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2022 Olympic Winter Games

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany

Alexa Knierim & Brandon Frazier (USA)




Chinese Favorites Sui and Han Win Gold in Pairs Event

The pairs free program at the Olympic Games had a very good level. Nine pairs gave world class performances, but the second half of the skaters made relatively many mistakes. To the delight of the home crowd in the Capital Indoor Stadium and several hundred million TV viewers in China, two time World Champions and 2018 Olympic silver medalists Wenjing Sui & Cong Han from China won the gold medal with 239.88 points, a new world record, in a close decision.

Sui & Han's first element was a small sensation because it was an outstanding quad twist with level 3 which got mainly GOEs of +4. Since the reduction of the points for quad elements in pair skating in the summer of 2018, no pair had performed any quad in their program because it did not seem worth the risk more.

This policy was set by the ISU because in pair skating the officials preferred more very good triples than shaky quads. The quads‘ base values were only around two more points than those of the same triple throws or twist with the same level. A very well executed triple therefore got more points than a shaky quad with a lower level because high levels for quads are more difficult to obtain than for triples. And many pair skaters are afraid of a quad twist because there is a bigger risk for the man to get heavily hit by the woman’s elbow or knee on his face (or deeper where it hurts most for men). But the new Olympic Champions‘ quad twist was outstanding. Han caught her perfectly on her hip, she did not touch him on the landing and they had 10.42 points for this quad, 1.42 more than Tarasova & Morozov for their triple twist with level 4 and nine GOEs of +5 which is the best triple twist in the world. Because of the tight decision, you can say that this quad helped to bring gold for Sui & Han.

Skating to “Bridge Over Troubled Water“ by Paul Simon and choreographed by Canadian Lori Nichol, the Chinese pair continued with a good combination of triple toe loop, double toe loop and another double toe loop. Wenjing Sui‘s only mistake came when she landed the triple Salchow forward and it was therefore downgraded. This cost them around four points. The triple throw flip was outstanding and had nine GOEs of +5, their triple throw Salchow seven GOEs of +5. The three lifts also had some +5 and everything else was excellent as well. Their components were around 9.6, but there was no 10.0. They became the second Chinese pair to win an Olympic gold medal after their main coach Hongbo Zhao and Xue Shen won in 2010.

Han said, “Our dream came true in Beijing after four years. First of all, we want to thank our country. And we want to thank many people who helped us along the way.“ Sui added, “The key to our success is our perseverance, We suffered from a lot of injuries since we started. We were told we are not made for pair skating. There is no road for us ahead, but we paved a road for ourselves. Trying more difficult elements is an embodiment of the Olympic spirit, and so is perseverance.”

Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov from Moscow won the silver medal with 239.25 points and were very close to gold. The are coached by Maxim Trankov and Eteri Tutberidze. They opened their program to “Lighthouse“ by Patrick Watson with a clean but not very good side by side triple Salchow. After the best triple twist in the world with nine GOEs of +5, the jump combination of triple toe loop, double toe loop and another double toe loop was very good, like the two triple throws. The three lifts like all other elements were outstanding. Their components were around 9.6 as well and they had five 10.0. They had .13 points higher components than the Chinese, but .60 lower technical points. This was not enough to win gold but silver. At the 2018 Games they had been only fourth. Morozov commented, “All here are happy with their medal. In Figure Skating, an Olympic medal is the high of your career and so it means a lot to us. The past four years we have worked only for this moment and for this medal. When we ended our program, we were happy that it was over and we skated clean, did all elements with level 4.”

The reigning World champions Anastasia Mishina & Aleksandr Galliamov from St. Petersburg in Russia, students of Tamara Moskvina and Arthur Minshuk, took the bronze medal with 237.71 points and also gave an outstanding and flawless performance. Competing to “The Snowstorm“ by Georgi Sviridov, their first element was a good sequence of a triple Salchow, Euler and another triple Salchow. The ten other elements had mainly GOEs of +3 and +4, the triple throw loop even three GOEs of +5, and the components were around 9.4. Their third place contributed to the five medals Russia won in the individual four competitions as most successful country.

Mishina said, “When we were skating and all the elements went well, our usual feeling is that if we do our elements we will win. Here we knew it wouldn't work just like that and we were just happy all the elements went well. We will keep working and the third place gives us the motivation to work harder.” Galliamov added, “We only watched the competition when sitting in the green room. The first and second placed pairs were amazing. That's a great competition and we are grateful we can compete with such legendary athletes. For them these weren’t the first Olympics and we are glad we had the honor to compete with them.”

The third Russian pair of Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitrii Kozlovskii remained on fourth position with 220.50 points, skating to “Malaguena“ which was a bit old-fashioned. Most of their elements were excellent and had GOEs of +3, but Boikova’s triple toe loop got a q for being nearly under-rotated and she stepped out of the triple throw loop. Their components were around 8.9 and they said they were disappointed.

The second Chinese pair of Cheng Peng & Yang Jin remained fifth, winning 214.84 points and skating to the soundtrack of “The Banquet“. Peng doubled the side by side Salchow (which he tripled) and she stumbled, most other elements were very good.

Alexa Knierim & Brandon Frazier of Irvine, California, finished on sixth position, winning 212.68 points, the best U.S. Olympic pairs result in many years. They had mainly GOEs of +3, but also some +4. Performing to “Fix You“ by Coldplay and to “Redemption Through Love“ by Karl Hugo, Frazier doubled the Salchow which she tripled. The other ten elements were very good. This is only their second season together after skating for many years with other partners. They are coached by Jenni Meno and Todd Sand. They had been seventh at Worlds 2021, but could not take part at U.S. Nationals 2022 because Frazier had caught Covid-19 and was really sick.

Ashley Cain-Gribble & Timothy Leduc of Euless, Texas, came eighth with 198.05 points, skating to the soundtrack of W.E. Most elements were good, the choreo steps even excellent, but Cain-Gribble fell on the side by side triple loop and as well on the double loop of their jump combination with triple Salchow and double toe loop.

Between the two U.S. pairs, Riku Miura & Ryuichi Kihara from Japan finished seventh with 211.89 points with the fifth best free program. More convincing than all other pairs, the students of Bruno Marcotte in Canada made visible the joy of skating. Miura‘s two triple jumps were under-rotated, but all other elements excellent. Their components were around 8.9 and those for performance went up to 9.50, but should be even higher. Karina Safina & Lua Berulava from Georgia, only 17 and 19 years old and the youngest pair, gave a very good Olympic debut with an almost flawless free program, placing ninth with 192.44 points. The new Spanish pair of Laura Barquero & Marco Zandron was good and finished 11th with 181.36 points. The two Canadian, the Italian and all other pairs made mistakes and could not convince the jury.