Virtue and Moir strike double gold, Savchenko and Massot hit new heights
Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir left PyeongChang 2018 with the figure skating team and ice dance titles under their belts, taking their Olympic medal tally to a record five, including three golds. In the pairs competition, Germany’s Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot set a new world record in the free programme to claim an unexpected gold.
Making its second appearance on the Olympic programme at PyeongChang 2018, the team competition is an event in which the ten qualifying nations field their best skaters in women's and men's singles, pairs and ice dance, with the points they each score being added together to provide a combined total for each team.
Skaters earn points based on their rankings in each event. The top-ranked athlete(s) collect 10 points, the second best nine, and so on. Only the top five ranked teams after the short programmes go on to contest the medals in the free programmes. The team scoring the highest overall total wins the gold.
The competition began on the day of the Opening Ceremony, with Shoma Uno giving Japan an early lead in the men's short. Though Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) duo Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov scored the maximum 10 points in the pairs short, it was Canada who led the way at the end of day one with 17 points, thanks to Patrick Chan's third place in the men's and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford's second place in the pairs. The OAR team lay second with 15 points, followed by the USA with 14 and Japan with 13.
Canada's flagbearers at the Opening Ceremony, Virtue and Moir extended their team's lead in the ice dance short the following day, before Team OAR skater Evgenia Medvedeva scored ten points for her team in the women's singles short, at which point the top five ranked teams (Canada, Team OAR, USA, Italy and Japan) moved forward to the free programmes. Duhamel and Radford secured ten more points for the Canadians in the pairs free to give them a total of 45 at the end of day two of the competition, four more than Team OAR in second, with the USA five points further back in third.
Patrick Chan gave leaders Canada the perfect start to the final day of the competition, landing his first two quadruple jumps en route to amassing 179.75 points for his free routine and another ten for his team. Gabrielle Daleman's third place in the women's free then secured the gold for the Canadians, even before Virtue and Moir returned to the ice for their free skate. With no pressure on them, the ice dance duo revelled in the moment, producing a masterful routine to pick up a maximum ten points yet again and take their team tally to 73 points.
USA siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani placed second behind them to help their team claim the bronze with 62 points, four behind Team OAR, for whom the 15-year-old Alina Zagitova, the recently crowned European champion, scored ten with a superlative free programme.
Pair skating: Savchenko and Massot set golden standard
Following a high-quality short programme on 14 February, the battle for pairs gold looked set to be between China's Sui Wenjing and Han Cong and Team OAR's Tarasova and Morozov. Lying fourth at the halfway stage of the competition, Germany's Savchenko and Massot confounded all expectations with a stunning routine that earned them a new free skate world record of 159.31 points, earning them first place in the competition with a total of 235.9, with the two favourites still to come.
Sui and Han fell just short in their bid for gold, totalling 235.47 points, to finish just behind the Germans. The last pair to skateout, Tarasova and Morozov saw their hopes end when Tarasova fell, a setback that consigned them to fourth and allowed Duhamel and Radford – second in the free – to take the bronze.
Competing in her fifth Winter Games and her fourth for Germany, the Ukrainian-born Savchenko won bronze with Robin Szolkowy at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 before teaming up with the French-born Massot.
Coached by Alexander Konig and Jean-François Ballester and choreographed by former Olympic ice dance champion Chris Dean, Savchenko and Massot won a world championship bronze in 2016 and traded up to a silver the following year, serving notice of their potential to win gold in PyeongChang.
"I was positive after yesterday," said Savchenko afterwards. "I said to Bruno: 'We will write history today.' And then everything happened as I had imagined, and it came true."
"Today when I woke up, I felt good," added Massot. "The practice was good and when we went out we felt like, 'Now it's your time to fight.' I got the gold medal in my head. Yesterday I said, 'I don't want Aljona to come back with another bronze medal'. She deserved this gold medal. It was hard for me yesterday, but Aljona was there for me. She said: 'It is not finished. We still have the free programme to come'. It is amazing to come from fourth to first. It is incredible."
Ice dance: Virtue and Moir at the peak of their powers
The 2010 Olympic champions and 2014 silver medallists, Virtue and Moir made an outstanding start to the ice dance competition. Awarded a world record 83.67 points for their short routine, they took the lead ahead of their French rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who were hampered by a costume problem for Papadakis and trailed by 1.74 points heading into the free skate.
Aged just 22 and 23 respectively, Papadakis and Cizeron poured the pressure on with a superb free routine that earned them a world record 123.25 points. Virtue and Moir, who returned from a two-year break to unseat the French duo as world champions in 2017, were not to be denied, however, and produced a stunningly creative performance of their own to score 122.40 points and post a new overall world record score of 206.07. Papadakis and Cizeron had to settle for silver, just under a point behind, while the Shibutanis amassed 192.59 points in finishing third.
"I never imagined that we'd become the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history," said Virtue after she and Moir had collected their record fifth Olympic medals. "Although in grade one I did write in my journal that I wanted to be at the Olympics with Danny Moir, Scott's brother, so I'm close."
"This gold feels very different to the Vancouver one," said her partner. "Obviously, in 2010 we were in our own country. Those are moments we will never forget. But eight years later we're completely different people. We're completely different athletes."
"If it is the end we are extremely pleased with that," added Moir, on the subject of whether he and Virtue would retire. "We'll probably make an announcement in the coming days, but for us we just want to enjoy this right now and let the dust settle and figure out what's next."
"I feel very emotional right now," said Papadakis after taking the silver. "If you told me now that your grandmother's dog had died, I think I'd start to cry. There are lots of emotions coming out right now."
"We've been skating together for 13 years," added Cizeron. "It's special to look back and see how all the work leads to where we are right now. We gave our all and I'm happy with what we achieved. It was almost perfect and we can be proud of ourselves."