Pairs' figure skating memories 'etched in my brain'
Agony, defeat at Sochi's Iceberg Skating Palace
There are moments in skating for me that will forever be etched in my brain.
The newly crowned Olympic Pair champions from Russia Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov came to a stop at the end of their program for just a moment and then Maxim let out a joyous but somewhat primal scream with his fists in the air and fell to his knees sliding on the ice. His emotion caught me even where I was sitting. It wasn’t that they knew definitively in that moment that they had won; it was more that they had survived. In my mind, they did more than survive. They skated as well as any two possibly could with the weight of their country squarely on their shoulders.
The silver medallists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov were also from Russia and snuck in out of nowhere to claim their spot. Well, not really out of nowhere, because they are the reigning silver European medallists. It is maybe more accurate to say that their two outstanding performances were unexpected.
A Russian friend had told me how good they were. When they had what I would call a shaky skate in the team event free program, I couldn’t understand what they were talking about. Fast forward to their sultry and commanding short program to Jesse Cook selections and the Addams Family free and I am hooked. I like their speed, their pair elements and their daring expression. Stolbova and Klimov earned that silver medal by skating well and relying on their own strengths and not anybody else’s mistakes.
Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch earned some significant cred last night too by finishing in fifth at their first Olympic Games. Theirs is a light touch. The audience is naturally captivated by their charisma and the judges by their strong skating skills.
There was heartbreak at the Iceberg Skating Palace last night, too. The German powerhouse team of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy got off to a rocky start when he fell on their side-by-side jumps. Their program was just plain bumpy. You could feel their desperation as they kept trying to make magic on the ice for which they are known. At the tail end of their program, they gambled on a throw triple Axel instead of their planned throw triple Salchow. They lost that bet when she fell on the landing edge. It might not have made a difference in the final analysis, but a solid throw triple Salchow might have been worth more points than their throw triple Axel ended up being.
I admire the courage it took for Savchenko and Szolkowy to try and turn things around in the last possible instant. I really felt for them as they clung together on the podium with Aliona trying unsuccessfully to contain her tears.
ABC Sports said it best on the Wide World of Sports shows of my youth: "The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat." And all last night in front of my eyes at the Iceberg Skating Palace.