Sad Pairs News on the Eve of the Short
Their coach reports Stolbova & Klimov’s last competition will be Worlds; Savchenko ill and injured with the big competition imminent.
It’s currently an off day for the skaters in Korea. The team event concluded yesterday, with Canada getting a decisive victory, though American skaters Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu seem to have captured a lot of the attention. In a time when their government is openly homophobic and the head of their Olympic delegation especially so, Rippon is important representation for America’s gay population, and he’s done them proud. Although he’s not the only one making history. So is Canadian pairs skater Eric Radford, who is the first openly gay man to win gold at the Winter Olympics. The two of them were sure to get a photo together right after the medal ceremony:
So proud that @Adaripp and I get to wear these medals and show the world what we can do! #represent🏳️🌈 #olympics #pyeongchang2018 #pride #outandproud #medalists #TeamNorthAmerica pic.twitter.com/eXMlZ2Utrw
— Eric Radford (@Rad85E) February 12, 2018
Radford will be back tomorrow along with the rest of the pairs skaters, now to contend for the three individual medals. He and his partner are one of half a dozen teams who are the most serious contenders for the podium; there are also a handful more with outside shots. They include exactly one skater, Aliona Savchenko, who was on the podium last time. After two bronzes, she’s back with a new partner, trying to finally win the Olympic gold medal that has long eluded her. They actually skated their short program in the team event; Germany didn’t make the free.
Today we got news of them that’s a little worrying. But the biggest headline of the day isn’t about any of the teams competing tomorrow. It’s about the other medalists from 2014 that would’ve been here had the International Olympic Committee not denied them.
Stolbova & Klimov Done After Worlds, Except He’s Possibly Not
A month ago, it looked like Nina Mozer would be bringing all three of her pairs to PyeongChang for the Olympics. Instead, she only got to bring two. When the IOC specially invited confirmed clean athletes from Russia to compete as neutrals, after banning the country itself, they refused to invite Ksenia Stolbova. Old rumors rose back to the surface that she was the gold and silver medalist “female skater” referred to in the McLaren report; she & Fedor Klimov had won silver in the individual and gold in the team event. But officially she’s never been accused of anything, and the IOC apparently did not have the moral decency to tell the excluded athletes why they didn’t think they were clean.
Mozer already spoke of the emotional toll this took on Stolbova. Even when the athletes were petitioning the Court of Arbitration for Sport to force the IOC to let them in, she said the team wouldn’t compete even if they won the case. (They didn’t.) Now she’s saying they’re done after the upcoming World Championships. The blog FS-Gossips has translations of three quotes related to the news. One is simply Mozer explaining they’re doing Worlds to end on a better note, then retire. The second more clearly outlines both her and Stolbova’s devastation. If she is innocent of any wrongdoing, she has indeed been very badly treated.
But the third quote is one that came from Klimov, after the initial news was reported, saying he’s not necessarily retiring after Worlds. That makes it sound like he may currently be open to continuing to a new partner. He’d be a little old to start afresh like that, but then again, Aliona Savchenko was older when she did four years ago. Stolbova & Klimov are both old enough we can’t even know for sure how much longer they would’ve continued on anyway.
On the other hand, if only she’s retiring, it raises another possible reason why. If she was indeed the skater referred to in the McLaren report, and she thinks she might soon be called to account for it, her retreating from the competitive scene makes sense. The infamous Lance Armstrong did the same. But unlike him, she still has nobody speaking against her besides the unreliable entity of rumor, certainly not enough for any assumptions. And that would be a hard story for Klimov to get away from unstained. It wouldn’t be easy for him to find a new partner at his level as it is.
Savchenko & Massot Dealing With Her Illness and Injury
The next two days are ones Aliona Savchenko has waited for since she & Robin Szolkowy once again failed to win the Olympic gold four years ago. When he didn’t want to keep competing, she teamed up with new partner Bruno Massot, and defied everyone’s expectations to make it back, and with as good a chance as winning as she & Szolkowy had in either 2010 or 2014.
Except now she’s not in ideal condition. The news came out after their practice today she’s got a cold, and that’s on top of the foot issues she’s been suffering from already. It visibly hindered their practice, and while the skaters didn’t talk to reporters afterwards, Alexander Konig and German skating official Udo Donsdorf did. They revealed that the team is watering down their technical content and not trying their big ticket item, the throw triple axel. Although they would’ve liked a better recent history with the replacement throw triple flip. She fell on it in the team event, and they only did it twice in practice.
But the question remains whether they can win without it. Donsdorf claims they can. But the kind of risk they’ve taken to train and do it indicates they’ve worried they can’t. It’ll be much harder to beat favorites Wenjing Sui & Cong Han without it. Yet to some extent, this news is also a relief. Savchenko’s history with the element isn’t the best, with it even causing her serious injury. Now that they’re leaving the triple axel to the men and Mirai Nagasu, we at least don’t have to worry about any falls that could easily cost them the gold and possibly do even worse to her.