The Olympics are so big. So many countries participating, so many people watching. For two weeks, we see figure skating on the biggest stage in the world. Well, I’m happy to say that the pairs skaters did not disappoint when it was their turn to take the stage in Pyeongchang. It was a great pairs event, by any measure you could think of. The overall standard of quality was high, the pairs delivered many personal-best programs, and the drama at the top was intense. When it was all over, Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot were the new Olympic champions. And they were joined on the podium by two other great teams: Sui/Han and Duhamel/Radford. It was a truly satisfying end to a competition that fans had looked forward to for years.
We often hear skaters speak of their “journey” in competitive figure skating. For Aliona Savchenko, the journey has been much longer than for most. Savchenko started skating pairs at the senior international level all the way back in the 1999-2000 season. 18 years ago! At times, it seemed like her dream of Olympic gold would never come true. But Aliona Savchenko persisted …. and finally the journey led her and partner Bruno Massot to Olympic gold in Pyeongchang.
Not only did Savchenko/Massot win this competition, they did so in the most dramatic fashion possible. After falling behind in the short program (4th place), the Germans came charging back in the free skate. Skating first in the final group, they put out a beautiful, near-perfect free skate to earn a new world-record LP score and take the lead. Then the waiting began. One by one, the other pairs in the final group tried to beat Savchenko/Massot’s massive score … one by one, they failed. When the final scores came up after the last performance, Savchenko started to cry–then stood up and pumped her fists. The tiny, but indomitable, Aliona Savchenko was Olympic champion. She hugged partner Bruno Massot in gratitude.
What has spurred Savchenko on for so many years? Her sheer love of the sport and competition. “When you go to a competition, you are going to work, but you are doing what you love,” she explained before the Olympics. “I enjoy every second of it, the adrenaline flowing, the public giving you energy, and you giving it back.”
And that’s exactly what Savchenko/Massot did in Korea. They gave the audience two wonderful programs—and used the energy of the crowd to help push their skating to the highest level. Watching them, you could see they were performing not just for the judges, but for everyone in the arena and around the world. It was a triumph.
Savchenko/Massot’s “That Man” SP was excellent. Except for Bruno doubling his SBS 3S. Aside from that one mistake, it was a charming and dynamic performance. Aliona/Bruno started with their trademark super-high triple twist. The twist has been this team’s calling card since they first joined forces; and it’s actually gotten even better this season. Aliona has worked hard to achieve a full split position before the rotations start; she also put her hand above her head for the ‘Tano feature. Savchenko/Massot earned a perfect score for this twist—level 4 and straight +3s from the judges (8.70 points). They also had a perfect score for their step sequence (6.00 points), which was so well-deserved. The quick steps, dance holds, and musical flourishes in Aliona/Bruno’s step sequence make it very challenging, and they not only performed it well technically but also had great animation. Their throw 3F was very high, and Aliona had to bend low to save the landing, but held on. Artistically, this program is so unique, charming, and beautifully choreographed. Despite the jump mistake, Savchenko/Massot kept the performance level very high, deservedly earning mid- to -high-9s in PCS. Aliona/Bruno posted a score of 76.59—excellent, but only good enough for 4th in this stellar field. Some questioned if Aliona/Bruno’s SP placement was too high, given the doubled jump. But considering the quality of their other elements and the program itself, I think the marks were justified.
Going into the long program, Savchenko/Massot were a daunting 5.8 points out of the lead. However, Aliona Savchenko was not discouraged. “I said to Bruno: ‘We will write history today,‘” Savchenko related. “And then everything happened as I had imagined, and it came true.”
Savchenko/Massot’s long program to “La Terre Vue du Ciel” was a masterpiece on ice. Every element in the program was completed with such high quality. Aliona/Bruno again earned a perfect score for their level 4 triple twist. Both throw jumps (3F, 3S) were breathakingly high and landed safely on one foot. Savchenko/Massot also hit both sets of SBS jumps (3S/2T/2T and 3T). They had excellent coverage, speed, and positions in all 3 lifts; their closing Axel lasso lift also earned a near-perfect score. Their spins and death spiral were excellent as usual; and all their elements were level 4. Technique aside, it was just a mesmerizing performance overall. Time seemed to stand still as they skated. Every expression and movement from Aliona seemed perfect; and Bruno was strong and assured in his partnering. The connection between the partners felt close, even soulful. And their speed and flow was lovely. The crowd erupted in applause when they finished, and Aliona sank to the ice for a few moments, overcome by emotion. When the score came up, it was 159.31. They had beaten their previous world record by over 2 points.
It was a thrilling victory for Savchenko/Massot. And an incredibly satisfying moment for Aliona Savchenko and her many fans.
For reigning World champions Sui/Han, this Olympics was bittersweet. They skated very well in Korea and came extremely close to the gold medal, but ultimately had to settle for silver.
I thought Sui/Han’s “Hallelujah” SP was one of the best programs of the entire Olympics. Wenjing/Cong skated with such joy, freedom, and abandon in this performance, both of them just giving themselves to the emotion of the song. It was amazing and went by so quickly. They received six 10.00s in PCS, with other marks in the 9s; very well-deserved. Technically, the performance was also exceptional. They had nice speed going in to their SBS 3Ts and successfully landed them. The throw 3F was great, as was their level 4 ‘Tano triple twist. They also had very good speed and flow in their step sequence and star lift. Sui/Han earned a new personal-best score of 82.39 to easily win the short program.
With the gold medal on the line, Sui/Han went for it, delivering a fine free skate. Their opening level 3 quad twist earned 9.60 points; a good start. However, Cong singled the middle jump in their SBS 3T/2T/2T combo. This mistake, though seemingly minor, was actually quite costly, as the GOE penalty applied to the whole combination. They earned only 4.80 points for the combo (whereas they earned 8.20 points for it at the Grand Prix Final). Then Wenjing stepped out of their next jump, the SBS 3S. Again, the final result was a 2-point swing downward. The rest of their elements were quite strong. Their throw 3F was enormous, and the throw 3S was also excellent and received a perfect score (6.60 points). Lifts and spins looked good as well. However, crucially, Sui/Han lost levels on 2 elements—their pairs spin and final star lift. Again, while seemingly not a big deal, this cost them another 1.50 points off their technical score. Artistically, their Turandot program was exciting and well-delivered, and they again received 10.00s (four of them), with most other scores in the mid-9s. Altogether it was a very good program for Sui/Han. Yet, I felt a certain tension in their skating; it wasn’t quite as free and easy as their short program had been. And although their Turandot is very well-crafted, ultimately it lacks the originality and mesmerizing quality of Savchenko/Massot’s LP. Their total PCS (76.79) was just a bit behind the Germans (77.24). That, coupled with the few technical errors, was enough to drop Sui/Han to a surprising 3rd place in the long program. They scored 153.08 and finished 2nd overall. Sui/Han ended just 0.43 points away from gold.
It was a disappointing finish to their Olympics, but Sui/Han showed great dignity and class in congratulating Savchenko/Massot, the winners. Wenjing revealed after the event that she had been suffering from painful shin splints in the weeks before the Games. Given that, Sui/Han’s silver-medal performances in Korea are all the more impressive.
For Duhamel/Radford, this was truly a joyful Olympics. First they helped win a gold medal for Canada in the team event. Then they turned in 2 heartfelt and technically strong performances to win the bronze medal in the individual pairs event. After a challenging season last year, it was great to see Meagan/Eric end their career on such a high note in Pyeongchang and win two medals.
Duhamel/Radford’s “With or Without You” SP was emotional and well-skated. I love the softness of this program—it’s such an interesting contrast with Duhamel/Radford’s athleticism. Technically, this actually wasn’t the strongest SP Meagan/Eric have put out this season. Eric landed forward on their SBS 3Lz, incurring some -1s. Also, slow-mo replay showed that Meagan 2-footed the throw 3Lz. However, the judges missed this in real time, and Duhamel/Radford did not receive negative GOE for the element. Their level 3 triple twist scored well, and their star lift was very good, with nice speed and smoothness. Their level 4 step sequence was lovely, with excellent edges and great emotion. Despite the few technical issues, Duhamel/Radford brought wonderful expression and quality to this program. They scored 76.82 for 3rd.
Duhamel/Radford then delivered a triumphant and joyful performance of their “Hometown Glory” LP (invoking memories of their epic skate to this music at Worlds 2016). I was so impressed with this program! Meagan/Eric had to skate right after Savchenko/Massot’s world-record LP, and it would have been so easy for them to be unnerved or discouraged. Instead, Meagan/Eric seemed to channel all the positive energy of the Olympics to put out one of their best free skates. They started with a good level 3 triple twist. The SBS 3Lz was again a bit messy—Meagan put both hands down. However, they recovered beautifully with a high and clean throw quad Salchow! It’s always so exciting to see Meagan land this difficult jump. Their SBS 3S/2T/2T combo had good flow in & out, and their throw 3Lz was great, with nice height. By this point, Meagan was smiling from ear to ear, obviously thrilled to have skated so well! Her evident joy helped lift the performance to an even higher level. Eric, as always, was the rock in this program, remaining calm and focused as he successfully completed their level 4 lifts. Only as they finished their last lift did Eric finally allow himself a smile! They scored a season’s-best 153.33 for 2nd LP/3rd overall.
Having followed this team for many years now, I’m so happy that Meagan/Eric skated well in Korea and achieved their dreams. Their disappointment in Sochi 4 years ago was not so much losing an individual medal, as simply not skating their best there. Here, they not only skated their best but also won that individual medal. What a storybook ending!
This Olympics started so well for Tarasova/Morozov, with a terrific performance in the team event to help win a silver medal for the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) team. That success carried over to the short program in the individual event. However, things went completely awry in the long program, and Tarasova/Morovoz finished off the podium in 4th.
Tarasova/Morozov’s Rachmaninov No. 2 short program was simply spectacular. Their big technical elements in this program were of the highest quality. Their SBS 3Ts were strong, with great runout. Their level 4 triple twist was textbook–high, quick, and clean. And the throw 3Lp was huge and gorgeous. Both the twist and throw received perfect scores from the judges: all +3s. As good as the elements were, the most impressive aspect of the program was Evgenia/Vladimir’s skating skills. Their speed and ice coverage through all the footwork was simply amazing. The routine lacked the emotional impact of the other top teams’ short programs. But as a display of technical ability, it was stunning. Tarasova/Morozov scored a season’s-best 81.68 for 2nd and looked ready to challenge for gold.
In the long program, the Russians drew to skate last in the final group. I don’t know if the wait got to them; perhaps they knew how well the previous teams had skated. In any case, Evgenia/Vladimir looked a bit tense and serious as they started their “Candyman” LP. Their opening quad twist went okay. It looked like there was a bit of contact on the catch, but it got level 3 and no negative GOE. Then they went for the SBS 3S … and Evgenia doubled. Just like that, their gold-medal chances were in jeopardy. Evgenia then lost control of the landing on the throw 3S; it was counted as a fall. With that error, gold was out of reach, and Tarasova/Morozov were just fighting for a medal. They recovered with a good SBS 3T/2T/2T combo and a decent reverse Lasso lift. However, the life had gone out of the program. They were hesitant entering the death spiral and lost 2 levels (1 point) on it. Their throw 3Lp was very high and received a perfect score (although slow-mo replay suggested that Tarasova might have 2-footed again). Evgenia/Vladimir got through the remaining elements without error, but there was little to no expression in their skating; clearly, they were distracted by the mistakes. When the score came up in the kiss-n-cry, it was still pretty high: 143.25. They earned mostly low-9s in PCS, despite the lackluster performance. However, with the other teams putting out top-level skates, it wasn’t enough, and they dropped to 4th LP/overall. Their total score was 5.22 points behind Duhamel/Radford’s.
It was a very disappointing result for Tarasova/Morozov.
The French team were considered an outside medal threat coming into Pyeongchang, and they skated quite well overall. But with such strong competition above them, it wasn’t enough to break through for a medal. They finished 5th.
James/Cipres’s bluesy short program to “Make It Rain” was very good. After a tough skate in the team event, Vanessa/Morgan seemed to get their mojo back in this program, showing nice intensity, presence, and connection between them. The program was entertaining to watch and well-delivered. They opened with a good level 4 triple twist. Their SBS 3S were confidently landed, with great speed coming out, and their throw 3F had a lot of height. Their star lift was also a highlight, with good speed and smoothness. James/Cipres earned 75.34 for 6th.
In the free skate, James/Cipres returned to “Sound of Silence,” the LP that was a sensation for them last year. Technically, the program was solid, but not their best. Their opening level 4 triple twist was very good, with great height, and they completed their SBS 3T/2T/2T combo. However, Vanessa had an awkward landing on the throw quad Salchow attempt—she 2-footed, put her hands down, and spun out. That cost nearly 3 points. Then, Vanessa doubled the SBS 3S for another 3-point loss. James/Cipres recovered with a fine Axel lasso lift and throw 3F. Altogether, it was a good program, but not great. Their choreography and interpretation were strong, but I felt the mistakes did affect the performance level a bit. Their PCS scores were good, though; mostly in the high-8s and low-9s. James/Cipres scored a season’s-best 143.19 for 5th LP/overall.
Although James/Cipres fell short of a medal here, they may be in the mix for one at Worlds next month.
The Italians had the best competition of their career in Pyeongchang, setting new personal-best scores in both segments to finish 6th. It was great to see Marchei/Hotarek hit such a career high on the biggest stage of all!
Marchei/Hotarek’s “Tu vuo fa l’Americano” SP was fun to watch and a big hit with the audience! I’ve been a little slow to warm up to this perky program, but Valentina/Ondrej won me over here. They skated the routine with so much liveliness and charm that it was impossible to resist. Everything was on point, from their facial expressions to their timing to their quick feet in the step sequence. They also delivered some very good technical elements. They opened the program with a great set of SBS 3S. There was a little problem on the level 3 triple twist—Valentina wrapped her arm around Ondrej’s shoulder on the catch—but they still had positive GOE overall on the element. Their throw 3Lz was excellent, with a very strong landing. And they killed it in their final level 4 step sequence, showing a ton of personality. Marchei/Hotarek scored an impressive 74.50 for 7th.
Marchei/Hotarek then followed with a very good long program. Like their short program, their Amarcord LP is comedic and whimsical. Many skaters wouldn’t feel comfortable with this kind of material, but Valentina/Ondrej don’t hold back at all. Their animated facial expressions, clever acting, and the theatrical quality of their movement all made the program work artistically. Again, they delivered on the technical side, showing a consistency that’s eluded them in the past. Their opening level 3 triple twist had some height and earned positive GOE. Their SBS 3Ts were good, if a bit far apart, and their SBS 3S/2T/2T combo was solid. Both throw jumps (3Lp, 3Lz) had good height and strong landings, earning +2s. Lifts were also well-done, with good ice coverage and smooth transitions. It was just a very complete and well-executed program. Marchei/Hotarek’s PCS scores improved into the mid- to high-8s for this performance. They scored 142.09 to place a surprising 6th LP/overall.
I loved the energy and enthusiasm that Marchei/Hotarek brought to these Games. Sometimes the Olympics can be so stressful that it affects skaters’ performances. That wasn’t the case for Marchei/Hotarek at all, and it was great to see them have some fun. With their success in Korea, I feel like Marchei/Hotarek have definitely put themselves in the conversation for a medal next month at Worlds in their home country.
Zabijako/Enbert had a good competition at the Olympics to place 7th. They skated well, setting new season’s-best scores in both programs.
Zabijako/Enbert’s Summer of ’42 short program was lovely and clean. Their opening level 3 triple twist had nice height and pop, earning 7.30 points. They were a bit slow going into the SBS 3Ts, but landed the jumps well. Their throw 3Lp was solid, with good height. They skated their level 4 step sequence with lots of attack and speed and were rewarded with almost straight +3s (5.90 points). Overall, Zabijako/Enbert had lovely flow and line in this program—if a bit less personality than, say, James/Cipres or Marchei/Hotarek. Interestingly, their PCS scores were rather mixed. Some judges issued marks in the mid-8s, while other judges gave straight 9s. Zabijako/Enbert scored 74.35 for 8th.
Zabijako/Enbert’s “ballet dancers” LP was also pretty strong. Their level 3 triple twist was again very good, and they completed the SBS 3T/2T/2Lp combo without a problem. As usual, they struggled on the SBS 3S, with Natalia coming out forward and early. The jump was downgraded. Their throw 3Lz was forward on the landing and received a couple negative GOE marks. The throw 3Lp was fine. Zabijako/Enbert have great SBS spins, and it was nice to see those rewarded with almost straight +2s. However, I did feel their GOE marks for lifts were a bit high. Their lifts were okay, but could have been faster and with better positions; still, they earned a majority of +2s. Artistically, the program left a mixed impression. I really love the classicism of Natalia/Alexander’s skating—the stretch, extension, line, and attack. Those qualities tend to be missing with many pairs these days, so I really appreciate that Natalia/Alexander still bring that to their skating. However, the music in the first couple sections of this program is a bit muted and introspective, and it sort of emphasizes this team’s lack of emotion and connection. Natalia/Alexander are a beautiful pair, but they don’t really relate to each other on the ice. It’s like they’re just skating side by side, instead of interacting as a couple. Such criticisms aside, it was still a very good LP, and Zabijako/Enbert scored 138.53 to pull up to 7th LP/overall.
After their strong 4th-place finish at Worlds last year, it was quite a surprise to see Yu/Zhang finish only 8th in Pyeongchang.
Yu/Zhang opened the competition with a very good short program to Swan Lake. They looked sharp and confident in this performance. They started well with a fine set of SBS 3Ts that had good speed in & out. Next came a huge level 4 triple twist that earned mostly +3s (8.60 points). Their throw 3Lp was also huge and beautiful, as usual (7.10 points). All their other technical elements were level 4 and very well-executed. Yu/Zhang skated with impressive speed and power, and I just love the regal, beautiful quality that Xiaoyu Yu brings to this program (so well suited to the Swan Lake theme). Yu/Zhang earned a season’s-best 75.58 for 5th and seemed to be off to a great start.
Unfortunately, things fell apart in their Star Wars free skate. Yu/Zhang had one of their worst LPs since teaming up 2 years ago. The program opened with Xiaoyu falling hard on the SBS 3S. (They were fortunate not to get an underrotation call.) Then, there were more problems on the SBS 3T/2T. Xiaoyu 2-footed the 3T and came out early on the 2T, which was downgraded. The level 4 triple twist was again gorgeous, and the throw 3Lp was amazing as well. Both elements got a majority of +3s. But then Xiaoyu unexpectedly slipped and fell awkwardly on the throw 3S landing. Yu/Zhang’s throw jumps are usually rock-solid, so I was really surprised. It looked like Xiaoyu’s right shoulder might have dipped a bit low on the takeoff, possibly causing the problem. From that point, it was a fight to get through the rest of the program. Xiaoyu/Hao were off on the SBS spins, and their Axel lasso lift dismount was awkward. Despite all the mistakes, I felt that Xiaoyu still brought a lot of intensity and strong performance level to the program. But it just wasn’t their day, and they scored only 128.52, well below their normal standard, to fall to 11th LP/8th overall.
It was a very disappointing result for Yu/Zhang, who were considered an outside medal threat coming into the Games. I’m sure they’ll look to rebound at Worlds in Milan.
This season, Seguin/Bilodeau have been working their way back from several concussion injuries. It’s been a slow build, but they had their best competition of the season in Pyeongchang to place an impressive 9th.
Seguin/Bilodeau’s “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” SP was fairly good overall. However, there were several technical issues. Their opening level 3 triple twist was marginal in terms of rotation and there appeared to be contact on the catch. However, they received only 1 negative GOE mark. Their SBS 3S were completed. Then Julianne put a hand down on the throw 3Lp, incurring straight -1s. Their lift exit looked slightly off, and they also lost lost a level on their step sequence and pairs spin. Considering all this, I thought their marks were a tad generous for this program. As usual, they demonstrated great skating skills; but I felt the program didn’t really shine in interpretation or musicality. However, they earned a season’s-best score of 67.52 for 12th.
Seguin/Bilodeau put out a much cleaner performance in the LP. Their level 3 triple twist was good, and they landed both sets of SBS jumps cleanly (3S, 3T/2T). Their throw 3Lz had good height, if not much distance. Their throw 3Lp was tilted in the air, but Julianne hung on to the landing. The standout element was their Axel lasso lift, which was smooth and fast, earning almost straight +2s (8.90 points). The rest of their technical elements were fine (although they did lose sync a bit on the SBS spins). Artistically, the program was pleasant to watch, but not much more than that. I find both the music and choreography in this “Where’s My Love?” program a bit generic. There really aren’t any distinctive moments or emotional high points, it’s just blandly lyrical. PCS marks were mostly in the mid-8s, though. Seguin/Bilodeau scored a season’s-best 136.50 to pull up to 8th LP/9th overall.
It was a solid competition for Seguin/Bilodeau, which should bode well for their results at Worlds next month.
I was proud of Della Monica/Guarise at this competition. After a disappointing performance at Europeans, they fought back here at the Olympics to make the top 10. It was a solid result for them.
Della Monica/Guarise delivered a terrific season’s-best performance of their “Magnificat” SP. Their opening set of SBS 3S was well-landed. They followed with a solid level 3 triple twist—not one of their higher twists, but the catch was clean. And the throw 3Lp was nice, with a smooth running edge on the landing. Their level 4 step sequence was very good also, with nice edges, power, and complexity in the steps. It was a really strong program technically, and they earned many +2s and even some +3s in GOE. Not only that, Nicole/Matteo were really emotionally present and engaged in the program. It seemed to go by very quickly! They scored a personal-best 74.00 for 9th place.
Unfortunately, Della Monica/Guarise’s Tree of Life LP wasn’t as clean as their SP. But it was still a good effort and enough to hold on for the top-10 finish. The program started well, with Nicole/Matteo again landing the SBS 3S. Their level 3 triple twist was a bit scratchy on the landing, and the catch was a bit high. However, there was no negative GOE, and the twist earned 6.80 points. Their planned SBS 3T/2T combo turned into a 3T/1T, and the 1T was downgraded. The throw 3Lp looked very good in real time … but slow-mo replay showed that Nicole 2-footed the jump. Only 1 judge appeared to see the error, issuing a -1; the remaining GOE marks were positive. This was a lucky break for Nicole/Matteo (probably a 2-point swing in their favor). Many of the non-jump elements were beautifully performed. The lifts and spins all had very good speed and very nice positions, earning many +2s. Artistically, the program was really interesting to watch, with curving pattern shapes and very nice transitions. Nicole/Matteo showed passion and good connection with each other. Unfortunately, Nicole fell on the throw 3S toward the end of the program, right at a big crescendo in the music, which detracted from the overall impression. Della Monica/Guarise scored in the high-7s to low-8s in PCS. Despite the errors, they still earned a personal-best 128.74 for 10th LP/overall.
Skating in their first Olympics together, Moore-Towers/Marinaro had a good competition to place 11th. The Canadians looked well-prepared for this event.
Moore-Towers/Marinaro had a few mistakes in the short program. Their level 3 triple twist lacked height, and Kirsten landed partly on Mike’s shoulder, leading to some negative marks. Their throw 3Lp was good, with a strong running edge out. But then Mike missed his toe pick on the 3T takeoff and came out early. The jump was counted as a 2T, costing at least 3 points. Kirsten/Mike recovered with a good level 4 step sequence, showing fine speed and edges. Mike was a bit tentative on the star lift, but got it done. I thought their “Sweet Dreams” SP was stylish and entertaining to watch, with great skating skills and a lot of nice detail in the program. The only criticism I might have is that the energy ebbed and flowed a bit from one section to another—ideally, they want to keep a steady attack and speed throughout. Kirsten/Mike scored in the high-7s to low-8s for PCS. They earned 65.68 for 13th.
Moore-Towers/Marinaro then came back with an excellent performance in the free skate. They drew to skate first in the long program—not an easy spot—but were unfazed. Their level 3 triple twist was similar to that in the short program, and received some negative GOE. Mike also had problems with the last jump in the SBS 2A/1Lp/3S combination. However, the GOE damage from these mistakes was minimal, with only about 1 point lost. And the rest of their program was clean and very well-delivered. They hit the SBS 3T, and both throw jumps (3Lp, 3S) had nice speed on the landings. Lifts and spins were all well-done and level 4. I really enjoy this pensive, thoughtful program to “Un Ange Passe,” and Kirsten/Mike skated it with a nice tender quality throughout. They earned a new personal-best 132.43 to pull up to 9th LP/11th overall.
Last year was difficult for Moore-Towers/Marinaro, with Kirsten suffering a serious concussion. So it was nice to see them come back from that and have a great Olympic experience.
Astakhova/Rogonov were a late addition to the OAR team. They finished 12th.
Astakhova/Rogonov’s Carmina Burana SP was pretty solid. They hit a nice set of SBS 3S to start, then followed with a level 4 triple twist. They had a good split on the twist and scored 7.10 points. Their throw 3F wasn’t the biggest, but was clean and scored well. Kristina/Alexei’s other elements were pretty good, and they skated with a lot of power, expression, and maturity. I like how Kristina/Alexei just go for it in their skating. There’s never any hesitation or holding back; and this powerful program is a good fit for their style. They earned high-7s to mid-8s in PCS. Their total score of 70.52 put them in 10th.
Unfortunately, Astakhova/Rogonov couldn’t maintain this level in their LP. Problems started right on the opening SBS 3T/2T combo—Kristina fell on the first jump and omitted the second. They came back with a clean level 4 triple twist, but both turned out of the SBS 3S. Their throw 3F was fine, but Kristina fell on the throw 3Lp. Their SBS spins were also out of sync. In general, it just seemed like Kristina/Alexei were off in this program. Their spin and lift elements were a bit slow and not up to their usual quality. With so many mistakes, their fanciful, lighthearted La La Land program just fell flat. It lacked the charm and vivacity they had shown earlier this season. Astakhova/Rogonov scored 123.93, well off their season’s-best, to fall to 13th LP/12th overall.
I’m sure it wasn’t quite the Olympic experience Astakhova/Rogonov were looking for. They will get another opportunity to rebound at Worlds, as Stolbova/Klimov recently announced their withdrawal from that event. Astakhova/Rogonov will replace them.
Fresh off their bronze medal at Four Continents, Ryom/Kim skated very well in Pyeongchang and placed 13th.
As usual, Ryom/Kim sparkled in their entertaining short program to “A Day in the Life.” The North Koreans showed nice speed and energy and engaged with the crowd, smiling and finishing off their moves with flourishes. They had nice connection and chemistry. Ryom/Kim’s technical elements in this program were all clean and well-done. Their level 3 triple twist had great height and a clean catch; and their SBS 3Ts and their throw 3Lp were good. Their other elements were all level 4 and well-executed. Ryom/Kim earned a new personal-best 69.40 for 11th.
Ryom/Kim’s long program was also good, if not quite as captivating as their SP. Their opening triple twist was a bit messy and got only level 1. They were quite slow going into the SBS 3T/2T combo, but landed it. They also hit their SBS 2As for the first time in competition (although the jumps were far apart and off sync). Ryom/Kim got some negative GOE on both jump passes, but still earned 8.71 points on them total—not bad. Both throw jumps (3Lp, 3S) were completed. Ryom/Kim’s lifts were quite good, but they lost levels on both spins. Artistically, their long program didn’t really register with me. I’m not clear on what Ryom/Kim are trying to express with this program, set to the lyrical French song “Je Ne Suis Qu’une Chanson.” The music, costumes, and choreography are all fine on their own, but don’t really come together to create a coherent impression or theme. Regardless, Ryom/Kim posted another personal-best score of 124.23 for 12th LP/13th overall.
Ryom/Kim looked so happy to be competing in Pyeongchang. It’s like they brought some rays of sunshine with them to South Korea. Hopefully we’ll see them again at Worlds.
Young Czech team Duskova/Bidar successfully came back from surgery to skate in Pyeongchang. With Duskova off the ice for several months before the Games, I wasn’t expecting them to make the long program. But they did, and placed a respectable 14th overall.
Duskova/Bidar’s “LA40” SP was really a delight to watch. Anna/Martin skated this program with a light, deft touch, skimming through their choreography with great speed and lovely, clean lines. The light classical music complemented their style well. Anna/Martin have great chemistry, especially for such a young team, and a nice liveliness to their skating. Their technical elements were pretty good. Martin had some problems on the opening SBS 3Ts, stepping out and putting a hand down. But they recovered with a very nice level 3 triple twist and a solid throw 3Lz. They also had good speed and expression throughout their level 4 step sequence. Duskova/Bidar scored 63.25 for 15th place.
The Czechs didn’t look quite as confident in their Cirque du Soleil LP. While their SP is two seasons old, this long program is new this year. And with Anna’s injury, they haven’t gotten a chance to skate it very often. As a result, the program was quite rough around the edges. Some of the transitions looked a bit awkward or ill-timed. Artistically, it didn’t have the precision and unison that we usually see from Duskova/Bidar—understandable, considering their lack of training time. Their technical elements were also a bit messy. Their opening SBS 3Ts were far apart, with Martin spinning out and Anna landing forward. The SBS 3S/2T combo was a bit dicey, with both having to fight for the 3S and Martin 2-footing the 2T. Fortunately, their throw jumps (3Lz, 3S) were both good. Lifts were fairly good as well. Duskova/Bidar earned low- to mid-7s for PCS. They scored 123.08 to pull up to 14th LP/overall.
It was a great first Olympics for this team. There’s every reason to think we’ll see them again in Beijing. And probably beyond.
After a great short program in the team event, hopes were high that the Knierims could repeat that success in the individual pairs event. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, and the Knierims placed a disappointing 15th.
The Knierims’ “Come What May” SP was fairly good. I felt their performance level in this routine was nice–they stayed focused on the audience and the judges, showing a lot of expression and emotion. However, they had a few mistakes on the technical elements. Their level 3 triple twist wasn’t as good as usual—there was a hitch on the landing and the catch wasn’t clean. They scored only 5.90 (about 2 points below their typical score). Then Chris turned out of the SBS 3S (-1.00 GOE) and Alexa put a hand down on the throw 3F (-0.50 GOE). They also lost a level on the death spiral. The loss of technical points was reflected in the final score: 65.55, which put the Knierims in 14th.
It didn’t get much better in the LP. The Knierims’ Ghost LP is so lovely and well-suited to them. But unfortunately, the technical elements in this program were not very strong. Alexa/Chris just looked tentative and cautious throughout the performance. They completed their big quad twist element (after omitting it in the team LP). It wasn’t the best they’ve done, but they earned positive GOE for 9.00 points. A good start. However, Alexa then 2-footed the throw 3S, and Chris put a hand down and spun out of the SBS 3S. Alexa/Chris went for their SBS 3T/2T combo; Chris fell on the 3T and omitted the second jump, so it didn’t end well. But at least they went for full rotation instead of doubling (as they did earlier this season). They did complete the throw 3F, albeit with a low, eked-out landing. In addition to these mistakes, Alexa/Chris lost levels on their Axel lasso lift, death spiral, and pairs spin. It was, unfortunately, their worst free skate of the season. They scored 120.27 to fall to 15th LP/overall.
The Knierims will look to rebound at Worlds. They’ll need stronger performances in Milan, with next year’s Worlds qualification on the line.
Together for less than a year, Hocke/Blommaert were surprise qualifiers to the free skate after a strong short program. They finished 16th.
Hocke/Blommaert’s “Big Spender” SP was quite a nice surprise in this event. Their level 2 triple twist was a bit iffy, and Ruben got too close to the boards on his SBS 3T. However, there was minimal GOE damage for these mistakes, and the rest of the program was very good. Hocke/Blommaert’s throw 3Lp had good distance and a nice landing edge. Their step sequence was also well-done, with nice speed, unison, and character. All their elements were level 4 except the twist. Annika/Ruben are very strong skaters and very sure in their movement. Nothing they do looks awkward or rushed; it’s all surprisingly smooth for such a new team. Although this program isn’t my favorite, they skated it with good expression. Their PCS marks were mostly in the high-6s to mid-7s. They scored 63.04 to place 16th and claim the final spot in the free skate.
Unfortunately, Hocke/Blommaert’s Romeo & Juiet LP was not as assured and secure as their SP. The Germans made quite a few technical mistakes in this routine. Their level 2 triple twist was not good, with a 2-foot landing and messy catch. Annika then doubled the first jump in the planned 3T/2T/2T combo. They landed the throw 3Lp and SBS 2A. However, Annika put a hand down on the throw 3S, and Ruben struggled quite a bit with the lifts. The reverse lasso lift was slow, and the final star lift appeared to come down about half a rotation early, without their usual dismount. Both lifts received negative GOE. Artistically, the performance didn’t work very well either. Annika was radiant and lovely as Juliet; however, Ruben was very blank in his expression throughout the program, and there was little interaction between them. It was a bit odd. Hocke/Blommaert scored 108.94 for 16th LP/overall.
Despite the disappointing LP, it was still a very successful event overall for Hocke/Blommaert–especially considering they’ve been together less than a year. It will be interesting to see what happens with this team going forward. I really like their basics and skating skills.
With so much depth in this Olympic field, some very good pairs missed the cut for the free skate here.
Foremost among them was Peng/Jin, who have slumped in their second season together. Peng/Jin’s “Assassin’s Tango” SP was well-choreographed and classy, but unfortunately Cheng Peng underrotated and fell on the SBS 3T. In a short-program event where most teams skated pretty cleanly, it was a mistake that they simply couldn’t afford. Peng/Jin finished 17th in the SP, just missing the cut …. Talented young Australian team Alexandrovskaya/Windsor also just missed, finishing 18th. The Aussies were pretty strong technically (although they had a hand down on the throw and lost a level on the step sequence). What really hurt them was their PCS scores (some marks were down in the 5s). As talented as the Aussies are, they do need to work on their musicality and expression, as well as get better programs next season …. Israeli team Conners/Krasnopolski skated fairly well in the SP, but a lack of sharpness and precision on the elements held them back, along with a rather bland program …. Ziegler/Kiefer‘s “500 Miles” SP had much more charm and personality than some of the other programs in this group, but their chances were doomed when Kiefer fell on the SBS 3T …. Suzaki/Kihara of Japan turned in a quite respectable SP, but their elements lacked the quality of some other teams’, and their presentation needs more development …. Unfortunately, host-nation team Kim/Kam struggled in their short program and finished last.
It was a thrilling pairs event in Pyeongchang, and the culmination of a 4-year journey for the skaters. In a small way, I feel like it’s been my journey too. I published my first pairs review on this web site in fall 2014, at the start of this quad. It was a review of Skate Canada, the second Grand Prix event that season. Since then, I’ve covered every Grand Prix competition and nearly every major pairs competition during this 4-year cycle. It’s been a pleasure to follow along on the athletes’ journey, and to see its culmination in Korea. Congratulations to all the pairs who qualified for, and competed in, the Pyeongchang Olympics!!
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