Figure skating pairs: Russians take gold and silver

February 12

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia, center, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia, left, and Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany pose on the podium during the flower ceremony. (Bernat Armangue/Associated Press)

Update, 2:20 p.m.:

The Associated Press story:

SOCHI, Russia — Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov won the Olympic gold medal in pairs figure skating Wednesday night as Russia took the top two spots to reclaim its dominance of the sport.
Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov had a near-flawless free skate to move up from third after the short program and capture silver in front of the ecstatic home fans.
Volosozhar and Trankov scored 152.69 points to finish with 236.86, 18.18 ahead of their teammates.
Four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany had to settle for bronze for the second straight Olympics.
Russia or the Soviet Union had won gold in 12 straight Olympics in the event before the streak ended four years ago, when the Russians failed to take home any pairs medal from Vancouver. Volosozhar and Trankov rose to the top of the sport at the perfect time, winning the 2013 world championship.
Skating to “Jesus Christ Superstar,” they had a few small bobbles Wednesday. But with a lead after a near-flawless short program and the difficulty of their elements, they knew when they finished the program without any big mistakes that gold was in their grasp.
As Russian flags waved across the stands, he slid on knees across the ice like a soccer player celebrating a goal, and she buried her face in her hands, the tears flowing.
The two Russian pairs also won gold in the team event.
Stolbova and Klimov handled the free skate for Russia on Saturday and looked sharp, declaring themselves as medal contenders. They were even better Wednesday in their program to “The Addams Family.”
The music is mostly hauntingly beautiful, though it does include a brief snippet of that famous TV theme song. At the end of the program, when she must be exhausted, they do a throw triple salchow, but she landed it effortlessly.
Szolkowy fell on a jump in the free skate for the second straight Olympics. He tumbled to the ice on a triple toe loop on their first side-by-side sequence Wednesday.
They finished nearly three points behind Stolbova and Klimov. Pang Qing and Tong Jian, the 2010 silver medalists, were fourth.
Four years ago, the U.S. had its worst showing ever in pairs, with a 10th- and 13th-place finish. The performance in the standings was only slightly better this time: two-time national champs Marissa Castelli of Rhode Island and Simon Shnapir of Massachusetts took ninth, while Felicia Zhang of New Jersey and Nathan Bartholomay of Pennsylvania moved up to 12th from 14th after the short program.
But it was a much more encouraging showing this time, with both pairs skating four solid programs despite coming in with little experience in major international competitions.
Castelli and Shnapir also won a bronze medal in the team event. She landed upright on their throw quad salchow Wednesday, though she stepped out. That still earned them big points, and they set a personal best in international competition with 120.38.


Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia react after they competed in the pairs free skate figure skating competition. (Bernat Armangue/Associated Press)

Update, 1:50:

Maxim Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar wowed as expected in front of their home crowd, following their top score in Tuesday’s short program with far and away the top mark in Wednesday’s free skate. Their 236.86 earned them a gold medal, with fellow Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov earning the silver medal at 218.68 and Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, who were second after the short program, finishing third. It marked yet another disappointing finish for the German pair.

United States pair Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir finished ninth, the same place they sat after Tuesday.

Here are the final results. More analysis to come.

Update, 12:50 p.m.:

The two Canadian pairs have briefly taken the lead. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch earned a 131.18, which combined with their short program score, gave them a 202.10 total. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were in second with 199.53, and Americans Marissa Castelli and Simon Schnapir were a distant third at 187.82.

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Original post, 12:30:


Simon Shnapir and Marissa Castelli on Wednesday. (Phil Noble/Reuters)

United States pair Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir scored a 120.38 in the free skate, and sat in first place after two flights, with the eight pairs (of 16) who scored highest in Tuesday’s short program yet to skate.

Castelli and Shnapir skated to a James Bond theme, and Shnapir wore a gun holster, which had attracted attention earlier in the games.

Americans Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay were the opening pair of the event, and were fifth of eight.

Russia’s Maxim Trankov (he of the yellow pants) and Tatiana Volosozhar led coming into Wednesday, followed by Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. The German pair will skate last, with the Russians third from last.

Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford will start the third flight.

In Robert Samuels’s analysis of Tuesday’s skating, he wrote that the pair may be ready for prime time:

“Last night, we saw a pair that is not enormously talented again grow in power and confidence.

What this pair lacks is the consistency, the deep knees and the unison of the top competitors. But they are getting better. With another sharp routine, they could make the top 10, a true accomplishment. Here’s to hoping they can stay together for another two to three years. At this rate, they could end their careers as one of the top five or six in the world.”

Alice Cook, via the Boston Globe, has some background on Castelli and Shnapir, and their planned performance:

“Castelli and Shnapir have had their share of ups and downs as a team, and almost called it quits a few years ago. The 23- and 26-year-old share the same August 20th birthday. They joke that they are both “strong willed Leos,” and you can see it in their skating. …

What I like about this team is their pure athleticism and speed. Their 16 inch (she is 5’0 and he is 6-4) height difference makes for some high-flying lifts and throws, including a throw quad.

If Marissa and Simon land the quad throw cleanly, it could mean a top five finish, and that would be quite an accomplishment given the level of competition.”

Figure skating is one of the most iconic of all Winter Olympic sports. From U.S. ice dancing dominance to a battle for the ladies' singles gold, here are 10 numbers you need to know about figure skating at the 2014 Sochi Games. (Davin Coburn/The Washington Post)

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