Savchenko & Massot Claim Gold With a Memorable Comeback
Savchenko & Massot inch pass an flawed Sui & Han with a world record score; Duhamel & Radford land a throw quad on the way to bronze.
When the free skate started Thursday morning in PyeongChang, perhaps the biggest question was whether it could live up to the short programs that had been skated that Valentine’s Day. Leaders Wenjing Sui & Cong Han had thrown down a short program for the ages. In second place, Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov (the one of the big four a couple off the ice) had been nearly as good. Some errors had cost Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford and Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot, but they had hardly skated badly.
The top two were a point apart. The next two were a few more points behind, but still within range to win if they skated better. But there were also five more teams, all of whom skated excellent programs, within three points of them, ready to potentially capitalize and claim the bronze if given the opportunity.
For North American viewers, it was even still Valentine’s Day when the free skate took place. NBC viewers were probably sick of hearing about the U.S. pair being married, though, especially when they when they were down in fourteenth going in due to some short program mistakes. It didn’t help either when they didn’t show two of the top eight.
And perhaps some of the magic from earlier did linger. Not for everyone; there were some bad skates. But three of the top four came through, the gold and bronze medalists especially, and the rest of the field was good enough to make for a great day.
Savchenko Triumphant at Last
When they were nearly six points behind Sui & Han, Savchenko & Massot knew to have any chance, they’d have to skate clean. They definitely weren’t trying any of the risky throws. But in the end, they didn’t need them to set a world record score. All they needed, after their best ever split twist and a good throw triple flip, was for the salchows to go just fine this time, as well as the two double jumps following them, for the rest of their elements to go just fine too, and for their artistry to be at its greatest. After two Olympics of disappointing free skates, Savchenko collapsed to the ice in relief following a breathtakingly good one.
For gold, they still also needed for Sui & Han to give them some help. They obliged with the first minute of their program. After just holding on to a quadruple twist, he singled one of the doubles in their three-jump, and she stumbled on their salchows. The rest of the program remained pretty spectacular, and they even maxed out the marks on one of their throws. One judge even stubbornly gave them threes on everything else (not the Chinese judge this time). Between that and the gap, it was extremely close, but in the end, after twelve years of fighting for her, and four of fighting all the odds for both of them, Savchenko & Massot took Olympic gold by by .43.
Duhamel & Radford Take Bronze When the Russians Falter
The first minute of Tarasova & Morozov’s free skate wasn’t unlike Sui & Han’s. They too managed the quad twist before hitting trouble on their next two elements. But instead of merely stumbling, she doubled the salchows, before falling on their first throw. They later maxed out the second, and landed the three-jump. But without Sui & Han’s superior technical elements or artistry, they were barely fourth in the segment. As happened in Vancouver eight years ago, the top team from Russia finished off the podium.
That was also because Savchenko & Massot weren’t the only pair just below to come back swinging. Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford did still have trouble with their signature side by side lutzes, with her putting a hand down on them. But they promptly made up for it and made history by landing the first clean throw quadruple salchow even pulled off at the Olympics. Once they got past their own triple salchow three-jump, the rest was them being as beautiful as they’ve eve been capable of. It was enough for second in the segment by a fraction of a point, and the bronze medal by much more.
Three of the Next Five Pairs Skate Well
The top four remained the top four. Of the five pairs that had been piled up behind them, the only one to go completely clean didn’t get presentation scores high enough even for fifth. Poor Valentina Marchei & Ondrej Hotarek were even one of the pairs chacked by NBC. Which was a pity when their skate was well done, landing everything, including another triple salchow three-jump, and having the most fun of the night. They got sixth, but fifth still went to Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres. The French team also went for the throw quad salchow, flipped badly out of it, and then she doubled their triple salchows as well. But when they landed a three-jump and throw flip, their technical content and high artistry saved them.
The other chacked team, Natalja Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert, also skated mostly well, though she underrotated the salchows so badly they were downgraded to doubles. Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise, on the other hand, landed the salchows, only to meet disaster on two more elements. It dropped them all the way to tenth. Though they actually beat eighth place Xiaoyu Yu & Hao Zhang in the segment. They were lucky to finish that night when they met disaster on three of their four jump elements.
Canadians Fight Back
Duhamel & Radford weren’t the only Canadians to rise. Yu & Zhang held on by less than a tenth over Julianne Seguin & Charlie Bilodeau and their eighth-place free skate. Seguin & Bilodeau offset their relatively easy combination with salchows and a throw lutz, and nailed everything. Their countrymen Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro had a little more trouble with their three-jump, more or less managed the rest of their much easier technical content, and got up to eleventh.
Tae-Ok Ryom & Ju Sik Kim landed everything again, much to the delight of the crowd. But in the free program, their easier technical content and the other ways they aren’t quite as good as the top teams caught up with the North Koreans. They were twelfth in the free skate, but dropped to thirteenth when Kristina Astakhova & Alexei Rogonov managed to just stay ahead of them. Which perhaps they should not have done, considering their thirteenth-place free was another one with only one clean jump element, but they got presentation scores just high enough.
They even got higher presentation scores Alexa Scimeca Knierim & Chris Knierim in the segment, which isn’t entirely right either. But while the Americans did at least do their quad twist, he then fell on both their side by sides, and a couple more of their elements got rough. They dropped to fifteenth.
View full results here. The schedule continues on relentlessly, with the men’s short Friday morning.