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Sui Wenjing and Han Cong win gold for China in pairs figure skating

Sui Wenjing and Han Cong skate at the 2022 Olympics.
Sui Wenjing, left, and Han Cong of China compete during their free skate program on their way to winning gold in pairs figure skating Saturday at the Olympics.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
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Sui Wenjing and Han Cong won the pairs figure skating gold medal in their home country Saturday night, performing a smooth and elegant free skate program to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to top three duos from the Russian Olympic Committee.

The Chinese couple, who won the silver medal four years ago at the Pyeongchang Games, beat a strong field by skating the top-ranked program in both segments of the competition. They made one small mistake but earned a world-record 155.47 points Saturday for a total of 239.88, edging out Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (239.25) and 2021 world champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov (237.71).

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“We went through a lot, from being not expected [to win] at the very beginning,” Wenjing said. “People said we were a pair of underdogs, because our builds were not meant for figure skating. Traditionally, men were expected to be tall and women petite.

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“If there is no way in front of us, we will pave our own way, leaving it to others, and that’s how we create a legend. So today, we have really put out our best on the rink. It will be a great happiness if people will be inspired and encouraged to start or keep pair skating training.”

Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, who train at Great Park Ice in Irvine and stood sixth after the short program, skated a beautifully flowing program to “Fix You,” marred only by Frazier doing a double salchow jump while Knierim did a triple salchow. They earned 138.45 points for their free skate for a two-day total of 212.68, which ranked them sixth. In 2018, Knierim and her husband, Chris Knierim, finished 15th in pairs. He retired in 2020, citing injuries and bouts with depression, and she teamed up with Frazier to continue competing.

“It was a true dream come true. It was our true selves out there. We didn’t let our nerves get the best of us,” Frazier said. “Made one technical error on the jump on my part, everything else we did was solid.”

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The other American pair competing here, Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy Leduc, were ranked seventh after the short program and struggled with their free skate. Cain-Gribble, who injured her ankle in practice a few days ago, fell twice and made a few other mistakes. The duo earned 123.92 points for their performance and a two-day total of 198.05 to finish eighth.

“There was a lot of fight in there. Some good elements, some elements that I felt weren’t me at all, but overall we never gave up, and that’s the main thing,” Cain-Gribble said. “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.”

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