Competing at their home Games, Sui and Han won China its second figure skating gold medal in Olympic history, following in the footsteps of their coach, Zhao Hongbo, who won the first in 2010 with partner Shen Xue.
The pairs figure skaters had even more pressure on them as they finished second four years prior, leading after the short program in PyeongChang and then giving up the gold medal by just 0.43 points after a mistake on a triple salchow.
As fate would have it, Sui and Han again had a mistake on their side-by-side triple salchows in Saturday’s free skate. But in an otherwise impeccable performance, which included the first quad twist seen in international competition since 2018, that would not matter.
“I’d like to extend my gratitude to my motherland, which has held such magnificent Olympic Games and has supported our training with the best venues, and to my coach, to our big family, and to everyone supporting us,” Sui said, noting her dream has come true.
“And also, we want to thank our parents, who must have gone through a lot in front of the TVs.”
The teammates of 15 years earned 155.47 points for their free skate. Their total score of 239.88 sets a world record by 0.06 points.
And they won gold by a margin of 0.63 points, extending the lead of 16 hundredths they held from the short over the Russian Olympic Committee’s Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov. It was a fitting result as Tarasova and Morozov sat second after the 2018 short program but then fell fourth overall.
“We’ve been working for years to get this medal, so just to get it means a lot to us,” Morozov said.
In a set of nearly flawless performances that closed out the competition, their ROC teammates Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov took bronze with a 237.71 total. Mishina and Galliamov had won the gold at the 2021 World Figure Skating Championships, where Sui/Han were second and Tarasova/Morozov fourth.
Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier placed sixth in just their second season together. The result is the best by a U.S. pairs team in 20 years; Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman were fifth at the Salt Lake City 2002 Games.
Knierim, a 2018 Olympian with husband and former skating partner Chris Knierim, and Frazier, a 2017 U.S. champion with then-partner Haven Denney, started skating together in April 2020.
He doubled a side-by-side triple salchow but they otherwise had the best performances of their career, they earned 74.23 points in the short program (just shy of their 75.00 personal best from the team event) and a personal-best 138.45 in the free skate for a total of 212.68 points, also a personal best.
“It’s crazy, it’s nuts,” Frazier said of the personal best. “I have so much appreciation for the whole team and my family taking a shot on me. I am forever in their debt for all their hard work.
“We weren’t even sure we would try out and now we are here at the Olympic Games.”
Ashley Cain-Gribble fell twice on jump elements in her free skate with partner Timothy LeDuc, who on Friday became the first nonbinary athlete to compete at the Winter Olympics. Still, they finished eighth and accomplished their top-10 goal.
She was coming back from suffering a sprained ankle and torn ligaments during practice earlier in the week.
“A lot of it was the fatigue of it,” Cain-Gribble explained. “In the last 48 hours I’ve had to go through a lot, but I’m thankful for the team around us that has helped me to be strong enough to even be able to go out on the ice.”
The performance was given 123.92 points for a 198.05 total.
The finishes of both teams marks the best by U.S. pairs teams since 1998.
© 2023 KOBI-TV NBC5. All rights reserved unless otherwise stated.