Before the 2022 Winter Olympics began, the highest pairs short program score ever recorded under the current judging system was 82.36.
That mark has been passed an astonishing five times at these Games.
Sui Wenjing and Han Cong now hold the world record of 84.41 and are closing in on an Olympic gold medal in their home country and the city in which they train.
Their fierce, sharp performance to the “Mission: Impossible 2” soundtrack earned 3.14 points more than any of their scores the four years leading into these Games, and 1.58 higher than their winning score from the team event two weeks ago.
In their 14th season together, Sui and Han are driven to best their 2018 Olympic silver medal and finally win gold at the Olympic level after doing so twice at world championships.
If Friday’s astonishing short program session — one of the best the sport has seen — was any indication, though, Sui and Han have a fight ahead of them to win that title.
“This pairs free skate is going to be the best pairs event ever,” 1998 Olympic women’s champion Tara Lipinski said during the broadcast.
SEE MORE: Tarasova, Morozov in second, lead ROC into free skate
Yevegenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of the Russian Olympic Committee are a mere 0.16 points behind Sui and Han with 84.25 points. The three-time world medalists have plenty of motivation themselves, having finished fourth at the last Olympics in 2018 and last worlds in 2021.
The reigning world champions, meanwhile, are in third and hungry to be back on top. The ROC’s Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov earned a personal-best 82.76 points.
The final ROC team, Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitry Kozlovskii — reigning world bronze medalists, is fourth after she put her hand down onto the ice and they scored a 78.59.
Showing a clear stranglehold on the top of pairs skating by two nations and two nations only, China’s Peng Cheng and Jin Yang sit in fifth with 76.10 points.
The two American teams follow, both having shown some of their best short program performances to date.
Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, in just their second season together, were 0.77 points from their personal best (which was skated in the team event) with 74.23 points. Knierim competed with husband and then-skating partner Chris Knierim at the PyeongChang 2018 Games, where they were 15th.
SEE MORE: Team USA’s Knierim and Frazier nail pair skating routine
A narrow tenth of a point back is Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc. LeDuc made Olympic history when the team’s music began to play: They are the first publicly out nonbinary athlete to compete at a Winter Olympics.
Two-time Olympian Johnny Weir called it, “a spectacular moment for Timothy LeDuc to live their truth on Olympic ice.”
Cain-Gribble sprained her ankle and pulled ligaments in her leg when she fell on a solo triple loop during a practice session earlier at the Games, but she didn’t let that stop her.
“We just kept looking at each other and we were like, it’s been six years of work to get to here and we weren’t going to let any moment get away from us,” Cain-Gribble told NBC reporter Andrea Joyce. “I had the injury but it was in the back of my mind; I just wanted to put out a strong performance for the both of us and for our team back home.”
SEE MORE: Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc shine in short program
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