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Team figure skating, team luge new Olympic sports

In the luge relay, the slider hits a pad at the end of the run, opening the starting gate for the next  leg. (Photo by Matthias Rietschel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Matthias Rietschel/Bongarts/Getty Images

In the luge relay, the slider hits a pad at the end of the run, opening the starting gate for the next leg.

SOCHI, Russia — Among the 12 new medal offerings on the Olympic program are team events in figure skating and luge.

Skating, which hasn’t had a new competition since ice dancing was added in 1976, is combining its four disciplines with one man, one woman, one pair, and one dance couple competing in both short and long programs.

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Ten countries — the US, Canada, Russia, Japan, Germany, China, France, Ukraine, Italy, and Great Britain — qualified based on the results of last year’s World Championships and this season’s Grand Prix. The top five after the short program advance to the final, with the top three winning medals. The individual competitions in each event begin next week.

Points are awarded in descending order of placement, with the winner of each phase receiving 10. The points are added together from both segments for the four disciplines, with tiebreakers determining medalists if necessary.

The men and pairs competition began Thursday night while the women and dance events will be held Saturday evening along with the pairs free skate. Countries are allowed to make substitutions in two events before the long program, which benefits countries that have several entries in each individual discipline.

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In the luge team relay, the final event of the competition, each country enters a woman, a man, and a men’s doubles sled, which compete in that order from the same starting point. As sliders complete the run, they touch a finish pad that both registers the aggregate time and activates the starting gate for the following sled.

The starting order proceeds from the last-ranked sled to the sixth, with the top five seeded by random draw. The lowest combined time, computed to a thousandth of a second, determines the medalists. In case of ties, each sled receives the same medal. Thirteen countries qualified, including heavy favorite Germany and the US, which has a good chance at the podium.

John Powers can be reached at
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