The figure skating team event came to a close with host nation Russia winning gold. Now the slate is wiped clean for all the skaters as they begin their specific disciplines. Up first are the pairs, which opened with the short program.
So far, the Russians have been a step above the competition on the figure skating ice. That was expected to continue heading into the pairs event with several tandems worthy of medal contention and the overall favorites in Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov.
With that in mind, let's check out where all 20 teams finished in the short program. The second half of the pairs competition, the free skate, will take place on Wednesday. A combination of the two scores will determine which duos end up on the podium.
Pairs Short Program Results
|1||Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov||RUS||84.17|
|2||Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy||GER||79.64|
|3||Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov||RUS||75.21|
|4||Qing Pang & Jian Tong||CHN||73.30|
|5||Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford||CAN||72.21|
|6||Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch||CAN||70.92|
|7||Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang||CHN||70.59|
|8||Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov||RUS||69.66|
|9||Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir||USA||67.44|
|10||Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres||FRA||65.36|
|11||Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek||ITA||63.57|
|12||Maylin Wende & Daniel Wende||GER||59.25|
|13||Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers||CAN||58.97|
|14||Felicia Zhang & Nathan Bartholomay||USA||56.90|
|15||Andrea Davidovich & Evgeni Krasnopolski||ISR||53.38|
|16||Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise||ITA||51.64|
|17||Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer||AUT||49.62|
|18||Narumi Takahashi & Ryuichi Kihara||JPN||48.45|
|19||Stacey Kemp & David King||GBR||44.98|
|20||Julia Lavrentieva & Yuri Rudyk||UKR||44.30|
Sochi2014.com; Highlighted Teams Eliminated
Although most of the pairs considered top contenders in the event were scheduled for the latter stages of the short program, there were a couple standout performances early on.
Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang of China were able to build off their strong showing in the team event with another well-rounded routine. They connected on all of their elements, including several with extreme precision such as the triple twist lift.
NBC Olympics' Nick McCarvel was impressed with how much power the Chinese pair was able to showcase in the program:
Such softness yet power from Peng/Zhang in that "Crouching Tiger" SP. They score a 70.59 to launch into first place #Sochi2014— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) February 11, 2014
The other early success story was the United States' Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir. Perhaps that shouldn't have come as a surprise. John Powers of the Boston Globe passed along comments from Shnapir after the team event and he was upbeat:
"It was a great warm-up, getting our legs under us," Shnapir said Sunday night after he and Castelli had contributed significantly to the cause as the Americans placed third behind Russia and Canada in the inaugural team figure skating event at the Games.
The result was a score three points behind Peng and Zhang, but still good enough to put the Americans in second place for a large period of time before the top teams took the ice. Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post noted it was the best short program of the season for Castelli and Shnapir:
Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir of the USA just skated their best short program of the season at the Olympics. Sultry Santana.— Sally Jenkins (@sallyjenx) February 11, 2014
Those two scores held atop the standings for quite some time. The action really started to heat up once the Russian pair of Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov took the ice.
Not only did they put together a very good program highlighted by nearly flawless execution across the board, but they also got the crowd involved. After a bit of a lull, they got the home fans behind them and that really adds to the atmosphere.
Gary Mihoces of USA Today noted the change in the crowd's response:
That's Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov in first. The electricity has been turned at on the Iceberg. #SochiSMG— Gary Mihoces (@ByGaryMihoces) February 11, 2014
Which pair will win gold?
It set the stage for the top German pair of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. They didn't compete in the team event for Gemany—Maylin and Daniel Wende filled to spot—which led to some added anticipation about how they would perform.
The Germans quickly eliminated any concerns with a fantastic routine. It wasn't completely flawless, but they did connect on the triple flip throw and the reverse lasso lift, two key elements of the skate, to put them clearly ahead of any pair that had competed to that point.
Dawn Rhodes of the Chicago Tribune noted that the program did exactly what Savchenko and Szolkowy were hoping by leaving them in medal contention and putting the other pairs under pressure:
Savchenko/Szolkowy do their job, put themselves in contention for the gold, put pressure on Tatiana/Maxim to bring their best. #Sochi2014— Dawn Rhodes (@rhodes_dawn) February 11, 2014
The favored Russian pair of Volosozhar and Trankov were up to the task. They showed why they are the tandem to beat with some truly next-level elements, including a triple twist lift and a triple loop throw that few teams, if any, in the field could match.
The record-breaking performance was more than enough to send them into the free program with the lead, as McCarvel pointed out:
None of the remaining teams was able to crack the top three following the Russians' routine.
Looking ahead, the pairs will head into the second half of the event in much the same way they did today. Volosozhar and Trankov are the clear favorites for gold with Savchenko and Szolkowy holding steady in silver position, and could pounce if the Russians struggle.
The most interesting race, however, could end up being for bronze. There are five pairs within five points of each other for third place. The top American pair of Castelli and Shnapir are in ninth place and would need a special free skate to make a serious move toward the top.
Updated Medal Count