Team event added to Sochi figure skating

NEW YORK -- So much for hating change.

At Sochi 2014, the figure skating competition will have a team event for the first time. It's an event that silver and bronze Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan said she would have liked to have seen when she was at the height of her career.

"I think it's fun," Kwan said. "I've never actually competed in a team event but I wish there was when I competed in 1998 and '02. It would be an opportunity to get another medal."

At the Women's Sports Foundation Salute to Women in Sports Gala in Manhattan on Wednesday, Kwan and fellow Olympic skater Sarah Hughes both expressed optimism that the new format would provide skaters more opportunity, and give American audiences another chance to see skaters like Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold. Wagner is the first woman to repeat as US champion since Kwan.

"It gives them a chance to work together and to really try to be more of a team than to be more against each other," Hughes said.

The team competition will take place before the individual, which could be an issue when it comes to the endurance an event like the Olympics requires, but Kwan said it's not like the skaters are being asked to do anything outside of their wheelhouse.

"Yes figure skating is an individual sport," Kwan said. "I think you can pace yourself throughout the Olympics mentally and physically."

The Olympics have made household names out of Kwan and Hughes, and before them Katarina Witt, Nancy Kerrigan and Oksana Baiul. The casual sports fans who tune into the Olympics may not be as familiar with the current generation, particularly of Americans.

"The past couple years we've had several different champions," Hughes said.

But Kwan and Hughes say there are a number of compelling storylines to draw those fans back to the ice. Wagner, who has been pegged as an American favorite, will be attempting harder stunts than she has had in her past routines.

"It's been a big story last year that Ashley Wagner didn't do any triple-triples," Hughes said, "and this year she's been doing them a lot. I was watching her practice and she can do it, and she has it in her program. That's added interest; when someone goes and they risk something that they haven't been risking to try to get the glory and make the team or win a medal. It adds an extra level of excitement."

Can Wagner do it? You'll have to stay tuned.

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