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China's Sui and Han lead pairs field, Team USA's Knierims in 14th

Reigning world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China lead the field after the pairs’ short program on Wedn...

Posted: Feb. 14, 2018 2:11 AM
Updated: Feb. 14, 2018 2:11 AM

Reigning world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China lead the field after the pairs’ short program on Wednesday, setting them up for China’s first pairs gold medal since 2010.

Their emotional, solid short program to K.D. Lang’s “Hallelujah” scored 82.39 points. In the spring of 2016, Sui had surgeries on both feet and had to learn how to both walk and skate again. They missed most of last season, returning for the major international events, when they won their world championship title.

"I was very emotional today," Sui said of the pressure. "Even when I was putting on my make-up, I was already crying. I just felt very nervous. But after we got on the ice and finished our routine I realised there’s all there is to it. Maybe we gave ourselves too much pressure. But as athletes and a representative of China, as long as you express yourself to your fullest that’s all you can do."

"Compared to the veterans, we aren’t as experienced in handling our emotions for the competition," Han added. "As athletes we just have to prepare ourselves well and fight to be our best on the ice."

Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who won the European championships in January, sit second with 81.68 points, only 0.71 points off the lead. They represent the Olympic Athletes from Russia and the best hopes for the country to earn a medal in the pairs’ event.

Already gold medalists at these Games with Canada in the team event, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford skated “tentatively,” according to skating analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir. The two-time world champions currently sit in third place with 76.82 points.

Duhamel had a reality check right before her skate, dropping her phone into a toilet. And then she almost got on the wrong bus to the wrong venue, but she was saved in the nick of time by a rival.

The pair from Germany, Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, are fourth by an even slimmer margin than the one that separates first and second: 0.23 points. Savchenko, who is reportedly dealing with a cold, made her fifth Olympic appearance and Massot is her third partner. Savchenko won bronze medals in 2010 and 2014 with former partner Robin Szolkowy, who is now one of the coaches for Tarasova and Morozov. Read more about his thoughts on coaching his former partner’s rivals below.

China’s Zhang Hao is also in his fifth Olympic appearance, and is in fifth place with his current partner, Yu Xiaoyu.

North Korea’s skaters, Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik set a personal best in the short program, scoring 69.40 and qualifying to move onto the free skate. Last summer, they trained with Duhamel and Radford in Montreal. The North Koreans are currently in 11th place and will skate again in Wednesday’s free skate.

"The cheering from the South Koreans and North Koreans together for us was very helpful," Kim said.

The only married pair in the field, Team USA’s Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, scored 65.55 points and finished the short program in 14th place. They’ll also move onto the free skate on Wednesday.

“Chris and I said to each other before we skated, ‘Enjoy everything out there. Even if we make mistakes, let’s be proud of the mistakes because we are here and that’s an accomplishment’” Scimeca-Knierim said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “We are not upset at all with the score or the way we skated; we are just honored to be here.”

The Knierims contributed their short and long programs to the team event, helping Team USA win bronze medals. It’s already Valentine’s Day in PyeongChang due to the time difference, and Chris came prepared with a surprise.

Earlier in the night, Harley Windsor became Australia’s first Indigenous Winter Olympian. You can see more on how he paired up with Russian-born Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya below.

After the action, dive into the in-depth coverage of the pairs’ short program on Olympic Ice, featuring figure skating analysts Kristi Yamaguchi, Charlie White and Ben Agosto.

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