Plushenko, Chan eye golden start in Olympic figure skating team event
Yvegeny Plushenko of Russia performs during the men's short program at the European Figure Skating Championships in Zagreb, on January 24, 2013 - by Hrvoje Polan
The inaugural ten-team event kicks off in the Iceberg Skating Palace with the men's short programme with Canada, Russia and the United States favourites with strong skaters in all four categories -- men, women, pairs and ice dancing.
"Canada is the top seed or leading the event. We're definitely looking for our team to win gold in this event," said Canadian pairs skater Dylan Moscovitch.
The men's event will be followed by the pairs short programme and the short dance with the ladies short programme and pairs free stake scheduled for Saturday and the men's and ladies free skating finals and free dance on Sunday.
Other medal hopes include Japan, France and China, with the biggest challenge being to maintain energy levels through to the individual events.
"We will have four competitions during these Olympic Games. It will be a challenge to keep my energy throughout the competition," said Chinese pairs skater Peng Chen, 16.
The USA won the world team trophy in 2013 and 2009 while Japan won in 2012.
Plushenko will have to compete in the team event as the sole Russian entry in the men's event, with a decision on who will compete for the other teams to be announced on Wednesday.
The new event means that Plushenko, the 2006 Olympic champion and a two-time silver medallist, could become the holder of a record five medals, if the 31-year-old were to make the podium in both the individual and the team events.
The only skater in history to win four medals -- three in gold -- was Swede Gillis Grafstroem between 1920 and 1932. To win in front of his adoring fans would make up for the disappointment of finishing second at the 2010 Vancouver Games to American Evan Lysacek, who has not competed since.
"The team medal is the first that is at stake and it's very important and prestigious. So there's a lot of responsibility on our whole team," Plushenko's coach Alexei Mishin said.
Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu and Mao Asada, Russia's pairs Tatiana Volsozhar and Maxim Trankov; American ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Canadian rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are all top skaters for their nations.
"It's a great chance to break the ice for the team, not only the figure skating team but the whole Canadian Olympic team," said Chan.
In the individual events starting next week, Chan enters as favourite for men's gold from Thursday, February 13, with South Korea's Kim Yu-Na the star of the women's event, starting on Friday, February 19.
If he wins the individual gold Chan would also become the first Canadian man to do so. Chan, 22, who finished just fifth in Vancouver, has won the last three world titles.
Yuzuru Hanyu beat Chan however in the Grand Prix final and should be a challenger along with fellow Japanese Daisuke Takahashi and Tatsuki Machida and Spaniard Javier Fernandez, the world bronze medallist.
Kim, 23, will defend her title after 18-months off following her Vancouver success and an Olympic season hampered by a right foot injury.
She won the world title last year and will be bidding to become the first woman since Katarina Witt in 1988 to defend the Olympic title.
Japan's Mao Asada, 23, a two-time world champion, is her biggest challenger after taking silver in Vancouver.
Russian Julia Lipnitskaia, who at 15 became the youngest European champion last month, is also a medal hope, along with Italy's Carolina Kostner and Americans Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner.
Russia will be looking for titles after their failure to land gold in Vancouver with world pairs champions Volosozhar and Trankov their biggest hope.
They were however beaten by German rivals Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy at the Grand Prix Final in December. The Germans won bronze in Vancouver.
China have two pairs medals hopes -- Olympic silver medallists Pang Qing and Tong Jian and teammates Peng Cheng and Zhang Hao.
The ice dance gold should be a duel between US world champions Davis and White and Canadian Olympic champions Virtue and Moir.