SOCHI, Russia: World champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov put Winter Games hosts’ Russia back on the top of Olympic pairs figure skating as they reclaimed the title in front of an emotional crowd on Wednesday night.
Dressed in gold to match their expectations, they also became the first couple since 1936 to win on home ice as they led a Russian 1-2 ahead of Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, days after both also won the Olympic team gold.
Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy took their second Olympic bronze after both fell during their free program in the Iceberg Skating Palace.
Trankov fell to his knees with his fists clenched above his head and kissed the ice as Ukrainian-born Volosozhar buried her face in her hands with tears in her eyes after their skate to the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar”.
They knew they had won gold even before the final two couples —China’s Pang Qing and Tong Jian; and Savchenko and Szolkowy—took to the ice.
To chants of “Molodtsi! Molodtsi!” (Russian for ‘Bravo guys!’) they restored Russia’s pairs’ supremacy to the delight of the almost capacity crowd lost amid a sea of red and white flags.
Skaters from the Soviet Union and Russia won 12 straight titles until the 2010 Vancouver Games when they failed to medal and China’s Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo won gold.
“Today was a big day for all of Russia,” said Trankov, after they also became the first skaters to win two Olympic gold medals.
“Now I think Russian pairs are the elite skaters in the world,” he said.
“We had no right to make a mistake. It was our objective to bring the gold back to Russia and the whole country was expecting that.
Hardest job of our lives
“It was the hardest job of our lives,” the 30-year-old said. “I believe that today my enormous country should be celebrating with us this great victory.”
They became the first couple to win on home ice since Germany’s Maxi Herber and Ernst Baier in Garmisch-Partenkirchen 78 years ago.
“We dealt with huge pressure,” he said. “We already have gold in the team event, but this is the realization of the goal and dream of our lives.”
Two-time winners Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, who won the first Olympic pairs title for the former Soviet Union in 1964 at Innsbruck, were in the crowd and rose to their feet to give the pairs a standing ovation.
The married pair defected to Switzerland in 1979.
Trankov wore golden trousers and Volosozhar a gold dress.
“I changed my dress especially for the Olympics. I wanted to make it gold,” she explained.
“It was our ice today, we felt at home. It was a crazy night.”
Despite errors with Volosozhar’s hand touching the ice on a throw triple loop and triple salchow, and some of their spins being out of synch, the pair extended their 4.53-point lead from the short program to finish 18.18 points ahead of Stolbova and Klimov, who also won team gold.
Entertaining and error free
They scored 152.69 for the free skate and 236.86 overall.
Stolbova, 21, and Klimov, 23, brought the house down with their entertaining and error-free “The Addams Family” which earned them 143.43 and 218.68 overall to move up to second from third after the short program.
“It was very important for us to perform well at the Olympics that are in Russia. It’s an once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Klimov.
Four-time world champions Savchenko and Szolkowy, who had been second after the short programme, dropped to third after both fell during their free skate to “The Nutcracker”.
The Germans, who lost their world title to Volosozhar and Trankov last year, finished fourth in the free skate when Savchenko, also Ukrainian born, fell on a triple toeloop and Szolkowy on their final throw triple salchow.
“We wanted much more,” said Szolkowy after they scored 136.14 for 215.78 overall. “We wanted gold. We got bronze, so we’re really disappointed now.”
Trankov only teamed up with Volosozhar after both competed in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with other partners.
Volosozhar was a two-time Olympian competing for Ukraine with Stanislav Morozov, who is now their coach, and Trankov for Russia with Maria Mukhortova.
Pang and Tong, both 34, silver medalists in Vancouver, finished in fourth in their final competition.
Turin Games champion Yevgeny Plushenko will bid to keep Russia’s gold medal streak on track on Thursday when he opens his bid for a record fifth Olympic medal—and third in gold—in the men’s short program.