U.S. behind after 1st day of team figure skating 

SOCHI, Russia — Meryl Davis and Charlie White comforted and cheered their fellow Americans on a tough first night of competition for the U.S. in the new Olympic event of team figure skating.

Nice to have their support, no doubt. But the biggest pick-me-up they can provide? Two dazzling performances in ice dancing.

The United States team was tied for the fifth-most points after the Thursday short programs for the men and pairs, technically resting in seventh after tiebreakers.

Only the top five countries advance to the free skates on the final night of the team competition on Sunday, a cut made after the women and ice dancers complete their short programs. But the Americans are hardly in a precarious position, because they boast the reigning world ice dancing champs in Davis and White.

Still, bronze may be the team’s best hope after the falls and botched jumps committed Thursday by U.S. champions Jeremy Abbott and the pairs team of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir.

For Abbott, it was yet another rocky performance at a major international event. A four-time U.S. champ, he has never captured that magic on the biggest of stages. Before the 2010 Olympics, he beat Evan Lysacek at nationals, only to finish ninth in Vancouver while his compatriot won gold.

Thursday’s short program looked a lot like his first outing at the games four years ago, with Abbott crashing into the boards after falling on his opening quad jump.

Russia’s 19 points — 10 for first, nine for second — pushed it ahead of Canada, which earned 17, and China with 15, with two more nights of team vs. team competition to come.

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