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U.S. skaters come together as one to claim bronze

Team members all agree inaugural Olympic team event a roaring success
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Charlie White huddles up the members of Team USA and leads them in a group cheer. -Getty Images

There was a tense moment in Team USA's press conference following its bronze-medal-winning performance in the inaugural team event at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. A reporter asked Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold -- the former of whom skated the short, the latter the free -- how this result will carry them into the ladies event.

Wagner started her answer with "I'm sure Gracie would agree…" and then proceeded to explain how the team event served as a valuable "warm-up" for the skaters heading into their individual competitions. When she finished, Gold took her turn answering the question and immediately contradicted Wagner, saying, "I don't consider this a warm-up; it was definitely a competition for me."

That was the only time relations between any of the U.S. team members were noticeably unharmonious. Otherwise, they got along like better than anyone could have imagined.

And they weren't just a close-knit team off the ice. Team captain Charlie White said they skated almost as a unit, with two clear goals in mind.

"As a team, we wanted to go out and represent the United States to the best of our ability," said White who with partner Meryl Davis accumulated 20 of the team's 60 points with first-place finishes in the short and free dances. "At the same time, we wanted to make a statement about how special U.S. Figure Skating is, internationally speaking."

The Americans stacked up quite well against the rest of the field. Davis and White were obviously the stars, but the ladies stepped up big, too. Gold and Wagner combined for 16 points -- nine for Gold, seven for Wagner; only two other countries, Russia and Italy, accumulated more points from its ladies. Gold and Wagner even outscored the vaunted Japanese, whose entrants, Mao Asada and Akiko Suzuki, mustered only 15 points.

"[Gracie and I are] different skaters, but we work really well together," said Wagner, who reminded everyone that it was she and Gold who qualified three ladies spots at these Olympics with their combined finishes at the 2013 World Championships. "We showed our strengths in the team event. It showed we have a nice blend, a nice mix."

Both feel having already competed in Sochi -- and competed well -- gives them a distinct advantage in the ladies event.

"We got to get onto the ice and figure out how Olympic ice feels. We have that upper hand, we know what to expect, we know what it will feel like," Wagner said. "As soon as we hit that first pose [in our short programs] and the music starts up, we'll know how to deal with it."

"I loved having the opportunity to do my free on Olympic ice," Gold said. "I'm trying to take the momentum with me. Having two solid skates at nationals and with my free tonight going really well, I feel really good going into the individual event."

Other members of the team -- particularly those who have a quicker turnaround between the end of the team competition and the start of their individual event -- have a wryer take on the experience.

"It feels like this is our second Olympics we're going into now because we've already skated two programs," said Marissa Castelli, who with partner Simon Shnapir will compete in the pairs short Tuesday night.

It has yet to be seen how participating in the team event will affect any of the skaters' performances the rest of their time in Sochi, but to a person, they couldn't be happier with how the first-time competition went.

White said, "What a great day of skating for us today. What a fantastic way to cap off the team event. It's fun when you can come from behind and win a medal."

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