GANGEUNG —Together they've collected eight world titles, and pushed their sport to the greatest of heights.
Patrick Chan, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford have been the face of Canadian figure skating for the better part of a decade, and a gold medal in the team event at the Pyeongchang Olympics would be a fitting ending for Canada's finest.
"It's such a unique story, we all sort of started at the same time, and kind of came from similar places in our careers," Radford said. "We've all together achieved so much in skating, and I think helped evolve the sport in each of our own disciplines, and all paths, all roads are leading to this one place at the Olympics, and it's going to be the end for a lot of us.
"You couldn't ask for a better story, with all these amazing personalities, skaters, and everything we've all accomplished culminating in this amazing moment."
The illustrious road ends at the Gangneung Ice Arena, where the veteran skaters will close their competitive careers.
Canada is ranked No. 1 in the team event, and are first in the standings after Friday's short program skate. Chan had a shaky performance and put Canada in third place but he was bailed out by a strong performance from Duhamel and Radford, who placed second. Their combined scores put Canada on top with 17 points. They're trailed by the U.S. with 14 points and Japan with 13 points.
The skaters may be affected by the event's early start. "I don't think any of us in our entire careers, even mine, have ever skated this early, or with this type of schedule. I definitely think that played a role," said Chan, who'll retire after the Olympics. "But we're not in control of that.'"
Canada captured silver when the team event made its Olympic debut four years ago in Sochi. Countries compete in all four disciplines, in both the short and long programs. Teams can make two changes to its skaters between the short and long programs.
The event means skaters double up on their workload, but the Canadians embrace it with zero hesitation.
"If they let us skate 10 times we would," said Moir, an Olympic gold and silver medallist in ice dance with Virtue. "To be on an Olympic ice is so special. We're so excited, just let us out there."
Four years ago in Sochi, the close-knit Canadians gathered on the ice for a pre-medal ceremony huddle, then clasped hands and jumped as one onto the podium.
"My favourite memories of Sochi are from that team event, and not even necessarily our skate," said Duhamel, a two-time world pairs champion with Radford. "I think this will be no different. It will provide us with the most meaningful, memorable moments that we'll have in our life from this sport."
Canada is the only country that remains virtually intact four years after Sochi, boasting the three veteran entries plus Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman — world silver and bronze medallists respectively — in women's singles.
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In the team event, each country has an assigned box where skaters sit rinkside and cheer on teammates, making for an entertaining spectator experience.
"That's one of my favourite parts," said Radford, a two-time world pairs champion with Duhamel.
The team leaned on each other after Friday's short program.
"It sounds cheesy, but having them there, normally if it was just me by myself, I would start analyzing (my program), being disappointed in the skate, but they were all so supportive," Chan said after stumbling twice in his short skate.
"No need to apologize to them or anything. I think that's the greatness of the team event, this isn't about me, this is about all of us. Each discipline can support each other, even if some of us have mistakes or bad days."
Five of the 10 countries are eliminated after the short programs.
Chan, who finished a heartbreaking second in men's singles in Sochi, said he'd love to cap his career with gold in the team event.
"It would be really cool, oh my God," Chan said. "Because for me, a gold medal's a gold medal, nobody is going to take that away from me. No one is going to question: What gold was it for?"
Unlike their Olympic siblings in short-track and long-track speedskating, who can race several times in a single Olympics, figure skating has been a one-shot sport since its Olympic debut in 1908. The skaters relish another shot at a medal.
"It's exciting and it's another opportunity to skate on Olympic ice, which figure skaters haven't had," Radford said.
We've all together achieved so much in skating, and I think helped evolve the sport in each of our own disciplines, and all paths, all roads are leading to this one place at the Olympics, and it's going to be the end for a lot of us.Eric Radford, figure skater
Duhamel pointed out that almost half of American swimmer Michael Phelps' Olympics medals — 12 of 28 — came in relays.
"In all these other sports, they have opportunities to win multiple medals, and in skating, we didn't have that opportunity," she said.
Canada's stiffest competition so far has come from the United States, Japan and Russia.
"We definitely have a quiet chemistry, we just know we have a job to do and we all know we have a really good chance. We all have a task at hand," Chan said. "We have a good balance of having fun and enjoying the team event process, and then also going out and saying 'OK, this is my turn to deliver."'
Moir and Radford said they wish the team event came at the end of the Olympics, after their individual events were over, much like the relays cap any major track and field event.
"But we'll take any opportunity we can," Moir said. "That's kind of our focus right now. We think that Canada can win, we think Canada can bring home gold, and that would be a great start to the Games for us."
The ice dance and women's short programs and pairs free programs are Sunday. The men's, ice dance, and women's free programs are Monday.
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