GANGEUNG: Aljona Savchenko promised Bruno Massot that they would win Olympic pairs figure skating gold and they did it in style with a magical record-breaking free dance on Thursday — and promptly burst into floods of tears.
The German duo’s sensational four-and-a-half-minute routine just denied China’s world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, the hot favourites who were pipped to the title by less than half a point after Sui took a tumble.
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford added bronze to their team event gold with Canada.
The 34-year-old Savchenko’s dream of an elusive first gold at her fifth Winter Games looked in jeopardy after an unfortunate error by her French-born partner Massot — who only received German citizenship in November — in Wednesday’s short programme.
His double instead of a triple salchow left him distraught and them trailing their Chinese rivals in fourth.
But 24 hours later Massot righted that wrong, matching his decorated ice companion step for step, their dance to “La Terre vue du ciel” by Armand Amar enthralling the crowd at the Gangneung Arena.
At the end of their performance they lay in each other’s arms on the ice, before Massot bowed to his partner and they made their way to the “kiss and cry” corner, where the tears flowed when their score of 159.09 points flashed up, beating the world record they set of 157.25 at the Grand Prix Final in December.
“This mistake put us in fourth place, six points behind, it was difficult to accept,” recounted Massot of his mishap on Wednesday.
“But after we all met with the team yesterday we said tomorrow is another day and we have to attack this free programme like tigers.”
Their electric free dance gave them a winning combined total of 235.90.
“I believed from the beginning to the end that this story will be a dream come true,” smiled the Ukrainian-born Savchenko.
“I was positive after yesterday. I said to Bruno, we will write history today. And then everything happened as I had imagined it and it came true.”
After their captivating showing she and Massot then had to sit and watch as first Duhamel and Radford, who produced the first ever pairs quad throw at an Olympics, then Sui and Han tried but failed to deny them their moment of glory.
Sui and Han finished agonisingly adrift on 235.47 with the Canadians on 230.15.
Sui, who revealed she was feeling pain from an injury, said: “We really wanted to do well, but simply fell too short in the end.
“But I hope that this will give us the motivation we need over the next four years to do well again at the Beijing 2022 Games.”
At the rink prize ceremony Massot, 29, lifted his ice queen onto the top of the podium, to the roar of the crowd.
Savchenko represented Ukraine, her country of birth, in her first Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002.
She then teamed up with Robin Szolkowy to represent Germany for the last three Games, coming away with bronze from Vancouver and Sochi, and the not inconsiderable feat of five world titles.
With Szolkowy leaving the stage she turned to Massot, who moved to Germany and received German citizenship only last November.
It was a move that paid off handsomely with this title Germany’s first in the pairs since Ria Baran and Paul Falk in 1952.
One couple ruing missing out on a medal was Vladimir Morozov and Evgenia Tarasova.
The European champions, competing under the Olympic Athletes from Russia flag, were second after the short programme, but errors in their free dance left a sour taste and they had to settle for fourth.
Despite finishing 13th, North Korean duo Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik were thrilled at their personal-best display and touched by the reception given by the home crowd in South Korea.
Kim said: “I’d like to express my gratitude to the people of the South. I was deeply moved by the Olympics in the South.” – AFP