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PYEONGCHANG INDIVIDUAL FIGURE-SKATING RESULTS (part 2)

Ice-Dance Sensation

Incidents in the short program can have a dramatic effect on the overall standings, as US men’s skater Nathan Chen knows only too well. And the drama in this competition really began when Gabriella Papadakis suffered a wardrobe malfunction only seconds into her short routine, when her dress came undone. She completed the program with partner Guillaume Cizeron to score 81.93 for France, enough for second place overnight behind their training partners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada with 83.67. The compulsory Latin music theme of the short program didn’t seem to suit the French couple quite as much as the classical piece they were at liberty to choose for their free routine. Papadakis & Cizeron performed to the ethereal piano Moonlight Sonata whilst Virtue & Moir in complete contrast skated to Moulin Rouge a full-on “in your face” ballsy number. In a way the music chosen by each couple seemed to reflect their personalities and partnership dynamics.

The Shibutani siblings for team USA looked to be really enjoying their Coldplay music inspired routine, and as always gave a technically sound performance, if a little clinical looking, compared to the French and top Canadian couples. That precisely executed program won Maia & Alex Shubutani the Bronze for the US (overall 192.59) with fellow Americans Hubbell & Donohue closely behind in 4thafter a slightly disappointing free program. Papadakis & Cizeron free performance was exquisite with a ballet-esque like quality yet displaying elements of contemporary dance as well. Similar to Hanyu in the men’s individual, the French couple seemed at one with the music, and more importantly with each other. They moved as one entity with an ebb and flow so quiet, delicate and beguiling, it was captivating to watch. Their routine scored 123. 35 a new World Record for a free program in ice-dance. Later Virtue & Moir took to the ice to perform like a couple possessed. They demonstrated passion, drama and athleticism that could make your head spin, but delivered subtlety in quieter moments too. Perhaps this light and shade element to the Canadians routine gave them the overall edge, as commentator Robin Cousins suggested both couples had the same base line score of 44.90 to begin with. But with a combined score of 206.07 (overall World Record) Virtue & Moir took Gold for Canada with Papadakis & Cizeron taking Silver for France with 205.28.

Virtue & Moir Passion Personified (Image credit @ISU_Figure)

Couples vying for places outside the medals that impressed me included 8th placed Gilles & Poirer of Canada who performed to Bond music and their teammates Weaver & Poje in 7th who gave a dramatic and powerful routine.  British couple Coomes & Buckland came in a credible 11th an impressive achievement considering Penny suffered a potential career ending knee injury in 2016.

Women’s Individual

OAR skater Evgenia Medvedeva suffered a broken foot that interrupted her Olympic preparations, and she changed her free program midseason to a routine that “made her feel something”. Having not been beaten in competition since November 2015, Medvedeva tasted defeat to her compatriot Zagitova in January 2018. Would the same thing happen again in PyeongChang over the top two spots, and who would fight for the Bronze?

After the short program the three Americans were ranked 9th-11th a little disappointing for them, especially after Nagasu fell on her triple axel jump having become the first woman to land it in the team US skate. The top six overnight included the two OAR athletes, two Japanese (Sakamoto 73.18 & Miyahara 75.94) the Italian Kostner with 73.15 (Celine Dion music) and Canadian Osmond 78.87 (Edith Piaf music). Evgenia achieved a world record in her short program with 81.61 only to watch her teammate Alina surpass this with 82.92, having performed the most difficult triple Lutz/triple loop combination in the women’s competition.

Kostner made several uncharacteristic errors in her free routine making her performance seem a little laboured, especially without any triple/triple combination jumps. But all credit to the Italian for still competing at age 31, more than double that of Alina Zagitova aged just 15. Both Japanese skaters put in beautiful routines, but neither could equal the achievement of Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond’s Black Swan performance that took Bronze (231.02). Her free routine scored a fantastic 152.15 a seasons best by a whopping ten points, duly rewarded for her quality skating, the speed and flow over the ice and the dramatic performance. Not as technically loaded as the OAR routines but terrific to watch, especially as the Canadian provided a stark contrast of style. When Zagitova took to the ice the difference was obvious, as Alina loaded her routine into two distinct parts, choreography, spin and steps concentrated into the first segment, followed by jumps in the latter half. She did this in the short program as well, a clever move as later jumps are given a 10% extra mark. Having watched the others who spread the technical elements throughout their routine, it did make the Zagitova free program look unbalanced. Alina showed some quick thinking however, when a triple Lutz/triple loop combination turned into a triple/single one, and she just added the original element of difficulty very late in the program. Her free score of 156.65 indicated that was probably a good move. Evgenia Medvedeva was the last to perform in the Olympic figure skating competition. Her routine was wonderful to watch, seemed more balanced as a whole, the skating was faster, the jumps a little higher, and more ice was covered than Zagitova. But the biggest difference between the OAR performances was the facial expressions of Evgenia, so distinctive, illuminating and emotive. She told a story through her expression and body language. For me and much of the audience Medvedeva was the gold medallist. But alas the judges deemed Evgenia’s free program equal to Alina’s and scored it 156.65 as well. So the two world record short program’s decided the final outcome with Alina Zagitova taking Gold and Evgenia Medvedeva the Silver for OAR.

                 Women’s Podium (Image credit @Olympics)

In closing, the Pairs winners Shavchenko & Massot had completeness within their free program, with a seamless quality between transitions. Hanyu inhabited his music in the men’s individuals as did Papadakis & Cizeron in the ice-dance. But the extra dimension of light and shade from Virtue & Moir brought them gold. The women’s individual program had light & shade, storytelling & emotion through Osmond and Medvedeva and technical awareness and grace from Zagitova. But the small age difference between the medallists was telling, as 18 year old Medvedeva and 21 year old Osmond had the extra maturity to express their programs better. Yet Zagitova had that youthful fearlessness where the technical elements were concerned. Alina’s emotional expressiveness can only get better through maturity and Kaetlyn can add to her technical diversity. But for me the winner in PyeongChang was Evgenia Medvedeva who said in an interview with the BBC “I left all my soul in the competition”. It showed and I felt it. Wow!!!

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PYEONGCHANG INDIVIDUAL FIGURE-SKATING RESULTS (part 1)

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.

Finale to Shavchenko & Massot Pairs routine. (Image credit @ISU_Figure)

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.

Men’s Individual

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).

Men’s Podium (Image credit @Olympics)

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.

CANADA TEAM SKATING REIGNS SUPREME IN PYEONGCHANG

The team skating competition had already got underway before the opening ceremony took place in PyeongChang on February 9th. With the time difference between South Korea and the UK being 9 hours, the action took place in the small hours of the morning, and I relied on replays and highlights to catch the event. This has been made easier for me due to improved signal on my mobile phone, and having a greater data allowance on my contract. So I’ve delighted in finding coverage on the BBCiPlayer and unearthing full result details on the BBC Sport app. We don’t have internet/Wi-Fi connections at home, so catch-up services or paid for sport channels are not an option.

So the team results would be given a points allocation, with the highest score receiving 10 points down to the lowest receiving 1 point. Medals would be awarded to the nations with the highest amount of points accumulated. Initially ten teams began the competition all taking part in the short program, before the top five nations progressed into the free program. All four disciplines (Men’s singles, Women’s singles, Pairs & Ice-Dance) were represented, so obviously nations with a greater depth of talent had a better chance of medal success.

After the short program the following nations sadly took no further part: China 6th (18 pts): Germany 7th (16 pts): Israel 8th (13 pts): Korea 9th (13 pts): France 10th (13 pts). Going into the final phase in order were Team Canada 1st (35 pts), OAR (31 pts), USA (29 pts), Japan (26 pts) and Italy (26 pts). Each country had the opportunity to switch a maximum of two performers over all four disciplines.

OVERALL TEAM FIGURE SKATING RESULTS

Gold CANADA (73 pts): Silver OAR (66 pts): Bronze USA (62 pts)

Team Figure Skating Individual Section Winners

PAIRS: Short Program: EVGENIA TARASOVA & VLADIMIR MOROZOV (OAR) Score 80.92 pts

PAIRS: Free Program: MEGAN DUHAMEL & ERIC RADFORD (Canada) Score 148.51 pts

WOMEN’S: Short Program: EVGENIA MEDVEDEVA (OAR) Score 81.06

WOMEN’S: Free Program: ALINA ZAGITOVA (OAR) Score 158.05 pts

MEN’S: Short Program: SHOMA UNO (Japan) Score 103.25 pts

MEN’S: Free Program: PATRICK CHAN (Canada) Score 179.75 pts

ICE-DANCE: Short Program: TESSA VIRTUE & SCOTT MOIR (Canada) Score 80.51 pts

ICE-DANCE: Free Program: TESSA VIRTUE & SCOTT MOIR (Canada) Score 118.1 pts

Canada triumphed by not having any competitor below third place in each program, with Patrick Chan not fully showing his prowess, suffering uncharacteristic falls in both his short and free routines. I was greatly impressed by the Israeli men’s competitor Alexei Bychenko in the short program who came second, between Uno & Chan. Bychenko skated out of his skin and pulled off a complex routine nailing his quadruple jumps, unlike many others. Could he be a dark horse for a podium place in the individual competition? It all depends on the strength of his free routine, which viewers didn’t get to see as Israel failed to progress. Another surprise came from the Italy Pairs free routine from Valentina Marchei & Ondrej Hotarek who placed second behind the Canadians. Unlike Duhamel & Radford however, the Italians have only been a partnership for a short time, both having placed 11th in Sochi, Marchei as an individual and Hotarek with another partner in Pairs. Their jaunty joyful routine was fantastic to watch, and I thought they could be a real force in the future, if not today. Where medals are concerned the Canadians in Pairs are dominant, whilst the OAR, Germany and USA are snapping at the heels, with Japan and China lurking. Italy used a different partnership in the short program, so it’s difficult to really measure how Marchei & Hotarek fully compare against Duhamel & Radford. But it could make the Pairs competition a lot more interesting! In the Women’s short program Evgenia Medvedeva for OAR produced an elegant, powerful and very precise routine, whilst another OAR skater Alina Zagitova aged 15 a vision in red, pulled off with aplomb the most difficult combination of any woman, a triple lutz followed by a triple loop in her free routine. Alina reminded me of a ballerina spinning round in a jewellery box, she looked so delicate yet dedicated to her dance, and looked from her skating far more mature than her years suggest. Behind Zagitova came American Mirai Nagasu who gave a lovely performance and Canadian Gabrielle Daleman came third with her Rhapsody in Blue free routine. Her fast footwork and spins into the finale were fantastic. Rounding off the team competition Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir of Canada expressed perfectly why they are at the top of their game in Ice-Dance competition. Their synchronicity, power and passion flowed with the Moulin Rouge music, yet an equally beautiful subtlety and delicacy emerged through the slower movements, making an absolutely sublime viewing experience.

Team Canada top the podium (image credit abmj taken from BBC TV coverage)