2014 Winter Olympics: What is team figure skating?

marissa-castelli-simon-shnapir-winter-olympics-figure-skating.jpgThere are a handful of new Winter Olympic sports debuting at the 2014 Sochi games: The ski halfpipe (men's and women's), ski slopestyle (men's and women's), snowboard slopestyle (men's and women's), snowboard parallel slalom, women's ski jumping, biathlon mixed relay, the figure skating team event and a luge team relay.

You may be asking yourself what is team figure skating? Zap2it is here to help.

Each country competing
-- Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Russian, Ukraine and the United States -- chooses one entrant for each of four categories: Men's singles, women's singles, pairs and ice dancing.

Each entrant in the four categories performs a short program, and then the countries are cut to five for the free skate (or long program). A country does not have to have the same entrant compete in both short and long programs. For example, Ashley Wagner could skate for the U.S. in the short program and, if the U.S. makes the cut, Gracie Gold could skate the long program.

The scoring is as follows: Each entrant in a particular category will finish ranked from first to 10th. First place earns 10 points, second place earns nine and so on. After all eight portions are complete (the four categories skating both short and long programs), the country with the highest cumulative total wins the gold medal.

It's a lot like how gymnastics works during the Summer Olympics. The gymnasts, and now skaters, compete as a team and can earn a medal that way, then later in the games the athletes compete individually for medals.

The team figure skating competition begins Thursday, Feb. 6 with the men's and pairs short programs. The athletes competing for the U.S. are Jeremy Abbott in the men's short program , Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir in the pairs short program, Wagner in the women's short program and Meryl Davis/Charlie White in ice dancing.

The full schedule for the team portion is listed below:

Thursday, Feb. 6
10:30 a.m. ET, men's short program
12:10 p.m. ET, pairs short program

Saturday, Feb. 8

9:30 a.m. ET, ice dancing short program
11:10 a.m. ET, women's short program
1:05 p.m. ET, pairs free skate

Sunday, Feb. 9
10 a.m. ET, men's free skate
11:05 a.m. ET, women's free skate
12:10 p.m. ET, ice dancing free skate
1:30 p.m. ET, medals awarded

Follow all the action at the NBC Olympics official site.
Photo/Video credit: Getty Images