Sui Wenjing and Han Cong finally win Olympic gold in pairs figure skating; Americans short of medals
BEIJING — Sui Wenjing and Han Cong exploded from their seats in the kissing and crying area, and a small, carefully chosen crowd of Chinese fans in the stands did the same, as their scores were read out in the competition by pairs at the Beijing Olympics.
Four years after a crushing disappointment at the PyeongChang Games, when they lost the gold medal by the slimmest of margins, Sui and Han had turned the script around: they were the ones who walked away as Olympic champions with a margin very slim.
Sui and Han scored a world record 239.88 points with a flawless free skate on a rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, beating their Russian rivals Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov by just 63 hundredths of a point.
This is the stage that Sui and Han lost by 43 hundredths of a point four years ago.
The gold and silver difference may have been due to a botched opening triple salchow from Tarasova and Morozov, which prevented them from making up the 16 hundredths of a point they edged out by Sui and Han after the short program.
Tarazova and Morozov, coached in part by the polarizing Eteri Tutberidze, finished with 239.25 points to win the silver medal while their teammates Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov, the reigning world champions, scored 237.71 for win the bronze medal and cap a strong – and controversial – Winter Games for the Russians.
Their team won two of five gold medals in figure skating and six medals in all, although the total could change in the future as the Russians also dominated the news cycle: with another Olympic doping scandal .
One of the gold medals currently belongs to Kamila Valieva and her teammates, who handily won the team event to kick off the program in Beijing. But that medal was withheld after a positive pre-Olympic doping test by Valieva, who finished fourth in the women’s competition, came to light during the first week of the Winter Games.
The International Olympic Committee refused to award the medals, fearing that a full doping investigation could lead to their possible redistribution. But the American team on Saturday filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport to organize a medal ceremony before Sunday’s closing ceremony; the Americans won silver and Japan bronze in the event.
That meant American pair Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, and Japanese rivals Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, performed their free skates on Saturday not knowing when they would receive their team medals.
It didn’t seem like they cared too much about it.
Miura and Kihara were nearly flawless in their free skate to Shawn Phillips’ “Woman,” jumping from ninth place after their short program and briefly into first place. Knierim and Frazier made just one mistake, on their triple salchows, and a season-best 138.45 for their short program propelled them briefly to the lead.
It wasn’t enough for either team to get on the podium, but it was an uplifting way to end the Olympics.
“It’s crazy. It’s crazy,” Frazier said. “It was a real dream come true – it was our real self there. We didn’t let our nerves get the better of us. I made a technical error on the jump on my part. Everything else we did was solid.”
The other American pair, Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, also finished outside the medals.