect marks

SOCHI, Russia -- Figure skating doesn't get everything right. I mean, why must competitors continue to insist on skating to the theme music from "Schindler's List"? And could the scoring system possibly be any more complex?

But the sport nailed a perfect 6.0 with the inaugural Olympics team competition. (I guess that would be a world-record 295.27 under the new math.) Hey, even Russian President Vladimir Putin dropped by to see his country win Sunday's final by a dominating 10 points over second-place Canada.

"I think it's a lot of fun," said ice dancer Charlie White of the bronze-medal U.S. team. "Having grown up playing hockey, I think you get a little extra something when you know there are others relying on you and you know that you have the support of your teammates. Obviously, Meryl [Davis] and I are lucky to be there for one another, but I think in a broader scale it really brings something exciting to the sport.

"I know we've really enjoyed being a part of it and would love to see it stick around."

Me too. Team sports are almost always more exciting than individual events. More athletes create more storylines, more possibilities, more drama. Plus, more team caps and jerseys! That's why the most popular sports in the U.S. are all team sports.

"Most of the feedback from the kids was that they really liked it," veteran coach Frank Carroll said. "There's a camaraderie about it that maybe didn't exist before. Our sport is so individualistic; it's all about me, me, me. If you don't do so well, maybe one of your teammates will bring it up. I think it's good for them."

It most definitely is, and in many ways.

First, skaters who have only a slim or no chance at individual medals, such as Jeremy Abbott, now will take home a team medal. And great skaters -- such as 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya, who guaranteed Russia the gold with her dazzling performance in the women's free program -- could take home two.

Until this Olympics, the maximum number of gold medals awarded in figure skating was four, one in each discipline. No matter how dominant the individual skater, only one medal was ever possible. Think how bland the photos of Michael Phelps would look if he had only one gold medal dangling over his bare chest.

As Evgeni Plushenko's coach, Alexei Mishin, said, figure skating is a powerful, beautiful sport that deserves more medals. "Just four medals? Ridiculous. Five medals better."

The team event also means figure skaters truly are skating for their country rather than largely for themselves. America's Jason Brown said skating with someone else's medal hopes on the line as well as your own definitely adds pressure but that this is compensated by the strength you gain from the support of teammates.

"I do feel that pressure because I want to do the best I can and contribute to the team and get a medal," Brown said. "But when I hear them screaming from the booth, you feel that rush of support and that feeling of home.

"I think it's a great time to get that camaraderie and unite as a team before we all split and compete individually."

Plus, it gives the skaters a chance to hone their routines under Olympic pressure while better introducing viewers to the top skaters from around the world.

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