Skate by skate: How the dramatic pairs competition ended

Posted at 4:03 AM, Feb 19, 2022

After competing against each other for a decade, a rivalry between China's Sui Wenjing and Han Cong and the Russian Olympic Committee's Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov came to a head in the pairs free skate at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Sui/Han took silver at the PyeongChang 2018 Games, where Tarasova and Morozov were fourth.

The two teams were separated by only 0.16 points after an exquisite short program session at these Games, and it was Sui and Han who came out on top in the free skate as well -- winning the gold on home ice.

WATCH ON DEMAND: USA  |  |  Peacock

ROC teammates Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov were not far behind and the 2021 world champions were also in the mix for gold but took bronze.

Editor's note: Re-live the event as it unfolded in real time with our live blog updates below.

Group 1 feat. Moore-Towers/Marinaro

6:16 a.m. ET: We will go in reverse order of the short program results here, in what is the last figure skating competition of these 2022 Winter Olympics. Italy's Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini start us off to cap off their Olympic debuts. They earn 109.60 points (165.43 total) skating to Il Volo's "Grande Amore."

6:24 a.m. ET: Israel's Hailey Kops (first Olympics) and Yevgeny Krasnopolski (third Olympics) perform their free to Josh Groban's version of "The Impossible Dream." He doubles a side-by-side triple salchow; she puts her hand down on the ice on their throw triple lutz. Score is 97.83 for a 153.82 total.

6:32 a.m. ET: Ouch. Germany's Minerva Hase and Nolan Seegert seem to just collapse here in what two-time Olympian Johnny Weir calls a "disastrous" performance. They forgo doing two lifts, he doubles a side-by-side triple salchow, she falls on a throw triple loop, etc. Remember Seegert is the athlete who tested positive for COVID-19 and he and Hase had to miss the team event as a result during his lengthy quarantine. Score of 87.32 and into third with a 149.69 total.

6:40 a.m. ET: Far from perfect but a better free skate outing for Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro than how their short program went. Handily take the lead here with 118.86 points for a 181.37 total.

Current top three: Moore-Towers/Marinaro (CAN), Ghilardi/Ambrosini (ITA), Kops/Krasnopolski (ISR)

Group 2 feat. James/Radford

6:57 a.m. ET: This group opens with Vanessa James/Eric Radford of Canada, in 12th after the short program. After spending such a long time -- and building up to such a high level -- with their previous partners, James/Radford are roughly 10 months into their partnership and still finding their way together and adjusting to the other's technique. She falls on their throw triple flip; they get 117.96 points and are into second with a 180.99 total.

7:04 a.m. ET: Spain's Linda Barquero and Marco Zandron are wearing my favorite costumes so far, and also skating (in part) to "Imagine," so bonus points for that. Wouldn't mind it if every team wore some form of green. Wow, Barquero really cleaned the ice with her hair on that death spiral. That 13-inch height difference works well for them. They go behind Moore-Towers/Marinaro by 0.01 with 118.02 points and a 181.36 total.

7:12 a.m. ET: Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise's music makes me actually want to see "Moulin Rouge." Della Monica has issues on several of the elements here. They go ahead of their Italian teammates, earning 116.29 points for 179.87 in all.

7:21 a.m. ET: Karina Safina and Luka Berulava, actually from Russia, are the first pairs team to represent Georgia at the Games. They have a great skate here and take the lead with 126.33 points for their free skate and 192.44 total.

Current top three: Safina/Berulava (GEO), Moore-Towers/Marinaro (CAN), Barquero/Zandron (ESP)

Group 3 feat. Cain-Gribble/LeDuc, Knierim/Frazier

7:48 a.m. ET: Wow. Do yourself a favor and go watch Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara's final lift where he enters it from ice level, changes spin directions, then ends it at ice level. Amazing performance by the Japanese team that vaults them to the top for now: 141.04 points and 211.89 total.

7:56 a.m. ET: Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc are the first of back-to-back U.S. teams. Both did an excellent job yesterday in the short and hope to stay that path for the best Olympic finish by U.S. pairs teams since 1998. Oof, I spoke too soon as Cain-Gribble falls on their side-by-side triple loop. They rebound nicely on the throw triple lutz. She falls again during their jump combination, then again rebound with a clean throw triple salchow. Fall beneath the Japanese team with 123.92 points and 198.05 overall.

8:05 a.m. ET: Just a spectacular, brilliant performance from Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier to "Fix You." And Knierim scoops up that Olympic ice when they finish. Other than Frazier doubling the side-by-side triple salchow, that's the their best. New leaders with 138.45 points for the free skate and a total of 212.68.

8:14 a.m. ET: Representing the host nation, Peng Cheng and Jin Yang close this penultimate group to raucous applause. Mistake by her on opening jump but they guarantee themselves top-five result with otherwise strong performance; 138.74 free skate points and 214.84 total.

Current top three: Peng/Jin (CHN), Knierim/Frazier (USA), Miura/Kihara (JPN)

SEE MORE: Knierim and Frazier finish sixth in pairs competition

Group 4 feat. Sui/Han, Tarasova/Morozov

8:29 a.m. ET: The first of three consecutive Russian Olympic Committee pairs, Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitry Kozlovskii have a nice skate but she finds herself spinning out of the throw triple loop. The 2021 world bronze medalists maintain their spot of fourth or better with a score of 141.91 in the free and 220.50 in total.

8:37 a.m. ET: Now up: reigning world champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov of the ROC, who are 1.65 points away from first after the short program, a difference they could definitely make up here. They really brought it today -- score 154.95 points for a 237.71 total.

8:46 a.m. ET: It's time. We've reached the final two teams, both more than eager for gold, who are virtually tied entering the free skate. ROC's Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov first. As an aside, they are coached in part by Eteri Tutberidze, who also coaches the women's gold and silver medalists from these Games. They end with Tarasova in happy tears and Morozov kneeling with his hand on the ice. They did everything asked of them in this performance. Guaranteed gold or silver with 155.00 points in the free skate and 239.25 overall.

8:54 a.m. ET: All the thoughts on this one -- this pairs free skate has really lived up to the hype after Friday's short program, but almost unbelievable that for the second Olympics in a row, China's Sui Wenjing and Han Cong have a mistake on their side-by-side triple salchows. It's what lost them the gold medal four years ago, by 0.43 points. Impeccable technique and emotions behind this performance otherwise. Sui shaking, in tears at the end. "It's going to come down to the triple salchow mistake," 1998 Olympic women's gold medalist Tara Lipinski says on the broadcast. "Another gold medal riding on that same element." And the gold medal goes to... Sui and Han! Free skate: 155.47 points; total: 239.88.

Pairs figure skating Olympic medalists: Sui/Han (CHN - gold), Tarasova/Morozov (ROC - silver), Mishina/Galliamov (ROC - bronze)

SEE MORE: Sui/Han reach storybook gold with highest pairs score ever