How to Strengthen Olympic Figure Skating
Official team competition first appeared with the International Skating Union's World Team Trophy in 2009, ahead of its Olympic debut at Sochi 2014 and features national teams competing across men's and ladies' singles, pairs and ice dance. At the Team Trophy, two men's and two ladies' singles skaters are entered, while Olympic competition only features one each.
The World team Trophy is usually held at the end of the season, and every two year, sometimes viewed as "icing on the cake" for a long few months of competition. Perhaps including it in the annual World Championships would further cement its growth and stature as a legitimate event.
Some athletes likely love the team event. Why not? It gives them - especially those from top skating nations - a very real opportunity for an Olympic medal. It also gives athletes in the team event an advantage of additional experience on Olympic ice, ahead of their individual events. And, it's a way to capitalize on the popularity of figure skating by squeezing in another event.
The event does have its detractors, though. Those same reasons of support also lend some discredit. In both Sochi and Pyeongchang, Russia, Canada, and the United States medaled, as widely expected. Due to the depth of those national programs, skaters that would normally not otherwise near an individual podium can find themselves as Olympic medalists. Jason Brown was ninth in the men's individual event in Sochi, but a bronze medalist in the team event. Kevin Reynolds finished 15th in singles, yet is a silver medalist in the team. In Pyeongchang, Mikhail Kolyada was eighth in men's, but a team silver medalist. Gabrielle Daleman won gold with Team Canada, but finished 15th individually. As a result, there's an air of 'participation trophy' to the composition of the top teams.
While we're looking at Olympic figure skating, the ISU should continue to work on adding synchronized skating into the Olympics. Also offering the benefit of gender neutrality and some global diversity, that's certainly a team event that would bring a fresh air of something different on the ice to Olympic viewers. Finding two free days on the Olympic calendar shouldn't be a problem - maybe drop the gala!