SOCHI, RUSSIA – Maxim Trankov hopes young figure skaters all over Russia will take inspiration from what he and Tatiana Volosozhar accomplished at the Olympics.
The two restored the country to the pinnacle of pairs Wednesday, and their teammates made it almost total domination. Volosozhar and Trankov won gold, while Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov took silver.
“I think tonight all of the country will celebrate this beautiful victory,” Trankov said.
Russia or the Soviet Union had won gold in 12 straight Olympics in pairs before the streak ended four years ago, when the Russians failed to take home any medal in the event. In the stands for both days of the competition in Sochi was the pair who started it all: Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, the Olympic champions in 1964 and ’68.
Trankov and Volosozhar rose to the top of the sport at the perfect time, winning the 2013 world championship. A new generation of Russian figure skating hopefuls will now look up to the two pairs who stood atop the podium Wednesday.
Volosozhar and Trankov scored 152.69 points to finish with 236.86, 18.18 ahead of their teammates. Stolbova and Klimov had a near-flawless free skate to move up from third.
Four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany had to settle for bronze for the second straight Olympics.
Skating to “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Volosozhar and Trankov had a few small bobbles. But with a lead after a stellar short program and the difficulty of their elements, they knew when they finished without any big mistakes that gold was in their grasp.
As Russian flags waved throughout the stands, Trankov slid on his knees across the ice like a soccer player celebrating a goal, and Volosozhar buried her face in her hands, the tears flowing.
“To win it here is more special than anything,” Trankov said. “But there was pressure. We were nervous, very nervous. It was huge for us to skate in front of this audience in our country, but it was hard, and to do this makes us very happy now.”
The two Russian pairs also won gold in the new team event. Trankov and Volosozhar become the first figure skaters to take home two golds from one Olympics.
Stolbova and Klimov handled the team free skate for Russia on Saturday and looked sharp, declaring themselves medal contenders. They were even better Wednesday to “The Addams Family” in the night’s most captivating performance.
The music is hauntingly beautiful, though it does include a brief snippet of that famous TV theme song. At the end of the program, when Stolbova must be exhausted, they do a throw triple salchow, which she still managed to land effortlessly.
“Last year we were not at the world championships and we didn’t believe or even hope that we would be at the Olympics,” Klimov said through a translator. “We didn’t ever think of medals.”
The Germans finished nearly three points behind Stolbova and Klimov after Szolkowy fell on a jump in the free skate for the second straight Olympics. He tumbled to the ice on a triple toe loop on their first side-by-side sequence Wednesday.
“It’s two steps away from the gold medal,” he said. “That’s very far away for us.”
Pang Qing and Tong Jian, the 2010 silver medalists, were fourth. Tong said this was probably their final competition.
Four years ago, the U.S. had its worst showing ever in pairs with a 10th- and 13th-place finish. The outcome in the standings was only slightly better this time: two-time national champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir took ninth, while Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay moved up to 12th from 14th after the short program.
But it was a much more encouraging performance this time, with both pairs skating four solid programs despite little experience in major international competitions.
Castelli and Shnapir also won a bronze medal in the team event. She landed upright on their throw quad salchow Wednesday, though she stepped out. That still earned them big points, and they set a personal best in international competition with 120.38.
“We got four season’s bests out of four performances, four great programs,” Shnapir said. “I don’t think we can ask for anything more.”
And Russia can’t ask for anything more through the first two events of figure skating.