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2017 World Championships: Pairs Free Skate

Sui & Han Win Their First World Championship

by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(31 March 2017)  The pair skating competition was the first one to be finished at the World Championships 2017 in Helsinki. The level of the competition was extremely high, there was much more depth than in previous years and ten pairs had more than 200 points (last year there were six).

The new world champions are Wenjing Sui & Cong Han from China with 232.06 points, but not everybody thought it was a correct decision, especially artistically. They began their free program with a very good quad twist which brought them 10.46 points. The combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop was good as well, but then she fell on the triple Salchow. Most of the remaining elements were excellent, including a throw triple flip and a throw triple Salchow, but the spin at the end had a little mistake. They skated to a new version of „Bridge over Troubled Water“ and had components of around 9.4, with one 10.0 for performance from the Austrian judge. This was a bit too high.

Sui commented: „We didn’t want to think too much, we just wanted to enjoy our program. My coach told us not think too much, just enjoy it. I have a good team they give me nice training plan to Four Continents we did twice as much as the others. Sometimes Cong can’t keep up with me, he feels tired.  The gold medal was our dream and we got step by step to the top of the podium. I think after the operation something has been changed. I enjoyed more and more our performances on the ice, I enjoy the cheers and the applause of the audience and I enjoy every moment on ice.“ Han added: „We feel very lucky because China will be hosting the 2022 Olympic Games, so all the people and the government give us a lot of support.“

Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot from Germany won the silver medal with 230.30 points, but some observers thought they should have won gold. They began with a huge triple twist, but it only got a level 2 (unlike in the short program where they had a level 4) because they did not want to disturb the flow with a difficult entry. The sequence of triple toe loop and double toe loop was good, the triple Salchow as well. They were the only pair to try a throw triple Axel, but the landing was a bit shaky. Most remaining elements were excellent, but the throw triple Salchow landed on two feet. The interpretation of their lyrical program to the music „Lighthouse“ by young North American singer Patrick Watson was outstanding and they should have had clearly higher components than the Chinese pair. Instead they had an average of 9.5, with six perfect 10.0 from three different judges. After Worlds, they will fly to Florida again to work on new programs with John Kerr.

Savchenko said: „I’m happy that it comes to these emotions. We had only two weeks of preparation after me being injured and then Bruno being injured. The season was short and long and really it gives us something to look forward to and to try. The mistakes from yesterday keep us working more and to think about how we can be better and how to overcome the mistakes. We had two great programs this year, but what we were lacking was training, just normal daily training and preparing for competitions. After Europeans we came back from Art on Ice (shows) and Bruno injured his back and we had another break.“

Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov won the bronze medal with 219.03 points. They had well recovered from the leg injury before the short program and performed a good free program to „Music is my First Love“ which included a quad twist (not completely clean) and a very good triple Salchow, but one lift was shaky and too short and they lacked a bit of emotions. „We have enjoyed tonight that we skated well,“ Morozov said. „We are very happy we have the bronze medal. Great for us, It was hard and difficult for us to be here to keep our place after the short program. Skating was hard for Evgenia.“

Xiaoyu Yu & Hao Zhang from China kept their fourth place from the short program, earning 211.51 points. Most of their elements were good, the throws even huge, but Yu’s toe loops were under-rotated and their style is not too elegant. The Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov from Russia moved up from the 13th place after the short program to fifth position, winning 206.72 points with the third best free program. Most triple and other elements were very good, only the individual jumps not clean. Liubov Iliushechkina & Dylan Moscovitch were the best of the three Canadian pairs, finishing sixth with 206.19 points. They were very happy to have secured three Olympic spots for Canada.

The 2016 World Champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were not better than throughout their season and ended up seventh with 206.06 points. Radford suffered from groin problems and fought through the free program. Duhamel fell on the throw quad Salchow, the lifts any many other elements were good, but they lacked of sparkle. Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès from France also fell on the throw quad Salchow, were less fascinating than at Europeans and finished eighth, earning 204.68 points.

The result in Helsinki decided about 16 of the 20 pair spots for the Olympic Games. China has spots number 1,2 and 3 because their best two pairs are first and fourth and therefore have less than 14 placements points together. Germany has spots number 4 and 5 (with a second and a 19th place (which bring more than 13 but less than 28 placement points). Russia has spots number 6, 7 and 8 (third and fifth place). Canada has spots number 9, 10 and 11 (six and seventh place), France has spots number 12 and 13 (8 and 18 placement points (18 for not having reached the final)). Italy has spots number 14 and 15 (9 and 13). These are 15 altogether. The USA have only the 16th spot although they had have less than 29 placements points together because not more than 16 spots were given in Helsinki. If Scimeca-Knierim & Knierim had won 1.6 more points and beaten the Italians Marchei/Hotarek, the USA would have two spots and Italy only one. It is the first time in decades that the U.S. has only one spot at Olympic Games in pairs.

Countries without any spot in Helsinki may send one team to the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf/Germany in late September to get one of the four remaining spots 17 to 20. This is a chance for the teams from the Czech Republic, North Korea, Australia, Japan, Austria, Croatia, Lithuania, Belorus, Hungary, Finland, Britain, Switzerland and countries who were not in Helsinki. If countries do not take their spot (for example because only one skater gets the necessary citizenship on time), the next countries from the Nebelhorn result are alternates. The second French male skater Andrei Novoselov for example is Russian and will probably not get French citizenship before the Olympics and France has not other pairs at the moment.