I've been out of the figure skating loop (so to speak) for the past couple years. I didn't even know they were adding a new team event, an exciting but confusing development. More information here.
For my purposes, what's interesting here is that Plushenko is back. *sigh*...To his credit, at 31 years old he's getting a bit long in the tooth for this sport, so the fact that he can still hold his own is pretty impressive. He's still as much a showman (as opposed to an artist or a craftsman) as ever; skating on his home turf, he naturally had the crowd eating out of his hand.
Here's the thing, though: He's skating exactly the same way that he did in Vancouver, i.e., he hasn't changed or improved his technique at all. And that's not going to cut it against this field; he can't expect to earn an individual medal by the sheer force of his personality, not under the current scoring system, home ice notwithstanding. Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan lands his quad as smooth as butter, and if Patrick Chan of Canada stays on his feet, he's nigh untouchable. Plushenko may be causing a stir by his mere presence, but ultimately, I think he's a paper tiger. I just hope he enjoys this new team event, because I think it's his last real chance for an Olympic medal.
My prediction is that Hanyu and Chan will take the top two men's medals (not necessarily in that order), and everyone else will be playing for third place. I think the race for bronze is wide open at this point, but again, I haven't been paying much attention for a couple of years, so my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.
Sadly, Evan Lysacek is not back to defend his title. But he is making an appearance on Sesame Street, which has to be a career highlight as well:
On the women's side, all eyes seem to be once again on the Kim-Asada rivalry, but personally, I'm really happy to see Akiko Suzuki of Japan competing, because she's a remarkable talent with an inspiring comeback story. Medal or no, just being there is a victory for her.
Also, it's kind of amusing whenever people talk about so-and-so having the highest figure skating scores "OF ALL TIME!" because in this context, "all time" really only means about the last twelve years or so.
Thus far it's just preliminaries, so I don't have anything to say about any other sports, except that I'm excited about the long-overdue premiere of women's ski jumping. Also the American snowboarders and freestyle skiers have much prettier uniforms this year, so that's nice.