GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb 20, (AFP): Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir planned to guzzle some champagne to toast their sparkling record-breaking ice dance triumph Tuesday which saw them become the most decorated Olympic skaters of all time.
In what is almost certainly their final appearance on the world stage, the Vancouver 2010 champions looked destined for silver after French rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron appeared to have stolen the show in Pyeongchang, breaking their own free dance and combined score mark.
But skating last, Virtue and Moir pulled out the dance of their lives under incredible pressure to earn 122.40 for a combined record total of 206.07 points and the gold medal, narrowly bettering the French duo’s 205.28.
Moir added: “We knew today we’d put in a fantastic performance, gave it all we had, we skated with our hearts.
In bronze, almost 13 points behind, came American brother and sister act Maia and Alex Shibutani.
For Virtue and Moir, 30, this was a record fifth medal to go with their Vancouver gold and the silvers they won in the team and ice dance at Sochi, and gold in last week’s team event in Pyeongchang.
Told in the mixed zone that some rink experts were suggesting they were the greatest skaters of all time, Virtue laughed: “Where are these people?!”
She added: “That’s incredibly flattering, it’s hard to wrap our heads around, especially so close to the event, but we are grateful of the legends that have come before us.”
The duo will allow their achievement to seep in before they tell the world their next steps.
Virtue and Moir led after Monday’s short programme, in which Papadakis suffered an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.
Wearing a backless all-in-one number this time with no annoying clips to become unfastened, she and Cizeron could not have done any more in their bid to become only France’s second champions in this discipline likened to ballroom dancing on ice.
Papadakis and Cizeron have been superb all season, becoming the first ice dancers to break the 200-point mark last year.
Their elegant and seamless routine to Beethoven’s Piano and Moonlight sonatas earned a row of level fours from the judges.
Papadakis fell into Cizeron’s arms crying, before the couple exited to the wings of the Gangneung Arena to see if their training companions in Montreal could deny them the title.
And how they did.
The Canadian couple began their routine to Roxanne from Moulin Rouge with many at the now-hushed venue believing they were chasing a lost cause.
But their energetic and sensual tango stole the rink jury’s hearts — and broke those of their two French friends’ watching their dream of Olympic gold disappear.
He added: “We gave our all, that’s why we were so emotional on the ice at the end.
Papadakis, commenting on her misfortune a day earlier when her dress slipped, said: “I had no choice but to get over what happened yesterday.
From fifth to first, Johannes Rydzek got his gold.
The 26-year-old Rydzek led a German sweep of the Olympic podium on Tuesday in Nordic combined, finishing ahead of teammates Fabien Riessle and normal hill champion Eric Frenzel.
Rydzek was in fifth place after the ski jump portion of the event, but he erased a 31-second deficit in the 10-kilometer cross-country race and took the lead on the last lap to win the large hill gold medal at the Pyeongchang Games.
“It was in incredible moment that last couple of meters,” Rydzek said. “I knew I was accompanied by two very strong racers who would push me to the last and it was a great day for German athletes.”
Riessle was four seconds off the pace for silver while Frenzel took the bronze, eight seconds behind.
Overall World Cup leader Akito Watabe of Japan, who was first after the ski jumping stage and started with a one-second lead over Jarl Magnus Riiber of Norway, led for most of the race but faded over the last two kilometers and finished fifth.
Rydzek, Riessle and Frenzel all produced strong jumps.
Watabe and Riiber contested for the lead early on and built up a 16-second lead over the three Germans. But Rydzek, Riessle and Frenzel gradually closed the gap and surged into the lead on the last lap.
Rydzek, known for his strength in cross-country, has been building momentum since winning four golds at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland, last year.
A month after winning the world junior title in Hinterzarten, Germany, in January 2010, Rydzek made his Olympic debut in Vancouver and finished on the podium, helping the German quartet win bronze in the team event.
Fifth overall in the World Cup standings this season, his lone title this season came in Kuusamo, Finland, on Nov. 26.
After winning the normal hill title, Frenzel was looking to become the second athlete to win gold in both the normal and large hill in a single edition of the Winter Olympics after Finland’s Samppa Lajunen, who won both events at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
Nordic combined features ski jumping and a cross-country ski race. The athlete who wins the ski jumping stage starts first, followed by the remaining athletes in their order of finish.
On a day when the first unified Korean Olympic team took an emotional bow, the Games suffered a fresh doping blow with the suspension of Slovenian ice hockey player Ziga Jeglic.
It came soon after a Russian bronze medallist in curling was suspended for failing a doping test and a Japanese short-track speed skater was similarly kicked out of the Games in South Korea last week.
Russian curler Alexander Krushelnitsky tested positive for the banned substance meldonium and Moscow’s sports minister waded into the controversy on Tuesday when he said the athlete was innocent of knowingly taking the drug.
“In this case, the athlete could not have used the banned drug intentionally, it would be simply pointless. Curling, as a whole, is not the kind of sport in which dishonest athletes use doping,” said Pavel Kolobkov.
It could have wider repercussions — Olympic officials will decide this week whether to lift a formal ban on Russia and let them march behind their national flag at Sunday’s closing ceremony.
Jeglic, who plays in Russia, tested positive for fenoterol, a banned substance used to treat breathing difficulties, and was given 24 hours to quit the Olympic Village.
Away from the grace and elegance of the skating rink, Martin Fourcade became the most decorated French athlete in Olympic history as he helped his country to gold in the biathlon mixed relay.
It was the remarkable 29-year-old’s fifth Olympic title, his third in South Korea.
“We often say that we are doing an individual sport but we are living more than 220 days a year together,” Fourcade said, stressing it was a team achievement.
“Winning this medal together is something really emotional and we really enjoy it.”
In contrast, his fellow French competitor Marie Martinod wiped out on her final run in freestyle skiing’s halfpipe to hand gold to Cassie Sharpe of Canada.
Sharpe produced some jaw-dropping aerobatics and celebrated by raising her hands behind her head in a bunny-ear sign as she crossed the line backwards.
There were tears and cheers as the unified Korean women’s hockey team exited the Olympics with a 6-1 defeat to Sweden in their final game.
The team was hastily assembled following a landmark deal between South and North Korea only a few weeks before the Pyeongchang Games, and has 12 North Koreans on its roster.
The squad had little success, however, shipping 28 goals and scoring just twice in their five defeats.
But they proved a crowd favourite and came to stand as a symbol of the abrupt reconciliation between North and South Korea that occurred in the run-up to the Games.
At the business end of the competition in Pyeongchang, where more strong wind is forecast at the end of the week, Germany caught Norway at the top of the medals table with 11 golds apiece.
The spotlight returns to alpine skiing on Wednesday when American speed queen Lindsey Vonn will bid for a second Olympic downhill gold medal.
Winter Olympics Medals Table/Medalists
PYEONGCHANG, Feb 20, (Agencies): Olympic Games complete medals table on day 11.
G S B T
Norway 11 10 8 29
Germany 11 7 5 23
Canada 8 5 6 19
Netherlands 6 5 3 14
France 5 4 4 13
US 5 3 4 12
Sweden 4 3 0 7
Austria 4 2 4 10
South Korea 4 2 2 8
Japan 2 5 3 10
Switzerland 2 4 1 7
Italy 2 2 4 8
Czech Republic 1 2 3 6
Slovakia 1 2 0 3
Belarus 1 1 0 2
Britain 1 0 3 4
Poland 1 0 1 2
Ukraine 1 0 0 1
China 0 5 2 7
OAR 0 3 8 11
Australia 0 2 1 3
Slovenia 0 1 0 1
Finland 0 0 3 3
Spain 0 0 2 2
Latvia 0 0 1 1
Liechtenstein 0 0 1 1
Kazakhstan 0 0 1 1
Total 70 68 70 208
G = Gold; S = Silver; B = Bronze; T = Total.
Biathlon Mixed Relay
Gold: France (Anais Bescond, Marie Dorin Habert, Martin Fourcade, Simon Desthieux)
Silver: Norway (Emil Hegle Svendsen, Tiril Eckhoff, Marte Olsbu, Johannes Thingnes Boe)
Bronze: Italy (Dorothea Wierer, Lukas Hofer, Dominik Windisch, Lisa Vittozzi)
Figure Skating Ice Dance
Gold: Canada (Scott Moir, Tessa Virtue)
Silver: France (Gabriella Papadakis, Guillaume Cizeron)
Bronze: United States (Alex and Maia Shibutani)
Freestyle Skiing Women’s Halfpipe
Gold: Cassie Sharpe, Canada
Silver: Marie Martinod, France
Bronze: Brita Sigourney, United States
Nordic Combined Men’s Large Hill/10km Race
Gold: Johannes Rydzek, Germany
Silver: Fabian Riessle, Germany
Bronze: Eric Frenzel, Germany
Short Track Speedskating Women’s 3,000 Relay
Gold: South Korea (Kim Alang, Choi Minjeong, Shim Sukhee, Kim Yejin)
Silver: Italy (Arianna Fontana, Cecilia Maffei, Martina Valcepina, Lucia Peretti)
Bronze: Netherlands (Jorien Ter Mors, Yara Van Kerkhof, Lara Van Ruijven, Suzanne Schulting)