Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada lead a competitive field after the short dance on Sunday from PyeongChang. They scored 83.67 points to notch the new highest score ever recorded in the short dance.
The three American teams all sit in the top seven, with one in bronze medal territory and another 0.02 points behind in fourth.
Virtue and Moir won Olympic ice dance gold in 2010 and took silver in 2014. They took two years of competition off following Sochi, but returned for an undefeated season in 2016-17.
"We really want to win this individual gold,” Moir told media. “It's a really deep field and we have to really be on our game. The Americans are so strong, the French are so strong and we even have a Canadian in the mix. We just have to keep going and keep plugging away it's a two-day event.”
Virtue and Moir already won a gold medals in PyeongChang as part of the Canadian squad in the team event. They competed both the short and free dance phases of the team event and won both portions. They also were honored as Canada’s flag bearers in the Opening Ceremony.
Going up against their training mates is nothing new for Virtue and Moir: they won against training mates Meryl Davis and Charlie White in Vancouver, though took silver behind Davis and White in Sochi.
Virtue and Moir’s training partners Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron from France suffered a costume malfunction that plagued them throughout their performance. However, they continued skating and scored 81.93 points, good enough for second place.
Papadakis and Cizeron are making their Olympic debut in PyeongChang. They did not participate in the team competition, so the short dance was their first time competing on Olympic ice. Papadakis and Cizeron won the most recent head-to-head competition against the Canadians, the Grand Prix Final in December.
“It was a great performance considering the costume issue,” Cizeron said, adding that they would’ve performed better without the issue. “That is not something you get ready for in your mind when you start the programme. It is hard to stay focused.”
Hubbell and Donohue are making their Olympic debuts in PyeongChang as the reigning U.S. national champions. They scored a personal best 77.75 points to reach third place in the short dance.
Hubbell and Donohue moved to Montreal to train in 2015. They train alongside both Virtue/Moir and Papadakis/Cizeron, leading many – including them – to believe that a “Montreal sweep” is possible.
"I am really looking forward to going back out there tomorrow,” Hubbell said. “I was so busy being focused, it was hard to really enjoy it. I am looking forward to being back on the ice for the free dance."
Maia and Alex Shibutani, competing in their second event in PyeongChang, sit behind Hubbell and Donohue in fourth place by 0.02 points.
The Shibutanis already have bronze medals from the team event from earlier in PyeongChang They contributed their short and free dances to the team event, and finished second in the field both times. At the 2014 Olympics, the brother-sister team finished ninth.
"We're riding high after the team event and the short dance performance,” Alex said. “Since the team event we've made a lot of improvement. We feel really good and we're enjoying this right now, but we'll turn our attention to the free dance."
"It's the Olympics, you're going to be a little nervous, but at the end of the day I know that I'm out there with Alex and we just really trust and believe in each other and in ourselves,” Maia added.
The third U.S. dance team in the field, Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished sixth with 75.45 points.
PyeongChang marks Bates’ third time at an Olympic Games: 2010 (with a different partner, finishing 11th), and with Chock in 2014 (they finished eighth), and now 2018. Bates was voted team captain for the U.S. figure skating delegation.
In the warm up, Chock visibly grimaced while practicing a lift, and explained in the mix zone that it was due to an injury she has been dealing with all season.
“It’s an injury I have been dealing with all season and it just so happens, that it happened the same way on the same foot (the right foot),” she said. “It is an osteochondral lesion, it is a fancy word for a piece of loose bone fragment in the joint, where the top bone meets the foot bone in the ankle.
“But I have been managing it well all season and that just give it a little shock. It was a good fight and I think we skated it really well. We're so happy regardless of the scores and how I may have felt after the warm-up.”
For more in-depth analysis, check out the Olympic Ice post-show with Kristi Yamaguchi, Charlie White and Ben Agosto.
The free dance is Monday, February 19 in Primetime on NBC and NBCOlympics.com.