U.S. Scores a Medal in Figure Skating Team Event After Historic Triple Axel
The Americans earned a bronze medal on Monday afternoon in the team figure skating event at the 2018 Winter Olympics
The Americans earned a bronze medal on Monday afternoon in the team figure skating event at the 2018 Winter Olympics after a series of strong performances that nonetheless saw a surprising low and thrilling highs.
The top three finishers in the team event — whose scores are determined by the cumulative short and long routines from the ice dancers and single and pair skaters — were determined following the free dance portion, which saw the second of two performances so far from siblings Alex and Maia Shibutani.
The “Shib sibs” earned second in their free dance, ensuring Team USA’s third-place finish, behind Canada (gold) and the Olympic athletes from Russia, who got silver.
This is the second time the U.S. has earned bronze in the team event, which was introduced in 2014. As of Monday afternoon, they are at four total medals, following snowboarder Red Gerard’s gold in slopestyle this weekend, Jamie Anderson’s gold in slopestyle on Monday and luger Chris Mazdzer’s silver that same day.
American highlights throughout the event’s three days of competition, which began Thursday in Gangneung, South Korea, included season-best numbers for pair skaters (and married couple) Alexa and Chris Knierim and 20-year-old Bradie Tennell as well as consistently high results from the Shibutanis, who earned second place in both of their routines.
“For us, this is just as special as the first one,” Alexa tells PEOPLE. “The Olympics are so incredible that I think most people would be happy with any color of medal. For us, it feels like gold.”
“I couldn’t have thought of a better team to share it with,” she says.
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Such strength followed a jarringly inconsistent opener, on Thursday, when 18-year-old national champion Nathan Chen fell during his short program and completed only one of his two planned quadruple jumps, earning fourth out of 10.
Still, the Americans rebounded and the pinnacle of their event came earlier Monday when Mirai Nagasu, 24, made history as the first female U.S. skater to land the notoriously tricky triple axel at the Olympics.
At a news conference after the medals were announced, both Alexa and Alex shared how they reacted to Nagasu’s record-making skate. Alexa “sobbed when it finished,” she said; while Alex, who was warming up with Maia before their free dance, “definitely fist-bumped” when they saw.
Figure skating will continue on Wednesday morning (Tuesday night in the U.S.), with the pairs’ short program.
The 2018 Winter Olympics are airing live on NBC. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.