Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China perform during the the 2022 Winter Games pairs figure skating competitions at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 19 (UPI) -- China's Sui Wenjing and Han Cong needed another world-record performance to narrowly edge a dominant group of Russian figure skaters and claim gold in the 2022 Winter Games pairs finale Saturday in Beijing.
Sui and Han showcased their immaculate chemistry, paired with silky smooth landings as they completed mirrored jumps, twists and lifts to post a high score of 155.47 in the free skating portion of the program at Capital Indoor Stadium.
Their combined score of 239.88 was just 0.63 better than Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who won silver. The Russians held the Top 3 podium spots before Sui and Han took the ice as the final competitors.
Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandre Galliamov totaled 237.71 for bronze. Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitirii Kozlovskii totaled 220.50 for fourth.
"The audience and fans have given us great strength," Sui told Olympics.com. "Thanks to our motherland and our team, everyone has contributed a lot for us.
"I think this medal is the medal of the whole team and won by our joint efforts. Thank you to all the volunteers present. They also worked hard for many days and were busy in the venue even during the Chinese new year. Without anyone of them, we can't stand here and win this medal."
China's Peng Cheng and Jin Yang placed fifth. Team USA's Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier were sixth. Fellow American pair Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy Leduc placed eighth.
Knierim and Frazier set a personal best record with a 138.45 in the free skate.
"We didn't have any expectations other than just to approach the program like we do at home," Knierim told Olympics.com. "And with that being the goal, we succeeded. We're very pleased, proud and just happy with what we did today."
The Americans who finished 14th at the 2018 Winter Games, tied 2006 Olympians Rena Inoue and John Baldwin for Team USA's best pairs finish since 2002, when Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman placed fifth.
Sui and Han completed a quad twist lift, triple toe loop with consecutive double toe loops, forward outside death spiral, triple Salchow, a Group 5 axel lasso lift, throw triple flip, a throw triple Salchow and more as they skated to Bridge Over Troubled Water.
They received the most points of the competition for skating skills (9.71). Their initial quad twist lift received a 10.42 as the highest-scored executed element of the event. The also received a 10 for their Group 5 axel lasso lift. They were the only pair to receive two elements scores of 10 or better.
Han held Sui as she cried in his arms at the conclusion of their routine.
Tarasova and Morozov performed to Lighthouse by Patrick Wilson. They completed a triple Salchow, triple twist lift, a triple toe loop with two double toe loops, and more to get the lead before China's triumph. The Russians highest-scored element was a Group 5 axel lasso lift (10.10).
Mishina and Galliamov, who skated to The Snowstorm by Time Forward, received a high score of 10.02 for their initial triple Salchow with a single Euler into another triple Salchow. Their routine also featured a triple twist lift, throw triple flip, a Group 5 axel lasso lift, forward inside death spiral, a Group 5 reverse lasso lift and more.
Sui and Han, who set their first 2022 world record with an 84.41 in the short program, claimed silver at the 2018 Winter Games.
Canada's Eric Radford, who teamed up with Meagan Duhamel for a third-place finish in 2018, placed 12th with Vanessa James on Saturday in Beijing. Germans Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot won gold in 2018, but didn't compete this year.
Cain-Gribble and Leduc were the seventh pair to take the ice. They totaled the third-best score in the free skate at that stage of the competition, but still trailed Japan's Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara's overall score.
Cain-Gribble and Leduc performed a triple twist lift, triple loop, throw triple Lutz, triple Salchow with a double toe loop and a double loop and more. Cain-Gribble fell during the side-by-side triple loop and during the triple Salchow, double toe loop, double loop sequence.
The two-time reigning U.S. champions received a two-point deduction for the errors.
Knierim and Frazier followed with their routine and totaled a 138.45 in the free skate to take the overall lead, but they would be passed by the final pairs.
Their routine included a triple twist lift, triple toe loop with a double toe loop, a throw triple loop, a double Salchow and a Group 5 reverse lasso lift as they performed to Fearless Soul's cover of Coldplay's Fix You. Their highest-scored element, a Group 5 axel lasso lift, received a 9.50.
Knierim and Frazier were very clean in landings of their side-by-side jumps, the biggest point-getters of the competition. They did not receive any deductions.
"I think we owe it to the coaches and the long term plan that they put in place," Knierim said. "We have a lot of assistance from U.S. Figure Skating and [coach] Nina Mozer and I think it's really helped us as well as the other team train and prepare."
Team USA has never won gold in pairs skating and hasn't medaled in the event since 1988.
Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China pose with their gold medals after winning the pairs figure skating competition in the Capital Indoor Stadium at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic on February 19, 2022. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo