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Daily Olympic Briefing: Figure skating's team event highlights Thursday, Friday schedule

Daily Olympic Briefing: Figure skating's team event highlights Thursday, Friday schedule
Posted at 9:49 AM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 19:07:55-05

Each day of the 2022 Winter Games, NBC Olympics will run down every sport in action, highlighting the biggest athletes and marquee events. Every single event streams live on NBCOlympics.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock, and many are also on the TV networks of NBC. Visit the Olympic schedule page for listings sorted by sport and TV network. All times listed below are Eastern Time on the night of Thursday, Feb. 3 or the morning of Friday, Feb. 4.

On the day of the Opening Ceremony, Nathan Chen makes his Olympic return as figure skating’s team event kicks off with short programs. Preliminary games continue in mixed doubles curling and women’s hockey.

Figure Skating

Figure Skating: Team Event
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Men's Short Program 9:00 p.m. NBCOlympics.com, NBC
Rhythm Dance 10:30 p.m. NBCOlympics.com, NBC
Pairs Short Program 12:15 a.m. NBCOlympics.com, NBC

Nathan Chen takes the ice for the first figure skating session of the Games. The U.S. is a solid silver-medal favorite in the team event, behind the powerhouse team from Russia and in front of an improved Japan.

Later, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue skate the rhythm dance, and Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier will do the pairs’ short. The team event runs through Sunday.

Four years ago, Chen went into the Olympics undefeated for the season, then had a disastrous short program in the team event (the U.S. ultimately took bronze).

It wasn’t any better a week later, when he was 17th in the individual short, again with errors on all three jumping passes, before a historic free skate to finish fifth.

Chen says now that he doesn’t remember much about the 2018 Games. He had tunnel vision, and that was part of the problem.

“He was like, ‘I didn't even take any pictures last time,’” older sister Alice said.

Chen, the youngest of five children, brought a guitar and a basketball to the Games. He hopes to have a jam session (music, not hoops) with other athletes. He already took his U.S.-based sisters on a virtual tour of his accommodation.

“He's actually taking the time to absorb everything around him and experience what it is to be living as an Olympian,” Alice said.

The family, spread across San Francisco, New York and Portugal, plans to gather on Zoom to watch his skates for, possibly, his last Olympics.

Four years ago, they were in South Korea.

“The most emotional experience of my life,” Alice said. “I can't speak to his state of mind, but I know I was incredibly nervous, just shaking. He takes the ice, and I start crying.”

She remembers chalking Chen’s errors in the 2018 team event short program to a fluke.

“I don't think we even debriefed as a family about it,” she said.

The individual short was different – “a dark day in our lives.” The family originally planned to see him afterward, but Chen took time to reflect on his own.

Alice said that Chen then talked to his mom, with whom he shares an apartment in Southern California. Very, very late at night, Alice received a phone call from him.

“He was like, ‘I just can't sleep,’” she said. “Honestly, it was more me talking, and he was just quiet. I think he just needed a voice in his ear."

“I actually don't talk to him a lot about skating, unless he comes to me and wants to discuss it. So that night, my goal was obviously to validate that his worth is more than who he is as an athlete.”

Alice told her brother what the family did that day – what they ate, what they saw – trying not to cry. The call lasted 20 or 30 minutes.

“At the end, he just was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try to go to bed now,’” she said.

Chen woke up the next morning for the free skate. He checked his phone and saw tweets of support from Simone Biles and Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell. He was so far behind that he was free of the pressure of trying to win a gold medal, or any medal at all.

Then he went out and became the first skater to land six quadruple jumps in a single program (one wasn’t clean). He put up the best score of the field by 8.91 points to move up 12 places.

“I cannot even imagine what it takes to have that kind of strength to bounce back,” Alice said. “I still think about it all the time to this day. And every time I watch that performance, it’s just waterworks.”

Chen’s change in mentality shone after winning a sixth U.S. Championship last month. Usually polished on Instagram, he shared a grainy image of him tripping and doing a belly flop (his words) during his nationals free skate.

“He was definitely mortified,” Alice said. “But I think he was also able to laugh at himself.”

The pandemic has largely kept Chen apart from his siblings, but Alice can sense that these Olympics are different.

“That nervous energy is not there,” she said. “Nathan is going into this with a lot more ease than he has in the past. I think it's because, the first time, none of us knew what to expect. And this time, I don’t even know that he knows what to expect. It's more that he has just grown so much as an athlete, as a skater, as a human, that he just knows himself more.”

Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony: Winter Olympics
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Opening Ceremony 6:30 a.m. NBCOlympics.com, NBC

Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou is directing the Opening Ceremony, just as he did in 2008. This one will be less grand, as Zhang put it, than the 15,000-performer production at the Summer Games.

It will include about 3,000 performers and is expected to last less than 100 minutes, making it the shortest Opening Ceremony in more than 30 years. The Parade of Nations alone in 2008 took two hours (Summer Games have triple the athletes of a Winter Games).

The IOC started encouraging nations to choose multiple flagbearers before the Tokyo Games. U.S. athletes selected gold-medal curler John Shuster, a five-time Olympian, and triple Olympic medalist bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor, the first Black athlete nominated as a U.S. flagbearer for a Winter Games.

Meyers Taylor will sit out the ceremony after testing positive for COVID-19 last Saturday (but hopes to be cleared by next week to compete). She will be replaced by speed skater Brittany Bowe.

Top guesses to light the cauldron: 18-year-old freeskier Eileen Gu, retired short track speed skater Yang Yang (A) (China’s first Winter Olympic champion in 2002) and the 2010 gold-medal pairs’ team of Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo.

Curling

Mixed Doubles Curling: Round Robin
All events also stream live on Peacock
Matchup Time (ET) How to Watch
Italy vs Norway 7:30 p.m. NBCOlympics.com, USA
Canada vs Switzerland 7:30 p.m. NBCOlympics.com
Sweden vs Australia 7:30 p.m. NBCOlympics.com
USA vs Sweden 12:30 a.m. NBCOlympics.com, USA
China vs Canada 12:30 a.m. NBCOlympics.com
Great Britain vs Australia 12:30 a.m. NBCOlympics.com
Czech Republic vs Italy 12:30 a.m. NBCOlympics.com

Two games stand out on the mixed doubles schedule.

Canada faces Switzerland in a rematch of the first Olympic mixed doubles final in 2018. Three of those four curlers from 2018 are back, with Canadian Rachel Homan the newcomer.

Americans Vicky Persinger and Chris Plys, who are 1-2 so far, get 2021 World bronze medalist Sweden.

Hockey

Women's Hockey: Preliminary Round
All events also stream live on Peacock
Matchup Time (ET) How to Watch
ROC vs Switzerland 11:00 p.m. NBCOlympics.com, USA
Denmark vs China 11:00 p.m. NBCOlympics.com

Neither the U.S. nor Canada is in action after each won its opening game Thursday. Russia plays Switzerland in a matchup of bronze-medal contenders. China, in its first Olympic hockey tournament since 2010, gets Denmark after a 3-1 loss to the Czech Republic in its opener.

Alpine Skiing

Alpine Skiing: Men's Downhill
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Men's Training: Session 2 10:00 p.m. NBCOlympics.com

In Yanqing, it’s the second of three scheduled training runs before Sunday’s men’s downhill on a course that nobody in the field has raced before.

In the first training run Thursday, Stefan Rogentin of Switzerland had the fastest time, but he’s not considered a medal threat.

Bryce Bennett (13th fastest on Thursday), Ryan Cochran-Siegle (15th) and Travis Ganong (40th) have slim chances to deliver the U.S. its second men’s downhill medal since Tommy Moe’s surprise win in 1994.

SEE MORE: U.S. downhillers Bennett, Ganong, Cochran-Siegle to tempt fate and physics in Yanqing