ADLER, Russia -- Competitors didn't wait for Friday's Opening Ceremony to herald the beginning of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
They planned to get a triple jump of a start a day earlier with the new high-profile event: team figure skating. Ten countries qualified for the three-day competition with Canada, Russia and the United States considered the medal favorites.
The new concept highlights a nation's overall strength in the four skating disciples traditionally seen at the Olympics.
The Sochi Games opened Thursday because of the addition of sports forcing the winter schedule to expand an extra day. Also held Thursday were qualifying rounds in the new slopestyle snowboard and women's moguls.
Team skating brings a new wrinkle that gives the Sochi Games more prime ice time for television networks and advertisers. For a sport singularly focused on the individual, the performers seem to embrace the team ideal.
"In a sport that has been dominated in the past by individual accomplishments, I think it is really exciting to be part of a true team that's going to be counting on one another," American ice dancer Charlie White told reporters this week.
"When we're out on the ice, we're not just out there for ourselves we are skating for other people and it's a really awesome feeling. And it's happening at the Olympics, that just makes it that much more special."
The event begins Thursday night with the men's short program and the pairs short program. Canada and Russia are expected to take the lead in disciples they dominate while the Americans will rely on U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott for a boost.
It should be a big moment for the host country with 2006 Olympic gold medalist Evgeny Plushenko the only Russian man to have qualified. He will have to skate in the short and free programs of the team competition.
The Russians have three teams each in pairs and ice dance to use in the event.
"There is even more responsibility for an athlete when he competes in the team event, because behind him are his friends who are on the team," Russian men's coach Alexei Mishin said. "The team medal is the first medal that is at stake and it's very important and prestigious. So there's a lot of responsibility on our whole team."
The women and ice dancers perform Saturday. The top five teams will advance to the long programs Saturday and Sunday.
Two-time U.S. national champion Ashley Wagner, who will skate the women's short program, expects the event to draw fans.
"Any team event is really easy for fans to get into just because you get behind the country and you start cheering for them," she told reporters after a practice Wednesday.
With Wagner scheduled to perform the short program Saturday, U.S. officials picked 2014 national champion Gracie Gold to perform the free skate Sunday -- if the Americans advance as expected.
Not included in the competition is Polina Edmunds of San Jose, who finished second to Gold at the national championships. Edmunds, 15, is scheduled to make her senior international debut Feb. 19-20 in the individual competition. She has not arrived in Sochi yet, and is not expected to march in Opening Ceremony.
Wagner added that the new event is strange for the competitors who usually face each other.
"Anywhere else we're competition, but this time around, we're cheering for the same thing," she said of her and Gold. "It's definitely weird because skating is an individual sport but we're all getting used to it."
The United States won the world team trophy in 2013 in a competition that served as part of Olympic qualification. The other measuring stick was the Grand Prix series this season.
Team scoring is pretty easy for each discipline. First place receives 10 points, second place nine points, third place eight points and so on.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.