Gangneung (South Korea) (AFP) – Ice dance stars Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir inspired Canada to the figure skating team title to secure the Winter Games heavyweights’ first gold at Pyeongchang 2018 on Monday.
The Russians, with their teenage ice starlets Evgenia Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova, took their first silver of the Games. The USA team was third.
The Canadian, featuring dual 2014 silver medallist Patrick Chan, fulfilled their promise as favourites to beat Olympic Athletes from Russia, after coming second to the 2014 Games host nation in Sochi.
They took command on Friday, despite Chan tumbling in his men’s short programme.
Competing in their third Olympics, Virtue and Moir earned a maximum 10 points for their short programme, and matched that in the concluding free with an exhilarating four-and-a-half minute performance to the music of Moulin Rouge.
Canada finished on 73 points, with OAR on 66 and the USA a further four points behind.
Three-time ex world champion Chan said “determination” was the added ingredient that had made the difference between Sochi silver and Korean gold.
“We had determination this time around.
“We saw the potential we had in Sochi and didn’t capitalise on it. This time we really want to nail it into the coffin and win this thing.”
Italy came in fourth with Japan last of the five that went through to the final five segments of the competition which was held over three days.
While Japan had to make do without defending men’s Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, Canada went into battle with all their stars present.
– Russian starlets –
And they didn’t let them down at the Gangneung Ice Arena.
For Russia, competing in South Korea as OAR after Russia’s state-sponsored doping ban, it was always going to be a struggle to recover from Mikhail Kolyada’s flop in the men’s short programme.
But they gave it a great shot, with their teenaged starlets Medvedeva and Zagitova dominant in both ladies’ sections.
Medvedeva conjured up a world record score in Sunday’s short programme, with Zagitova producing a personal best in her free dance to Don Quixote.
“Today I got my best score, a season’s best and I am pleased with that,” said 15-year-old Zagitova after this latest chapter in a remarkable first senior season..
“I was very nervous because I wanted to skate well and I did,” added the freshly-minted European champion.
“I got up in the morning and realised that I have to skate well and not let the team down and do the maximum.”
Training companions Medvedeva and Zagitova will turn from teammates to foes next week for a mouthwatering women’s title showdown.
As for the men, US quad boy wonder Nathan Chen, rated one of Japanese skating golden boy Hanyu’s main dangers, will be working overtime in training after making mistakes in his short routine.
Hanyu sat out the team competition as he gave his body every chance of being at its best for the defence of his crown after ankle ligament damage threatened to scuttle his Olympic dream last November.
He is due to train for the first time since arriving in Pyeongchang later Monday.
The figure skating resumes on Wednesday and Thursday for the pairs competition with the men taking centre stage on Friday and Saturday.