Thursday, February 15, 2018


Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany broke their own world record with 159.31 points for a long program. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany unexpectedly won the gold medal in pairs figure skating on Thursday, rebounding from fourth place after the short program with a stirring performance of passion, power and control.
The Chinese pair Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who were first after the short program, made a couple of mistakes on their jumps in the long program, and the errors proved decisive in an event decided by less than half a point. The Germans won the competition with 235.90 points, while the Chinese took silver with 235.47 points.
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who played a significant role in winning Canada’s gold medal in the team skating event, collected bronze on Thursday with 230.15 points.
Savchenko and Massot broke their own world record with 159.31 points for a long program. But it was not even clear that Massot would be able to compete in these Winter Olympics until November. He is a native of France and only on his third try did he pass a written exam required to gain his German citizenship.
The German skating federation paid France more than $30,000, according to news accounts, to obtain Massot’s release from having to wait three years to compete for a new country. Learning enough German to gain citizenship had been stressful, Massot, 29, said in an interview in November, describing it as more nerve-racking than performing in an arena before 15,000 people.

Savchenko and Massot after they finished their routine on Thursday. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
“German is a hard language,” his partner Savchenko, 34, said.
Savchenko, too, has competed for more than one country. Country hopping is a frequent exercise in Olympic sports, especially in the Winter Games. She is a native of Ukraine and competed for that former Soviet republic at the 2002 Winter Games. In 2003, she moved to Germany to join a pairs team with Robin Szolkowy. Together, they won five world championships along with bronze medals at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.
When Szolkowy retired, Savchenko chose Massot as her new partner.
“Bruno was taller and stronger than Robin, and the artistic part of their skating is now much bigger,” said Alex König, who coaches the pair. “She liked to be crazy in the air. Now she is crazy in the air.”
In the short program on Wednesday, Massot doubled a planned side-by-side triple salchow, and the German pair wound up in fourth place. Massot seemed troubled afterward, but the pair showed the resilience to recover on Thursday. After their routine, Savchenko lay on the ice and Massot collapsed next to her. They were soon headed to the top of the medal podium.

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