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Russian figure skating couple Shpilevaya and Smirnov recorded a memorable victory ahead of the American pair of Chloe Lewis and Logan Bye, and fellow Russians Anastasia Skoptcova and Kirill Aleshin.
There was emotion and suspense galore at the Hamar Olympic Amphitheatre on Tuesday 16 February as the free programme section of the mixed pairs ice dancing began.
A tightly bunched group of three sat at the top of the leaderboard following Monday’s short programme; the two Russian couples, Anastasia Shpilevaya and Grigory Smirnov (57.93 points), and Anastasia Skoptcova and Kirill Aleshin (57.73), had set the early pace with Americans Chloe Lewis and Logan Bye (55.07) close behind.
The tenth pair to take to the ice on Tuesday, Shpilevaya and Smirnov delivered an impeccable performance. “We were really clean and well-coordinated, and we felt quite relaxed when we went onto the ice. We feel good about our chances of winning because we love our programme. We knew we could do it and we did!” said Smirnov, whose family were there to cheer him on. Judges awarded the young Russian skaters a score of 83.95, giving them a total of 141.88.
But the suspense wasn’t over yet as the other two couples were still to skate. Next up were Chloe Lewis and Logan Bye. “That was really hard!” Smirnov told us. “We were so scared! We were waiting in the corridor; we couldn’t watch!”
The Americans also put in a stunning performance. “When you begin to skate your programme, people tell you just how nervous you can get,” Bye explained. “.It all just hits you at once. But we were able to put that to one side and concentrate on what we were doing. The performance went really fast and at the end we were absolutely delighted.” Lewis and Bye’s impressive routine, which earned them a score of 81.30 (for a total of 136.37), put them in second place. Last up, it was time for the second Russian couple to take to the ice.
Things did not go as well as planned for Skoptcova and Aleshin, however. “We could have started a bit more calmly; we went too fast,” noted Aleshin. “Skating last isn’t normally a problem, but today there was too much pressure. We fell during one of our moves and that’s probably what cost us one of the other medals.” In the end, their score of 76.87 gave them a total of 134.62 and saw them take home the bronze.
With Shpilevaya and Smirnov therefore taking first place in both programmes for a clear overall victory, the free dance confirmed their ability, seen first in the short programme, to deliver perfection, and the fact that they have a promising future ahead of them.
It was also a great result for the American pair. “This silver medal means a lot,” said Bye, “Being here is a huge honour and that clearly inspired us. All of our hard work this season has paid off and we’ll keep working hard now. We really wanted this medal. We skated the programme we wanted to skate and it’s the best performance we’ve given so far.”