Opining on Olympic pairs (part 2): Fifth time's the charm

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After an incredible pairs short program yesterday, today's pairs free skate was equally thrilling - everything came right down to the final pair of the competition. We had incredible performances and some history made today - the first ever quad throw landed cleanly in Olympic competition by Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford, the most ever quad twists (three) completed at the Olympics, and a world record free skate score turned in by now-Olympic champions Aljona Savchenko/Bruno Massot. As I come down from the high that was the pairs free, allow me to jot down some thoughts before we turn out sights to the men's short tomorrow.

Recap/videos: Pairs free skate

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Savchenko does it at Olympics #5
Five Olympics, three partners (four if you count her one season with Dmitri Boyenko), two countries. Aljona Savchenko was 15th in 2002 with Stanislav Morozov, 6th in 2006 and two bronzes in 2010 and 2014 with Robin Szolkowy, and now gold in 2018 with Bruno Massot. Savchenko is not only an ageless wonder, but she's also a resilient warrior. 

But let's not forget the contribution that Bruno Massot has made. He went from a generally average pair skater just four years ago to one of the best as he's had to work to keep up with Savchenko. She believed in him and he trusted her to guide him through the unknowns and pressures of top-notch pair skating. And when they decided to work with different choreographers to find their own voice as a pair, that's when the magic started.

Their free skate this season has grown to become my favorite, and for me, their Olympic performance today was the greatest pairs free skate I've ever seen.

They aren't done yet - Savchenko/Massot noted that they are looking forward to the World Championships next month. I frankly wouldn't be surprised if they continued competing after this season. Believe it or not, they still have room to improve.

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Duhamel/Radford goes out in style
Duhamel said it best herself in the kiss & cry, "Man, if that's fourth, that's the greatest fourth place in history." Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford were realistic coming into PyeongChang. They knew that they could skate their two best programs ever and still be off the podium - the field was just that good.

And they killed it in the free skate. Even with a hand down on Duhamel's solo triple lutz, they managed to skate one of the very best programs of their career, with that clean throw quad salchow landed in the process. When Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov made multiple mistakes in their free to close out the competition, it sealed it for them - they would get that individual bronze medal at the Olympics.

For a team that, one year ago, looked like they could've completely spiraled downward after a seventh-place Worlds finish, it could not have been written any better. They finish their competitive career with in style as the technical innovators that they are known to be.

Oh-so-close for Sui/Han
It was a comfortable cushion for Wenjing Sui/Cong Han after the short program. They were over five points ahead of Savchenko/Massot after Massot made the mistake in his solo jump, so they had room for error. 

They just made one too many errors for them to maintain that lead - a singled double toe for Han in his solo combo and then a step out from Sui on her solo salchow. They ended up with the silver by less than half a point behind Savchenko/Massot. Their free skate did not have the luster that their short program had, and it was always going to be a close call if those two teams made no mistakes. But Savchenko/Massot made one major one in the short, and Sui/Han made two minor ones in the free - that was the difference.

Nevertheless, the fact that they were here at all was amazing. She had five stitches in her left leg just weeks before the Olympics and wondered if she was even going to be able to skate here. And they came here and put down one of the best pairs short programs in history.

For a pair whose career was in jeopardy two years ago, they now have a renewed outlook - and a target to aim for. Sui said it herself, "I really wanted to get a gold medal here ... but I hope that in four years in China, we can win that gold medal."