Team Russia 1 surprise leaders after short program at Worlds

Well that was exciting!

Skating eleventh in a field of 21 teams, RUS1 managed to hold on to win the short program at the World Synchronized Skating Championships in Sweden today, even after all top nine teams skated clean. Yes — RUS1, who has exactly zero World Championship medals (save for one “small” silver from 2007 where they placed second in the short before falling to eighth in the free), and finished seventh in 2011, currently leads a field that includes all the medalists from nearly every World Championship, ever. Only three former medal-winners aren’t competing in Gothenburg: Miami University (USA), Team Unique (FIN), and now-defunct black ice (CAN). 

Another surprise: none of FIN1, FIN2, and USA1, who have made up the podium, in that order, at the last two World Championships, are in the top three. Joining RUS1 on the small medal podium tonight are SWE1 and CAN1, both of whom are former World Champions, but were shut out of the medals in 2010 and 2011. USA1, FIN1, and FIN2, sit 4th, 5th, and 6th respectively.

The competition is far from over, however. Only 4.05 points separate the top six teams, and only 7.42 points separate the top eight. Considering a Level 4 element with +2 and +3 GOEs can earn nearly 8.00 points, that’s not a difficult gap to close for the best teams in the world. And the free program has twice as many elements as the short, so the competition is still wide open.

For the nerdly types, here’s a breakdown of rankings according to totals, base values, TES, and PCS (click the image to enlarge):

The medals won’t be determined until RUS1 skates, 21st out of 21 teams, tomorrow night. Over the years, RUS1 has earned themselves a reputation for following a strong short program with a weaker free skate, so it will be an impressive accomplishment if they’re able to stay ahead of the pack and pull off the win. Even if they simply medal, it will be the first time a team from a country other than CAN, FIN, SWE, or USA has done so. In any case, it’s wonderful for the evolution of the sport to see a new country legitimately challenge the teams that have dominated for so many years.

Tomorrow’s free program begins at 15:00 local / 9:00 EDT. After the first half of the teams skate, a 40 minute break will precede the second half of the event, presumably to groom the ice.

All the links you need to follow along with the action are here. In related exciting news, it appears North Americans can watch the Swedish live feed on our iPads and iPhones. Visit svtplay.se, click on the picture of the synchro team, then hit play. Voila!

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