China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong took the lead after the pairs short program on Wednesday at Gangneung Ice Arena.

The Chinese pair, the defending world champions, skated to “Hallelujah” and earned a score of 82.39 points.

They opened with a nice triple toe loop and added a throw triple flip and a triple twist lift, before closing with a forward inside death spiral.

Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (81.68) of the Olympic Athletes from Russia are in second place going into Thursday’s free skate, while Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (76.82) are third.

Germany’s Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot (76.59) are fourth.

North Korea’s Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik received an especially warm welcome from the audience. The crowd clearly recognized that these are athletes who have worked very hard to get here and are not directly involved in any political issues.

The North Korean cheering squad was out in full force to support Ryom and Kim. So were the South Korean police, who ringed the building in massive numbers before the event began, to ensure security.

During the six-minute warmup the North Koreans chanted “Ryom Tae Ok, Kim Ju Sik” repeatedly in unison.

Ryom and Kim skated to “A Day in the Life” and did a very nice job under what had to be incredible pressure. They surpassed their season’s best by more than four points with a tally of 69.40 and are 10th.

“The cheering from the South Koreans and North Koreans together for us was very helpful,” Kim stated. “There have been no inconveniences whatsoever to life in the South area. We could really feel the power and the energy of the Korean people.”

Ryom welcomed the opportunity for competition.

“We are very happy to skate in our first Olympics and compete with pairs from other countries,” Ryom commented.

Miu Suzaki and Ryuichi Kihara skated to the soundtrack from “Yuri on Ice” and earned a season-best score of 57.74 with a nice program.

The highlights included a nice opening triple lutz, a throw triple salchow and Suzaki’s forward inside death spiral.

Suzaki and Kihara, however, did not qualify for the Thursday’s free skate after finishing 21st of the 22 pairs entered.

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