These Olympics have been a dream. Metaphorically – and even more so literally. In Europe you had to get up in the depth of night so you could watch live the figure skating events in PyeongChang. And I might have experienced some jet leg when trying to get back to normal, real life.
Am I sorry for that?
Not in a million years.
And in my mind, these Olympics with the appearance of a dream, and all the qualities of it, consisted in so many dreams becoming real in PyeongChang: Aljona Savchenko winning her long-expected, long-awaited gold medal, at the end of a road that started five Games ago, in Salt Lake City, the dream skate ending a career, with a golden bronze atop of that, from Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, the phenom Yuzuru Hanyu becoming back-to-back Olympic champion – after an injury that surely jeopardized the dream, Javier Fernández’s Olympic medal, and the relief, the joy of it, four years after the disappointment of Sochi, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir making history in their third Olympics, the blue dream skated by Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron – a new World record for the free dance (and the opposite of it, her pire cauchemar during the short), Maia and Alex Shibutani’s stairway to Paradise – when Paradise took the shape of an Olympic podium, the free skate like a dream, a butterfly, of Satoko Miyahara – and her battle to fight demons over the course of last months, Evgenia Medvedeva’s dance and tragic end of Anna Karenina, passion and emotions to the fingertips, and the two swans medaling in PyeongChang: the 15-year-old Alina Zagitova living the dream she never knew she had and running away with the gold, and Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond winning bronze in a commanding fashion – she was 13th in Sochi, and didn’t even dare to dream of an Olympic medal now, in PyeongChang.
Plus: Mirai Nagasu’s throwing herself into the air, the very definition of confidence, for the triple Axel, and nailing a perfect one – the first US lady to ever do that at the Games, Adam Rippon’s overall presence in PyeongChang, living his first Olympics to the fullest, the team of Canada coming in South Korea with the plan of winning gold, and sticking to it every step of the way.
Some dreams have been fulfilled in PyeongChang – by medal or by presence, by staying in the moment. And some other dreams are being carried to Beijing: the dream of becoming Olympic champions in 2022 on home ground by China’s Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, who only lost a medal here, and not the dream.
You know them all, you lived them all.
And so this story will only polish, smoothen the contour of the statues, the heroes they became.
by Florentina Tone
It all started with a “rough morning”
“You’re in charge, you know what to do”, Brian Orser tells Junhwan Cha: his 16-year-old student from South Korea opens the figure skating competitions at 2018 Olympics. Literally opens them – Junhwan is the first to go in the team event, and does that in brilliant fashion, to the enthusiasm of the audience.
Imagine this was not an easy feat for the South Korean – but he did what he needed to, and if training in Toronto, with Brian Orser, and, up until now, alongside champions Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernández, is an indicator of his future… well, we can already expect great things of Junhwan.
…and the same can be expected of Italy’s Matteo Rizzo, really.
The 19-year-old, also debuting at the Olympics, had his eyes on the team event ever since Europeans. And, just like in Moscow, he flied on the wings of “Torno A Surriento” by Il Volo, and proved himself such a reliable part of team Italy, and a great asset for the future.
“Iniziamo bene!”, coach Franca Bianconi exudes, and you can sense the enthusiasm in the teams’ mauve boxes in spite of the early hours.
Early indeed: with all but one exception (well, two, with the exhibition), all figure skating events in PyeongChang started at 10 am local time.
And, just in a couple of minutes, you’ll start asking yourself how smart was it to decide upon such hours. One by one, Patrick Chan, Nathan Chen, Mikhail Kolyada – expected to deliver greatness on the ice of the Olympics – do the exact opposite, failing to land more than one jump in their short programs.
An air of insecurity is creeping in, and even Shoma Uno, the winner of the day, has a scratchy start of the Olympics.
And so: is it the ice, the nerves, the early hours? What is it with this nightmare of a men’s event?, twitter itself is on fire.
“Let’s all remember we are watching this live from Korea”, Jeffrey Buttle puts things into perpective. “The event started at 10 am, unconventionally early for a skating competition of this caliber. Wondering if that is a factor?”. And Michael Weiss offers “2 reasons for the lackluster men’s event: 1. It started at 10 am 2. Although a nice potential extra medal, skaters train their lives for individual medals, not team. Seemed telling when Nathan’s interview, he said – «when the time comes for the actual event»”.
From Canada’s box in PyeongChang, Eric Radford summarizes it: “Rough morning”.
Luckily, as the day advances, no more unexpected, shocking falls arise – and in the pairs short program, Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov show grit, determination; and, eyes on the money, they end up winning 10 points for their team called Olympic Athletes from Russia, another first in the history of competition.
Mission accomplished: Canada wins gold in the team event
Now that’s a lovely surprise: at the end of day two of skating in PyeongChang, Italy is in contention for the bronze. The whole team is “to blame” for that, of course, but Carolina Kostner skates a beauty of “Ne me quitte pas” – like in Sochi, she seems to enjoy to make friends with the Olympic ice before individual events – and, an hour later, Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek become one with Nino Rota’s music, skating a lights-out long program, with lovely, beautiful touches and loads of character. A joyful, enthusiast scream from Valentina follows: 138.44 points is the highest they ever scored. They don’t know it yet – but their best is yet to come.
And it’s Adam Rippon’s time to shine: and he’s flying alright, caressing the air in his exquisite, nuanced free skate in PyeongChang. And this beautiful, airy performance is really the highlight of the men in the teams event.
…while the ladies’ free skate starts with a bang: Mirai Nagasu’s stunning triple Axel.
And she only had 8 years to prepare for this kind of performance. Welcome back to the Olympics, Mirai, you feel like screaming from the top of your lungs, and the enthusiasm during and after her skate is truly catching. And have you seen Meagan Duhamel jumping with joy the moment Mirai Nagasu landed that Axel, the third lady ever to do that at Olympics, and the first American to do so? Well, I did – and I might have jumped as well.
And Mirai’s Axel will be the talk of the town for the next couple of days.
As will be the 15-year-old Alina Zagitova, who skates a mind-blowing performance to “Don Quixote” in her Olympic debut in PyeongChang. And she is ready to take on the world, she is. So fit, so strong, so athletic: the Russian teenager is in the form of her life; and, looking in retrospect, her skate is already a perfect preview of the ladies’ individual event later on.
While Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir dissolve into their Moulin Rouge free dance – and watching them is like watching a movie.
And the actual end of the movie is that Canada wins the team gold, after the title eluded them four years ago in Sochi. Scott Moir will summarize the road to here, the last four years: “Tessa and I, Eric and Meagan came home [from Sochi] with a sour taste in our mouths: we had a chance at Olympic gold and we were a little too casual about it. We wanted to win the team event in 2018, and we believed in ourselves, and we talked about it as a team. We wanted to make sure that we got this gold”.
And they got it, alright. A golden medal for a golden team – and a four-year dream finally becoming real.
Olympic Athletes from Russia took silver, while US skaters deservedly won bronze – and I’ll definitely keep in mind some of the most meaningful images of the day: Adam’s eyes to the sky, while on the podium, Mirai’s smile – she made the Olympic team eight years after finishing 4th in Vancouver, and did so in style, Scott Moir holding Soohorang, the mascot, above his head, as if he were holding the most precious trophy of all, Olympic Athletes from Russia jumping on the podium, like they did four years ago in Sochi, when retaining the gold.
…and I might have dreamed that, I don’t even know, but did Scott Moir said he and Tessa prioritized the team event, so that Patrick Chan could finally get his much-wanted Olympic gold? If that’s not a figment of my imagination, hats off to Scott and Tessa, hats off to all of them for also trying to fulfill personal aspirations of their friends and colleagues while going for the team gold.
And so the team event held so many histories and personal victories – and proved itself a wonderful #teaser for the days to come in PyeongChang.
Here you have them all, the dreams making the #dream. Or, if you want, the #Olydreams.
THE DREAMS THAT MADE THE #DREAM: ALJONA’S OLYMPICS
At the end of day one of the pairs’ event in PyeongChang, Aljona Savchenko’s dream to an Olympic gold seemed to once again fade away, like a mirage, a Fata Morgana.
And she didn’t see that coming.
Carried away with the joy, the enthusiasm of their short program, Aljona literally didn’t see Bruno doubling their side by side Salchow – and so, when the music stopped, she thought they did great, while he knew his mistake would be costly.
Two faces embodying opposite emotions, until there was only one. Sorrow.
And Bruno was heartbroken. We came here for the gold, he would say minutes after the skate. I don’t want her to win another bronze. His partner had had her share of Olympic bronze medals, winning two of them in the previous two Games.
A day later, while seeing the Earth from the Sky, during their ethereal, flawless free skate, Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot will turn their 4th place after the short program into gold – and Meagan Duhamel will be the best chronicler of the pairs event in PyeongChang while jumping on her feet to hug and congratulate Aljona: “You DID it! You DID it!”.
A story that started like a bad dream, only to become the most beautiful dream of all.
And these will enter history as Aljona’s Olympics.
“If you’re not in tears seeing their emotions right now, you’re not human. What a skate from Aljona and Bruno!!!!”, ice dancer Kaitlin Hawayek wrote on twitter, while 2006 World champion Kimmie Meissner was all of us when sharing her emotions at the end of Aljona and Bruno’s free skate: “I’m crying. SO AMAZING AND SO HAPPY FOR THEM”.
Remember: these were Aljona’s 5th Olympics – and the most bitter moment of her career might have happened in Sochi, in 2014, when she cried rivers of tears after winning a second Olympic bronze with Robin Szolkowy, when all she wanted was the gold.
And so she followed the dream, she kept on skating – and, four years after Sochi, she won the shiniest medal of all alongside Bruno Massot; and, with 159.31 points, they’re the current record holders for the pairs’ free skate.
And that free skate was, undoubtedly, a thing of beauty. And one of the biggest moments of the Olympics in PyeongChang.
“We lost the medal, not the dream” – Wenjing and Cong’s dream is carried to Beijing
And if Aljona Savchenko shed tears of joy in PyeongChang, another stubborn, talented lady barely held her tears while standing on the Olympic podium as a silver medalist.
So close they were, so close – and hence the bitter disappointment: only a half of a point prevented China’s Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, 2017 World champions, from winning the Olympic gold in their Olympic debut.
And so she cried Wenjing, on the podium in PyeongChang, and she cried from the start of the pairs event even; and whoever claims Olympics are easy to deal with, well, surely hasn’t lived one.
“I was very emotional – even when I was putting on my make-up, I was already crying. I just felt very nervous”, Wenjing would say on the short program day. “But after we got on the ice and finished our routine, I realized there’s all there is to it. We missed the last Olympics and it was a hard journey to get here too. I had surgery in the process, so I really think that everyone who is able to stand here is a hero”.
And her words were even more meaningful if we consider that just a few weeks before the Olympics she suffered another setback as she injured her left leg in a practice accident and needed 12 stitches.
No signs of that on February 14th, in PyeongChang, though.
And only signs of greatness: Wenjing Sui and Cong Han owned the air and the Olympic ice during their short program, while skating to the voice of K.D. Lang and her unmistakable version of “Hallelujah”.
Flying into the viewers’ hearts, goosebumps and all, and scoring 82.39 points for their performance, Wenjing and Cong were the overnight leaders and the favorites to win the much-desired gold.
But a nervy start of their “Turandot” free skate, some shaky landings costed them the title. And delayed the fulfilling of their dream.
“We really wanted to do well, but simply fell too short in the end”, she noted. “But I hope this will give us the motivation we need over the next four years to do well again at the Beijing 2022 Games”.
What happens to the princess and the prince at the end? Who knows? The ending of a book about Princess Turandot can really apply to Wenjing and Cong. And while we don’t know what’s next for them, we do know their future looks golden.
A dream skate ending a career – and a throw quad to enter Olympic history
Of the three pairs medaling in PyeongChang, Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford had an additional weight on their shoulders.
A golden weight, but still.
“You are on the highest high of your life and, all of a sudden, you are back down to reality and you need to compete again”, Meagan will summarize what is it like to come back to the arena, getting ready for your individual event, after winning the gold with the team.
“I thought of it [the team gold medal] yesterday for a split second. I was stroking around the ice and thought: I am an Olympic champion. Then I went: I want another Olympic medal, get back to work”.
And they did exactly that Meagan and Eric during their short program – and they put out a strong performance to „With or Without You”, showing their technical prowess and finishing the first segment of the pairs event on the third place, with 76.82 points.
And, guess what, a day later, they’ll do it again in the free, a dream performance to “Hometown Glory” by Adele, a throw quadruple Salchow atop of everything.
Seeing the scores, 153.33 points and 230.15 overall, Meagan could barely contain her enthusiasm. “Oh, man, if this is 4th, it’s going to be the most awesome 4th in history!”, she says, smiling to her ears – they’re lying in 2nd place, with two more pairs to go.
Less than 20 minutes later, they’ll know: they won the bronze – and they’ll also receive news of being the first pair to land a clean throw quad in the Olympic Winter Games.
And what a way to end a career – this was Meagan and Eric’s last competitive program.
“This is better that anything we could have imagined. This competition, there were so many good pairs, that anything could have happened. So for us to go out and lay it down, it meant so much”, Eric noted. Even with the team gold, “that was a better way to end, with an awesome long program. A bronze medal is more than we could ever have hoped for”.
“Valentina, ma che Olimpiade!!!”
And the overall pairs event in PyeongChang was a joy to every figure skating fan out there – and it will probably take more than one edition of the Games to equal the performances from the short program day; at the end of this particular segment of the event, eight teams had received more than 70 points, and two of them, over 80: Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (82.39) and Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (81.68), who lost the podium due to crumbling under pressure in the free skate.
But then again, during the short, you could almost see the feathers on Xiaoyu Yu’s arms – she and Hao Zhang skated to “Swan Lake”; and you could almost hear the rain in Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès’ performance; you would be carried away by Nicole della Monica and Matteo Guarise skating to Mina’s impressive “Magnificat”, while also loving the beautiful shapes Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert created in the air and on the ice. And you’d be reaching to a natural conclusion while watching Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov’s short program to Rachmaninov: they need a bigger rink – that big, that impressive their skating is.
And talking about Olympic moments, that was clearly one of them: Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek’s overall presence in PyeongChang. And the Olympic air clearly does them good, considering all their personal best scores were received in South Korea: 74.50 points for the short, 142.09 for the free, and 216.59 for the combined total.
…and you know that Valentina is a joy to the eyes, and ears, in the Kiss and Cry, but you have to love coach Franca Bianconi’s enthusiast, genuine reaction as well, summarizing all there is to know: “Valentina, ma che Olimpiade!!!”
PLUS: Tae Ok Ryom and Ju Sik Kim soaking up the atmosphere and loving every second of their Olympic experience. And showing signs of greatness already: they sold their programs to the fingertips, and she is a star already. She is.
THE DREAMS THAT MADE THE #DREAM: YUZURU HANYU RETAINS SECOND OLYMPIC GOLD AND JAVIER FERNÁNDEZ GETS HIS MEDAL
Seated in the Kiss and Cry, Yuzuru Hanyu places his index finger in the air, for every single 1 in his short program score – 111.68 points. One, and one, and one, a line of one-s. And then he smiles.
No better start for his second Olympics. No better start for his campaign to win a back-to-back Olympic gold – the last one to do so was the American Dick Button, in 1948 and 1952.
And, looking at this particular performance – eyes glued in front of a TV screen, dazzled inside the arena or casting a glance or two, from between the curtains, as some of the volunteers in the rink did – is it as if Yuzuru Hanyu never missed a bit of his Olympic journey to PyeongChang.
But we do know he did: his last competition was in October, Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, and then, following an injury right before the start of NHK Trophy, he spent the next three months recovering.
Three months of complete absence – and he only re-started to jump in January.
And so the score for his short program in PyeongChang was not a huge one by itself, but a personal victory as well; and a palpable proof this young man is tough as steel.
Laying down a quad Salchow, a triple Axel, a quad Toeloop-triple Toeloop – while becoming one with Chopin’s Ballade no. 1, the reigning Olympic champion signaled everyone out there he was not going to give up on his crown that easily.
“I wanted to say to everyone that I am back here”, he pointed out during the press conference, and then he got emotional: “I just felt happy to skate, I just felt satisfied with my every element… I want to do my best, and do what is best for me. Not as an Olympic Champion, but for me”.
Seated next to Yuzuru, and lying in second place after SP, Spain’s Javier Fernández seemed to know better than everyone else just how strong his training mate is. “I’ll say tomorrow I would be happy if I am in the same position. I have been training to be first, but we know how good a talent Yuzu is. He is really tough competition. I will fight all the way. And if I’m first, I’m first; if I’m second, I’m second; and if I’m third, I’m third. I’ll be happy”, Fernandez shared.
Fast-forward: 24 hours later, they’d both be happy, Brian Orser’s students.
And Brian Orser will be all of us, thrilled, excited, smiling to the ears, while hugging them, and taking pictures, to post them later on his instagram account: “No words can express how proud I am of these 2 champions. Well done, Javi and Yuzu”.
And, come to think of it, the coaching team of Toronto Cricket Club, Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson in particular, they’re the true winners of the men’s event in PyeongChang. And let’s not forget this is the third consecutive win for them as coaches: it was gold with Yuna Kim in 2010, gold with Yuzuru Hanyu in 2014, and again gold with Yuzuru and bronze with Javier Fernández now, in PyeongChang. A golden team, fair and square.
Now let’s come back.
Too many beautiful stories this men’s event in South Korea had to offer.
Javier Fernández: “It has been a lot of work and a lot of years for the Olympic dream to win an Olympic medal”
We’ll say it again: one thing with watching the Olympics during night is that everything looked more like a dream. Well, the final group of men skating their short programs in PyeongChang made it more real than ever.
And with imperial Yuzuru Hanyu setting the standards in the sky, it came down to the five men remaining to meet the glove Yuzuru threw. Some crumbled under pressure, the last three were on fire – and one in particular had something to prove.
He lost a bronze medal in Sochi, four years ago, due to a miscalculation. “What happened in Sochi was a scenario that never ever happened before… He never made that mistake, he never popped a quad into a triple”, his coach would detail in an in-depth interview for Inside Skating. And then, the triple Salchow at the end of his free skate in Sochi was one too many – not taken into account, it will make the Spaniard lose precious points, and, looking back, a medal.
“…now Javi has that awareness”, says Brian Orser.
And more than that: four years later, he’s better than he’s ever been, and readier than ever to claim what’s his: a spot on the Olympic podium.
And this particular readiness surrounds him like an aura when he takes the ice for his Chaplin-themed short program. What follows is a performance of Olympic caliber – Javier Fernández at his very best – and, behind the boards, coach Brian Orser thrusts his arms in the air after the quad Toe-triple Toe combination.
Nine perfect 10-s in his Program Components Scores, and 107.58 points in total. Javier is in second.
A day later, he’d have to keep it together after turning his third quad into a double, his only mistake at these Olympics – “I wasn’t thinking about my popped 4S from Sochi, my third quad is always the more difficult one” – and, seeing the scores, he’d breathe a sight of relief. Worst case scenario, he’ll be third.
Coach Orser drops a joke, to release the tension in the Kiss and Cry: “You wanted a medal?!”
He did want a medal – and, come to think of it, his free skate to “Man of La Mancha” has been one of the most beautifully choreographed program in the men’s event this season, and Javier Fernández really did it justice on the ice of PyeongChang.
And we’ll come back to something Brian Orser said about his student: “I have to say that Javi is like our poster child for what we believe in skating. I say we, I mean Tracy Wilson and myself”.
And Javier’s Olympic skate in PyeongChang did nothing but prove it. A poster skate for what skating should be.
And a (bronze) Olympic medal deserved to the fullest.
“It has been a lot of work and a lot of years for the Olympic dream to win an Olympic medal. And I finally got it. Now I can sleep, I can rest and I can really enjoy it with my people around me”.
And there’s still one story to tell from the men’s event at 2018 Olympics.
Nathan Chen’s redemptory free skate.
Coming from a distant 17th place after the short – who would have imagined it? But then again, who would have imagined Mao Asada sitting in 16th place after SP in Sochi? – the 18-year-old went for six quadruple jumps, five of which were clean, won the free skating with 215.08 points, and vaulted to 5th place with a score of 297.35 points.
And his technical score, 127.64 points, is the highest ever recorded.
And he has entered history as the first skater to land five clean quads at the Olympic Games.
In spite of such a historical feat, Nathan stayed humble, feet on the ground, and only shared a short analysis of himself and his comeback skate: “I think honestly putting down a rough short program and being so low in the placement just took the pressure away from me. I no longer felt like I was striving for that first-place spot”.
We’ll do that, widen the picture for him: he crumbled in the team event, and then again in the short – too much pressure on his fragile shoulders – but he wouldn’t have let this happen to him again in the free. He skated freely, just like that, for himself in the first place – and that was really one of the biggest moments of the night.
He was indeed Mao’s Last Dancer.
And such a joy to the eyes this young man is, and so gifted. And his free skate in PyeongChang brought so many flashbacks to Mao Asada’s redemptory skate in Sochi, 4 years ago.
In a matter of seconds, twitter became a mirror of Nathan’s skate, a reflection of gratitude.
Charlie White: “Nathan Chen. You’re my hero”.
Mariah Bell: “I don’t know if people really understand how hard this guy works I am just so happy for you, Nathan Chen!”
Rachel Flatt: “You skated with purpose and technical intent, but allowed the Lori Nichol magic to shine. Thank you Nathan Chen for sharing 4 1/2 minutes of why we all skate”.
Scott Hamilton: “REDEMPTION! Nathan Chen throws down a PHENOMENAL Free Skate. So happy for him! He did it!”
Kristi Yamaguchi: “K, I’m still shaking from that. Nathan with the Mao Asada comeback”.
Kirsten Moore-Towers: “WHATTTTTTTTTT THEEEEE F$&&):$;&;)/$&:$:) #nathanchen #olympics”
PLUS: the glorious lines, edges in Shoma Uno’s short program in PyeongChang – him fighting tooth and nail to face the challenge; and, a day later, opening the free skate in the worst possible way, with a fall on his quad Loop, but recovering in a matter of seconds, to win the Olympic silver in his Olympic debut. And him, a bit puzzled, after seeing the scores, smiling, while hugged by Mihoko Higuchi, with the Olympic rings in the background – a wonderful image of these Games.
And Boyang Jin – he was on fire during these Olympics, and we have never seen him skating like that. Fully entering the characters he portrayed – he truly is a performer as much as he is a jumper. And his dream of an Olympic medal surely doesn’t stop here – eyes are set to Beijing 2022 already.
And then this: Yuzuru Hanyu setting the warrior-mood from the very start of what was an incredibly, brilliantly fought free skate in PyeongChang, putting everything out there to hold on to his crown. And then him, emotional, realizing he has won the second gold – he did, he did – and jumping on the podium, his arms spread in the air, just like in his trademark Seimei pose.
He looked so happy.
He felt so happy.
“This is the best day of my skating life”.
THE DREAMS THAT MADE THE #DREAM: TESSA AND SCOTT MAKING PERSONAL HISTORY, AND ENTERING HISTORY. PLUS: LA CONVERSATION DÉLICATE
“I do believe I have the best skaters in the world”, Marie-France Dubreuil said proudly, smilingly, last year, in an interview for Inside Skating.
And, coming to this edition of the Games, anyone in the figure skating world – athletes, coaches, fans – could have told you the battle for the gold would involve two teams, and two teams only.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, in their third Olympics.
Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, in their Olympic debut.
And it will all come down to whoever is readier to deliver greatness on the Olympic ice, to whoever is readier to handle the Olympic pressure.
No better teaser for this clash for the ages than the words of the coach herself, a year ago: “When there’s competition, when there are expectations, there’s pressure. But my only pressure is to make sure that all the kids stay healthy, train well, stay positive and do their job. If this happens, I know we’ll have the top teams, like the two top teams in the world. That’s it, right?”.
And at the end of the short dance in PyeongChang, not two, but three teams from Gadbois training center were lying in 1-2-3 – and two of them will stay there and get their Olympic medals, as everyone anticipated.
The history makers
With Tessa and Scott you can never expect anything but brilliance.
And all of those years of training and competing together, at the highest of levels, winning medals and trusting each other, going through changes in the ice dance and facing them together as one – these two are around since the compulsories/original dances, remember? – all of those years of experience & experiences gained give them an air of sureness, confidence that surrounds them like an aura.
There’s them, in the world they created for themselves, continuously adding layers, (hi)stories, and their trademark versatility in choosing themes and attacking the programs.
And so when they take the ice in PyeongChang for their short dance, in their third Olympics, you know it’s going to be good – and you’ll be spoiled.
Dancing to Samba (Sympathy for the Devil), Rhumba (Hotel California) and Cha Cha (Oye Como Va), they literally fly across the ice – and do so in commanding fashion – earning a world record score for their performance: 83.67 points. One that would not be equaled on the day, making them overnight leaders and, starting that moment, favorites to win gold in PyeongChang.
And they take it so very seriously, they do.
“We really want to win this individual gold. It’s a really deep field and we have to really be on our game”, Scott’s words at the end of the day. “We just have to keep going and keep plugging away, it’s a two-day event. We know our work isn’t over”.
Their “work” will only be over exactly 24 hours later.
Tessa and Scott are the last to take the ice in the final group of dancers – and their embodiment of Satine and Christian, their story of passion, despair, complete sadness, utter love, captures the audience.
And even though their free dance is only second of the night in terms of scores, they create such an Olympic moment on the ice of PyeongChang, an iconic moment even.
And the combined total, 206.07 points, a record score itself, is enough to give them the lead.
And so they win their second Olympic gold medal, eight years after Vancouver – only the second ice dance team to win two Olympic ice-dance golds; and, with their total of five Olympic medals, they become the most decorated figure skaters in the history of the sport.
Allow us a recap: gold in Vancouver 2010, silver & silver in Sochi (team and individual), gold & gold in PyeongChang (team and individual).
How is that for a career?
La conversation délicate
And if expansiveness and big, generous skating were Tessa and Scott’s allies in their free dance this season, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are at the complete opposite of the spectrum with their “Moonlight Sonata”.
With them it’s always about nuances and the pure beauty of the movement.
It’s about internalising every gesture, going deep within themselves, only to bring it back more meaningful than ever.
It’s about purpose – nothing is left adrift.
It’s about flow, and speed, and liquid skating.
But to get there, they first needed to overcome their “worst nightmare”: a costume malfunction, Gabriella’s dress coming loose at the top at the very beginning of their short dance, having them skate rather cautiously a program that was meant to bring the roof down.
And, for the most part, it did exactly that: have you heard the screaming and the cheers in the arena the second they started to move? No, they were not a pair from the country hosting the Olympics – they were just dancing to the very modern, actual Ed Sheeran.
And in spite of them being Olympic debutants, Gabriella and Guillaume handled the obvious difficulty of the moment like professionals, and kept it together for the whole 2 minutes and 50 seconds of the performance.
They looked like statues of sadness in the Kiss and Cry though.
And who to understand them better, feel the struggle, empathize, than a fellow skater & champion herself? Ice dancing Olympic gold medalist in 2014, Meryl David wrote on twitter: “My heart is broken for G/G today. For something like a costume malfunction to hinder this moment for them is utterly devastating”.
They were still under the impression of the moment minutes later in the press conference – but, analyzing what had happened, it became clearly they tried to shake it off, get rid of the weight, concentrate on what was next.
After all, they always had their backs – and Guillaume holding Gabriella’s hand, caring, understanding, while she was answering the questions of the media, was surely one of the most touching images of these Olympics.
A day later, while skating to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, they were the very definition of magic. The sound of their blades on the ice, their arms in the air, the quietness and the serenity – that was a free dance for the ages, skated at the best possible moment, in the best possible place: at the Olympics.
And who to say it better, and understand the generosity of it, than Catherine Pinard, their artistic coach in Montreal: “Voilà. La grâce offerte”, she’ll write on facebook seconds after Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron’s free dance.
“C’était hors du temps… Je suis si émue de pouvoir donner cela avec eux. Merci la vie!”
And, sharing a touching moment from their students’ performance in PyeongChang, Catherine Pinard will also be the author of maybe the most beautiful metaphor of this free dance altogether: a gift of love to Beethoven.
“Beethoven nous a appris tant de choses sur la vie et l’humilité. Dans son testament, il parle de sa surdité et dit que «les conversations délicates lui manqueront».
Voici le moment du programme qu’on lui a offert pour partager sa peine.
La conversation délicate”.
Scores-wise, this was the best program of the day: 123.35 points, and, again, a new World record for the French. And though it was not enough for gold in PyeongChang, it surely paved the way with gold for what is next.
Wei Xiong, a Chinese journalist, will put it brilliantly on twitter: “Papadakis & Cizeron won their first Grand Prix gold, their first World title, and their first 200 points world record in China. Maybe China is waiting for them to win their first Olympics gold”.
Stairway to Paradise
The first ice dance team of Asian descent to ever medal at the Olympics.
That’s them: Maia and Alex Shibutani, winning bronze in both the team & ice dancing event in PyeongChang.
Take a few steps back and admire their performance.
And then acknowledge the hard work, the enthusiasm and the perseverance of these two.
A couple of months earlier, in Moscow, Maia and Alex had discussed the topic in all sincerity, in an insightful interview for Inside Skating – Alex in particular had hit the nail in the head: usually, in ice dancing, „once you drop [in the rankings], it’s like: Bye-bye, you’re gone”. Well, not them: the World bronze in 2011 was followed by a silver in 2016, again a bronze in 2017 – and then this set of Olympic medals in PyeongChang.
And no better end than this one to their story. To their trilogy.
It was “Fix You” in 2015-2016 season: the start of the road to discovering themselves. “Evolution” the following season: aspiring, challenging themselves to grow. And flying, reaching “Paradise” in this third season, while getting ready for their second Olympics.
And understanding their journey so far, you’ll understand their triumph better.
Not to mention Alex Shibutani is the best story-teller their career could find.
“…this third chapter of the trilogy: this season’s free dance, Paradise. We understand that not everyone who will watch our performance this year has seen last season’s free dance, or the year before. But what we’re proud of is the fact that the story of this program embodies our entire life together.
Because the lyrics of the song talk about a girl, and when she was young she had all these hopes and dreams. And at a certain point, you know, these hopes and dreams seem out of your reach, like they’re unattainable. But the song then goes on about how she continues to dream, and believe in herself. Life goes on. That has been our mantra, continuing to believe in each other, and dream.
And we’ve always loved skating. Someone mentioned that coming [in Moscow] for our first World Championships in 2011 and medaling in our first year as seniors – no one really does that. It’s a very unique result for a first-year senior team, and so the expectations we really high. We expected the world, as the song says. And then, the following couple of years, we haven’t developed the sense of self that we have now. And so our results weren’t as good. We still believed in ourselves, and still continued to dream, but things had flown away from our reach. And the way we believed we could return and become something greater than we ever thought that we could be for the past two seasons was staying together. And dreaming.
That’s what this program is about. So every time we step on the ice this season, and then at the Olympic Games – we’ve reached our paradise. And the dreaming that we’ve been doing for the past two seasons and from the very beginning when we were children, that’s what this is about”.
Now look at them again, happy, smiling, with the Olympic bronze medals around their neck – Maia and Alex Shibutani are the living proof that dreams come true.
And someone on twitter found some other story in their story as well: “Maia and Alex stood with Tessa and Scott on their first World podium 7 years ago, and here they are together on the Olympic podium today”.
PLUS: Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue becoming one with the sensual “Cuando Calienta El Sol” in the short dance – what a commanding performance that was, having them in the 3rd place after this particular segment of the event; the bubbles and the energy, the speed, the effervescence in Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte’s short dance, the 5th of the day in terms of scores; the wonderful team Sara Hurtado and Kirill Khaliavin already is: his beautiful, elegant lines, her fiery attitude, selling the music, every music, to the fingertips – and both bringing so much into the partnership; the super performance, the quality of everything in Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain le Gac’s Olympic free dance to Queen – they surely took my breath away and, just like you would do after waking up from a dream, I kept mumbling the lyrics of the song for the entire day to follow.
THE DREAMS THAT MADE THE #DREAM: WHITE SWAN TURNING INTO BLACK SWAN, AND TAKING GOLD IN HER OLYMPIC DEBUT
Alina Zagitova doesn’t know it yet, but her short program – a tour de force into the life of a swan – will be the deciding factor in the ladies’ event in PyeongChang. And her 1.31 point-advance over two-time World Champion Evgenia Medvedeva will be just enough to secure her the Olympic gold.
And the short program was golden alright, the beautiful, serene white swan turning into a dramatic, mysterious black one, as shown through the layers and shades of her costume, through the crescendo of the music, and the layout of her elements – and Alina herself was on fire: we have never seen her so focused, so composed, so into a performance.
With 82.92 points, she’s now owning the world record score for the ladies SP.
20 minutes earlier, the record score was all Evgenia’s, with her soft, yet commanding interpretation of Chopin’s Nocturne.
Come to think of it, these two programs are completely opposite, each one highlighting the aces up these two amazing skaters’ sleeves. Alina was going full power, upping the ante technically, and her determination was almost palpable, while Evgenia went with lightness, smoothness, the ethereal quality of her skating.
At the end of the day, as everyone anticipated, Eteri Tutberidze’s girls were 1 and 2 in PyeongChang. As in ice dance, the only real questions concerned the order – out of the two, who would take gold – and the actual identity of the bronze medalist.
And Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond definitely established herself as a bronze medal contender with her convincing performance to “Sous le ciel de Paris” and “Milord” – as convincing, as powerful as Edith Piaf’s voice. And her jumps are marvelous – they are, they are – and you almost have the feeling that Kaetlyn spends more time in the air than on the ice.
With 78.87 points, she’ll be third on the day – but her overall presence & presentation will be the highlight to many. “Some phenomenal skates with the ladies today! Kaetlyn Osmond was the shining star of this event for me! Also a very impressive start for Zagitova, we will see what happens in the long…”, Ashley Wagner shared on twitter, while Jeremy Abbott felt the need to punctuate: “Kaetlyn Osmond skates with enormous speed, jumps higher than anyone, transitions everywhere, plus all the difficulty. She knows how to skate, her edges are impeccable, musicality out her ears. Pure quality. Her short program should be in the conversation for gold”.
The God of Satoko(s) and Carolina(s)
But a couple of other performances shined as well in PyeongChang, drawing love, attention, admiration from fans and skaters altogether.
Take Satoko Miyahara’s “Memoirs of a Geisha”.
A jewel, an embroidery even – and we’ll give our own 6.0 to the composition of this program, and the way Satoko performed it. Such a long road to her comeback from injuries, so many demons to fight, but that particular performance on the Olympic ice was purely stunning.
There is a God, I write seeing her scores: 75.94 points. The God of Satokos.
…because with Satoko you’re always in a carousel of emotions while waiting for her scores: you never really know when her jumps would be called under by the technical panel – and this overall uncertainty must be unsettling to her as much as to those watching: and so, while in Korea, she really worked on her jumping passes, to make sure her TES wouldn’t drop because of that.
And it didn’t.
And her short program was a thing of beauty, as it was the bouquet of reactions from skaters of all generations on twitter.
Dick Button: “Miyahara – Lovely back and terrific Port de Bras” – and do take into consideration Dick Button is not that generous when it comes to praises.
Gracie Gold: “Satoko is so refined and well trained. Each movement has a purpose. Not to mention her packaging is divine”.
Misha Ge: “Such a quality skate within Asian Scent (Music/Style) by Satoko”
Jeremy Abbott: “Satoko knows how to skate, she’s so fluid and her edges are exquisite. She has studied figure skating and her quality exudes that knowledge!”
Grant Hochstein: “Satoko has the most lovely short program of the night, hands down”
And, minutes later, take this from Jeremy Abbott, as if we were all in a Shakespeare play: “Be still, my heart. It’s time for queen Caro!”
In the warm-up, under the attentive eyes of Michael Huth and Lori Nichol, Carolina’s triple Flip-triple Toe looked ready and secure – but during actual performance, doubts might have crept in, and so the second jump of her combination would turn into a double, and she’d also put a hand down on the triple Loop.
But even technically flawed, that program was, from start to end, emotions – in her fourth Olympics, Carolina Kostner skated to “Ne me quitte pas”, and we could sing it too, since we don’t want this magnificent lady to ever leave us.
With 73.15 points, she was still in contention for a medal.
And who else to end this little story, if not the one who started it?
Jeremy Abbott: “Watching Carolina skate is like falling in love for the first time. It’s beautiful, it’s special, it’s unexpected, it’s powerful, and it will never be forgotten”.
PLUS: have you seen Kaori Sakamoto? Really, really seen her? Because we have a soft spot for her ever since Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, last October, and her short program to “Moonlight Sonata” in PyeongChang only helped this love to grow. Her spins, her jumps, her speed were just fantastic – what a skate in her Olympic debut, and nerves of steel, she has had them all season.
And her reactions, her coach’s reactions to the scores (73.18 points)?
She’ll be 5th at the end of the day.
And the actual end of the day – with six ladies over 70 points, and two of them breaking the World record one after the other – will be best summarized by Charlie White: “Greatest Olympic Ladies short ever?!”
And there was still the free skate to come. And, two days later, that will prove itself equally exhilarating.
Evgenia Medvedeva as Anna Karenina: a performance for the ages
Skating last in the last group of ladies, Evgenia Medvedeva was truly the embodiment of countess Anna Karenina.
She felt it too.
“In my program today I really felt like Anna Karenina in the movie. I put everything that I had out there, I left everything on the ice”.
And what a marvelous interpreter Evgenia has become – and this was definitely the most precious free skate of her career, performed on the Olympic ice in PyeongChang. Imagine the pressure on her shoulders while coming back from injury and getting ready for the biggest event of her career so har.
And to so many people watching, that was a skate worthy of a champion.
“This was my mindset going out – not to leave anything on the table. I didn’t think about errors, nor about a clean skate. Honestly, I skated like in a fog, for the first time. It is because I realize that I am enjoying the process, these four minutes are historical and they only belong to me and the whole world is watching only me for those four minutes”.
Somewhere in the audience, a friend, a supporter will have his fingers crossed for Evgenia.
“I wasn’t that nervous watching anyone’s performance ever, especially when is your little Sis fighting for the gold”, Misha Ge will share on twitter.
The gold will elude Evgenia in PyeongChang – but her performance will stay amongst the golden ones at 2018 Olympics.
The future is now
And have you seen Alina Zagitova’s eyes at the beginning of the 6-minute warm-up, when her name was announced? They screamed: I AM READY.
And ready she was, skating a feisty long program, a glorious one even, to the music of “Don Quixote” by Leon Minkus.
She didn’t let a stone unturned – and even when she missed to put the triple Loop after the Lutz in what was supposed to be the first jumping pass of her program, she came back seconds later and tried it again. Successfully.
With all seven triple jumps into the second part of her free skate, impressive spins and footwork, she jumped into the lead, with 156.65 points, and 239.57 overall.
And there she stayed.
“[I knew] I didn’t have any room for errors. That was a motivation and anxiety at the same time. My hands were shaking, but my body remembered what I’ve been doing many times in practice”.
And at 15 years and 281 days old, the Russian is the second-youngest Olympic Ladies gold medalist, after Tara Lipinski in Nagano, in 1998 (15 years and 255 days).
And what a day this was for Kaetlyn Osmond. And such a captivating black swan she was, selling the program and the character to the fingertips. And winning a well-deserved Olympic bronze medal, after the gold she won with the team.
“All day I was terrified, I was so nervous – but this is a program I feel super comfortable with in practice, and I was so ready to show it in competition”, Kaetlyn will share with a smile in the press conference room.
She made it.
From 13th in Sochi four years ago, to the Olympic podium in PyeongChang.
And to those following skating, that wasn’t even a surprise: Kaetlyn is the World silver medalist en titre.
But the hero of the day, to us in particular, was Satoko Miyahara, who skated a marvel of a long program as Madame Butterfly. So beautifully portrayed, so full of nuances: she was a joy to watch, and that program was magic, not even considering what she’s been through to be able to earn her Olympic spot, and then skate in PyeongChang.
She finished her first Olympics on the 4th place – and no signs of regret here. Only joy.
The joy of taking it all in.
“Standing on the Olympic ice, I wanted to devote every effort to what I’ve worked towards for four years. It was beyond imagination. I fully enjoyed my performance, and being able to reflect myself. It was a priceless moment”.
And our utmost admiration goes to Carolina Kostner as well, who finished her fourth Olympics on the 5th place. In PyeongChang, she wasn’t on a par with the others technically – but artistically, there’s really no one like her. And she seemed happy, serene, her head leaning on Lori Nichol’s shoulder – and that must have been one of the most heartwarming moments of the ladies’ event.
“I know that I have gone such a long way since the first Olympic Games. The goal was to live it in a positive way, and it was [like that] all the way through. I am really, really proud that I pushed through. I hope this can be of help and inspiration for others that struggle, that look for some inspiration. For me it was totally worth it, and I am so happy”.