BOSTON - The news that figure skating competition would begin at 10 a.m. at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea left the two leading U.S. women singles skaters resigned to deal with situation, although Ashley Wagner adopted that attitude more grudgingly than 2014 Olympic teammate Gracie Gold.
“This is all fresh to me, and right now I’m annoyed, because it’s a difficult thing to ask the skaters to do,” Wagner said after her Tuesday evening practice before the World Figure Skating Championships that begin Wednesday at TD Garden.
The early starts put the Pyeongchang events in U.S. prime time, benefitting NBC.
Wagner, the three-time U.S. champion, had learned of the schedule change a few hours earlier from the exclusive story on this blog in which International Skating Union President Ottavio Cinquanta confirmed the plans.
“I cried,” Wagner said, in jest, of her first reaction to the news.
“But at the end of the day, if we know this now, we can start training for it now. We can complain all we want, but if it’s the case, we have plenty of time to prepare.”
Gold, reigning and two-time U.S. champion, looked on the bright side immediately.
“I do some of my best skating at 10 a.m. (practice) sessions,” she said. “I do a lot of things better in the morning.
“I’m not mad about it. It’s better to be that way if you can’t change it.”
The change not only involves competition times but the time of the final pre-competition practice, which could start as early as 6 a.m.
“It’s awful,” Wagner said. “Unless you have skated yourself, you don’t realize how hard it is for your body to wake up at 4 a.m. to be ready to rotate triples jumps at 6.
“When you think about the pairs, and you have the guy who is half asleep lifting his partner above his head, I think it does get a little dangerous.”
An Austrian pairs skater, Severin Kiefer, said “it was dangerous to be skating at this time” after the 2016 European Championships pairs free skate that began at 10 a.m.
Gold figured the early practice and competition times would have some advantages.
“You’ll be doing something before the (Olympic) Village wakes up,” she said with a smile. “The coffee lines will be short. And you won’t be hanging around until 10 p.m. waiting to compete. You can get it done early and enjoy the Olympics.”
Under the usual Olympic figure skating schedule, with events at night in the host city, that would mean U.S. viewers would be seeing them start about 4 a.m. on the West Coast and 7 a.m. in New York, when audiences obviously be much smaller. Wagner realizes the benefit of having a significantly larger audience back in the United States but still finds the schedule to be disconcerting.
"I get the feeling it's all for TV," she said. "I understand you want to have the most people watching. But we want to be able to compete at our best. TV should have to work around that."
A spokesperson for NBC said in a Wednesday email, “It would be premature for us to comment at this time given that the Pyeongchang schedule is still a work in progress.”