Israel off to hopeful start in Pyeongchang

Israel's figure skating team is ranked 5th out of 10 teams after the first day of action.

 Israeli delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, marches in during Friday’s Opening Ceremony  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, marches in during Friday’s Opening Ceremony
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Team Israel is hoping to build on its encouraging beginning to the figure skating team event at the Pyeongchang Olympics when it resumes on Sunday at the Gangneung Ice Arena.
Israel, which has qualified for the team competition for the first time, is ranked in fifth place from 10 teams after the first day of action.
Alexei Bychenko, who was the first Israeli to enter the fray on Friday, impressed in the men’s short program, giving Israel nine points by finishing in second place with a score of 88.49 points.
Bychenko led out the Israel delegation in the Opening Ceremony at the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium later Friday.
Israel ended the opening day of the figure skating team event with 11 points overall after Evgeni Krasnopolski and Paige Conners were ninth in the pairs short program with a score of 54.47, adding two points to the blueand- white’s tally.
The team event continues on Sunday, with Adel Tanakova and Ronald Zilberberg to participate in the ice dance short dance, Aimee Buchanan to compete in the ladies short program and Krasnopolski and Conners to take part in the pairs free skate.
The team contest ends on Monday, with the men’s, ladies and ice dance free programs.
Israel’s short track speedskater Vladislav Bykanov experienced a disappointing day on Saturday when he was disqualified in the men’s 1,500-meters. Bykanov, who won a bronze medal in the event at the European Championships last month in Dresden, Germany, looked to be heading to the semifinals after ending his heat in third place, with the top three advancing. However, Bykanov was disqualified after the race when TV replays showed he had illegally pushed an opponent.
Bykanov will also take part in the 1,000m and 500m races later in the Games.
Israel’s delegation to the 2018 Games numbers 10 athletes in all, doubling the country’s previous high. The delegation also includes Daniel Samohin, the gold medalist at the 2016 world junior figure skating championships, who will be the country’s second representative in the men’s figure skating competition.
A.J. Edelman, who was the final Israeli to book his place, will take part in the skeleton competition, while Itamar Biran will participate in the alpine skiing giant slalom and slalom events in the final week of the Games, that run until February 25.
Canada leads the figure skating’s team competition entering Sunday, with a dazzling performance by pair Megan Duhamel and Eric Radford overcoming stumbles by Patrick Chan in the men’s singles.
Duhamel and Radford claimed a season’s best 76.57 with their flowing routine to “With or Without You”, but Chan, in his third Olympics, struggled with his jumps and fell on his opening quad toeloop and his triple Axel.
A strong performance by American husband and wife Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, who scored 69.75, helped the United States take second place overall despite a rocky performance by 18-year-old Nathan Chen in his Olympic debut.
Chen made an uncharacteristic fall on his triple axel after doubling his quad toeloop, although he hung on to land his opening quad flip, earning him 80.61 points and leaving him in fourth.
Canada has 17 points to 14 for the United States. Japan is in third place with 13 points, while Olympic Athletes from Russia is fourth on 13 points after a strong display by Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov in the pairs.
The Russian skaters were cheered on by a vociferous group of fans waving Russian flags and holding up signs spelling out “Russia in My Heart.”
Reuters contributed to this report.