The Americans got what they needed Saturday from Meryl Davis and Charlie White: a commanding performance in the ice dance portion of the team figure skating competition that pushed them into medal contention.
But the U.S. has no chance of catching the Russians, who have dominated the inaugural team competition on their home ice in Sochi. They lead in overall points, with 47. The Canadians follow at 41, with the Americans fighting for either bronze or silver, at 34.
The final group of five also includes Italy, with 31 points, and Japan, with 30.
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The team competition concludes Sunday, with the men's, ladies' and ice dancing free skates.
The U.S. entered the day in 7th place after a disappointing first-round performance by Jeremy Abbott in the men's short skate. To advance, they needed a strong performance by Davis and White, the favorites to win gold in the individual ice dance later in the Winter Games.
The pair delivered, coming up with the kind of smooth, charismatic and mistake-free routine that has come to be expected of them. They scored 75.98, three full points ahead of their closest rivals, and friends, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
"We're really exited to be back in the hunt for a medal," Davis said.
Ashley Wagner, seeking redemption after a disappointing finish in the U.S. championships, also skated well enough in the ladies’ short program to maintain the Americans’ momentum.
“I think it was really important for everybody, myself included, to get out on the ice and give a solid performance,” said Wagner, who once ranked fourth in the world. “I’m really pleased with what I accomplished out there.”
But she admitted she has a ways to go to return to medal contention in the individual competition.
In the pairs free skate, Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov performed last, but ended far ahead in first place, with 135.09 points. The reigning national champions capped their routine with a stunning triple Salchow throw that brought the home crowd to its feet. They exchanged high fives, and when the score was delivered, Stobova did a little jig.
The Canadian pair Kirsten Moore Towers and Dylan Moscovitch came in second, at 129.74, followed by Italians Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek at 120.82.
Americans Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, who also performed in Friday's pairs short program, came in fourth, at 117.94.
The team figure skating competition is one of 12 events added to the Winter Games this year. The free skate round begins Saturday and concludes on Sunday.
The team competition features 10 countries, who put forth representatives in men’s singles, women’s singles, pairs and ice dance. After the short skate round, the top five countries move on for a round of free skates.
Each individual score counts toward the team’s total, with the highest total winning gold.