Sochi recap: Figure skating, pairs

Russia, Russia. Then Russia, Russia. The Olympic hosts really enjoyed this night, as their two figure skating pairs were magnificent. Canadian and American pairs had their moments, while Germany’s four-time world champions skidded to bronze.

Date: 12-Feb

Sport: Figure skating

Event: Pairs, free skate

Medalists: Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov (Russia), Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov (Russia), Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy (Germany)

SportsMyriad projections: Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov (Russia), Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy (Germany), Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (Canada)

How U.S. fared: Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir went for it once again. Depending on your definition of “landed,” they’re the first pair to land a quadruple Salchow throw in the Olympics. Castelli two-footed the landing but was given credit for it. They had a couple more bobbles on the way to a ninth-place finish.

Felicia Zhang and Nathan Barthomay weren’t as technically dazzling but skated cleanly, moving up from 14th in the short program to 12th overall.

What happened: A couple of favorites faltered. Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, fifth after the short program, had a fall that removed them from contention. China’s 16-year-old Chang Peng fell and had several more problems as she and Hao Zhang dropped down the standings.

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch took up the mantle for Canada, building momentum through a clean and flowing program that had Moore-Towers jumping up and down on the ice as the final notes of the music sounded. That performance was the best before the Big Four took the ice.

The Big Four started with the surprise — Russia’s Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, who had the thinnest resume of the final group. In October, they were a distant third behind their compatriots and Moore-Towers/Moscovitch at Skate America. Not this time. Skating to some music from The Addams Family, the young Russians nailed every element in their program, easily moving into the lead.

That was the warmup for the favorites, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. They also hit absolutely everything in an athletic program set to Jesus Christ Superstar. Not only did they get great scores for their elements, but their “component” scores were through the roof — everything at least a 9.46, with a 9.96 for “interpretation timing.” Home-crowd boost? Maybe a little, but no one could deny their greatness. They took the lead over Stolbova and Klimov as the Russian crowd exulted in the performances of their favorites.

Good luck following that, Qing Pang and Jian Tong! They botched their first combination jump — a planned double-double that turned into a double-single — but rebounded with tremendous composure. They slid into a tentative third place with one pair to go.

That pair was the four-time world champion German duo of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. The daring duo, in second place after their fun Pink Panther short program, hit trouble right away. Szolkowy tumbled after the first jump in a planned triple-triple combination. They bounced back with aplomb before heading into what NBC commentator Johnny Weir called a gutsy decision — a triple Salchow throw at the very end of the program. Savchenko flew up, spun, then landed with a nasty thud. Their component scores — and their short program — kept them on the podium.

Quote: “It’s not easy to grab someone by the hips after they’ve fallen from heaven.” – NBC’s Johnny Weir on the French pair of Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres.

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