Pairs: 5-4-3-2-1 Germany Get Gold
The German figure-skating Pairs couple Aljona Shavchenko & Bruno Massot triumphed to become only the second non Russian outright winners (China 2010, shared RUS/Canada-Sale/Pelletier gold 2002) since 1964. The last time Germany topped the podium in the Pairs was in 1952 with Ria Falk & Paul Falk. Ukrainian born Shavchenko now 34 years old was competing in her 5th Olympics and was in 4th place after the short program with her 3rd career partner. French born Massot found German his fourth language (after French, English & Italian) a little harder to master, taking three attempts to pass the language proficiency test for German citizenship. Bruno became a German national only weeks before the PyeongChang games began. Interestingly Shavchenko gained her German citizenship through her work with previous partner Robin Szolkowsky, securing two Olympic Bronze medals for Germany her second country in the 2010 & 2014 games. Aljona had already represented Ukraine at her inaugural Olympics of 2002 where she was placed 15th. But with Massot competing in his 1st Olympics, the German pair ranked fourth overnight pulled off the seemingly mission impossible, with a World Record free program score of 159.31 to be crowned Olympic champions (235.9)
When Shavchenko & Massot first took to the ice, from their costumes and initial start to their free program, I couldn’t help thinking of Bolero, especially as the couple used one continuous piece of music from Armand Amar. As the routine progressed there were distinct Torvill & Dean “moments”, so it came as no surprise to discover Christopher Dean had helped the German’s with the choreography. They had sought Dean’s help as Aljona & Bruno hoped to create an ice-dance feel within their pairs program, and the result was a scintillating routine of subtle beauty and tremendous athleticism, mixed with some Christopher Dean fairy dust.
Chinese pair Wenjing Sui & Cong Han first in the short program secured the Silver (235.47) medal and Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford maintained their overnight third place to take Bronze for Canada (230.15). OAR athletes Tarasova & Morozov executed a below par free routine to fall from second to fourth place overall. The Italian’s Marchei & Hotarek who I said could be a future prospect having seen them in the team event were sixth.
Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu suffered an ankle injury in October 2017 and had not competed since, having opted out of the team skating competition. Not since the American Dick Button in 1952 had a man defended his Olympic champion status, but Yuzuru hoped to create his own piece of history.
After the short program only four routines scored over a hundred points, with Hanyu in first place (111.68) followed by Spain’s Javier Fernandez (107.58), Shoma Uno (104.17) another Japanese competitor and China’s Jin Boyang (103.32). America’s poster boy Nathan Chen had a nightmare performance trailing in 17th place scoring 82.27, which was actually a higher score than he received in the team event (80.61). The Israeli Alexei Bychenko who impressed me so much during the team event where he placed second, scoring 88.49 in this short phase, could only manage 13th place here with 84.13. Had he posted a similar mark to the team event he would have been 7th overnight. At the end of competition Bychenko’s overall ranking was a credible 11th having laid down a solid free routine.
Nathan Chen stunned the audience with a free program featuring six quadruple jumps, with only one being judged less than perfect. This gave him a free routine score of 215.08 an unassailable benchmark which only the Japanese came close to matching. Despite his Herculaneum efforts Chen took fifth place overall, the short program being his undoing, although paradoxically this may have helped Nathan perform his free routine more relaxed. Japan’s Shoma Uno scored 202.73 with a bubbly, athletic, free spirited routine to win Silver (306.90), whilst Yuzuru Hanyu scored 206.17 to retain his Olympic title (317.85). Only three competitors posted free routine scores in the 190s range and Javier Fernandez with 197.66 did enough to secure a Bronze for Spain (305.24).
Yuzuru Hanyu with his golden sash waistband and black gloved hands performed with a delicacy to every movement that felt theatrical in its essence. He seemed at one with the music, like an actor totally inhabiting a character, yet the essential elements of power and athleticism were in evidence too. I wasn’t at all surprised to hear Hanyu edits his own music so that he can control the audio to match the elements he sees in his head. The result is a beautiful musicality between the creativity in Yuzuru’s head and his performing feet.