BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Han Cong and Sui Wenjing won Olympic gold in pair figure skating on an “unforgettable” evening on Saturday (February 19th) in Beijing, where they broke another world record for the tallest delight of a delirious local crowd.
Spinning around the rink to “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, they scored 239.88 overall to beat Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov by a hair’s breadth – 0.63 points.
Han and Sui’s score was also just ahead of the previous world record of 239.82 – which was held by bronze medalists Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov of Russia.
This is the third time the Chinese duo have broken a world record at these Games, embarking on their mission to win their first Olympic title.
The two former world champions did it in style, landing a rare quadruple twist – an overhead throw that no other competitor has attempted – to seal victory on home soil.
“I think it’s an unforgettable night,” Han said. “We have realized our dreams in our homeland.”
They first performed to the Simon and Garfunkel song when Sui returned from a serious injury in 2017 and won the world championship with it.
Before going on the ice, Sui said she told Han, “We can do it.
“‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ brought us our first gold medal…We created many miracles and today we will do the same.”
Sui and Han have been skating together since they were teenagers.
“People had doubts about us because our sizes are relatively similar,” Sui said.
“When people say something is a dead end, don’t be afraid – chart your own path.”
Such was the confidence in Sui and Han’s ability to win in Beijing that the pairs event became the final of all four figure skating disciplines for the first time since 1956.
Their gold medal was China’s ninth at the Games, meaning the hosts moved up the medal table ahead of the United States.
Dressed in blue and silver and with pearls in her hair, Sui made an unusual mistake early on, but it wasn’t enough to detract from the rest of their powerful and cleanly executed program.
Finishing the song in Han’s arms, Sui began to cry.
After a long embrace, they skated off the ice and waited to see if they had done enough.
They did – and the Capital Indoor Stadium, as packed as it has been throughout this competition, erupted in cheers and waving Chinese flags.
Tarasova and Morozov gave them their money’s worth with their graceful skating, with Morozov dropping to his knees on the ice as the music ended.
“When we did the final pose, we exhaled and realized that was it. That’s it, it all worked out. Emotions overwhelmed us,” he said.
Mishina and Galliamov, reigning world and European champions, were not far behind.
In gray and silver, they flew over the ice like shadows on “The Snowstorm”, scoring a total of 237.71.
The top three weren’t the only ones overwhelmed with emotion.
Japan’s Ryuichi Kihara and Riku Miura also fell to their knees at the end of their performance, with Miura in tears.
Their coach couldn’t hide his excitement as they skated, as he jumped up and down pumping his fists, looking more like a football coach than a figure skating coach.
With much of the competition overshadowed by the doping scandal involving 15-year-old Russian Kamila Valieva, there was palpable relief to once again focus solely on the sport.
The Athletes’ Stand was filled with rowdy Olympians supporting their teammates, with singles skater Keegan Messing running up and down the stands repeatedly with a huge Canadian flag.
Even those who didn’t have the night they wanted — like Timothy LeDuc, the first openly non-binary Winter Olympian, and his injured partner Ashley Cain-Gribble — were happy to be there.
“I know that’s not the right athlete response to say when I say results don’t matter that much,” LeDuc said. “But being here, being part of this, was the goal, and we have to do it.”