By Gina Capellazzi

Injury is apart of every sport and that’s definitely true for figure skating. For many of the top pair teams competing at the World Championships in Helsinki, Finland this year, coming back from injuries and illnesses have been apart of their journey this season.

Two-time World silver medalists Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, of China, missed most of the season this year due Sui having surgery on her right ankle and left foot last year. Their first event of the season was just last month at the 2017 Four Continents Championships, where they won the gold medal with a new personal record of 225.03 points. In Helsinki, Sui and Han, who won the short program by less than two points, needed to beat their personal best score by 5 points to edge out Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot. Sui and Han did that with an emotional free skate to “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. They won the free skate by less than a point over the Germans and earned ISU personal best free skate(150.83) and total score (232.02) to claim their first World title.

After winning gold at both their Grand Prix events this season, Savchenko and Bruno were forced to withdraw from the Grand Prix Final and the German National Championships after Savchenko tore a ligament in her right ankle on the landing of a throw triple Axel.  The 2016 World bronze medalists returned to competition and claimed the silver medal at the Europeans Championships. Silver would be their color as well in Helsinki, earning their second World medal. Despite Savchenko’s earlier injury on the throw triple Axel, the team included the difficult element in both their short and free skate in Helsinki. In the short program, Savchenko stepped out of the landing and in the free skate, she two-footed the landing.  Despite the mistakes, Savchenko & Massot set ISU personal best scores in the short program (79.84 ), free skate (150.46) and total score(230.30).

After a practice before the short program Wednesday where Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova had fallen and cut her knee on her partner, Vladimir Morozov’s skate, it was questionable if the reigning European Champions would compete in Helsinki. The fall had required Tarasova to receive ten stitches.

“Our doctors did everything possible for me to feel comfortable. We were thinking about withdrawing because after this incident we left the ice immediately, there was a long break off the ice, we didn’t know how I would feel in skates. But when I was asked, ‘will you skate?’ I said, ‘I will’. I wasn’t thinking about pain during our performance,” Tarasova said following the short program.

The team would earn 79.37 points in the short program and enter the free skate sitting in third place. They would end up keeping their third place spot and claim the bronze medal with 139.66 in the free skate and a total score of 219.03.

In their first Worlds as a team, Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang, of China, just finished off the podium in fourth place. Russia’s Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, who were in 13th place after a tough short program, finished in third place in the free skate and moved up eight spots to finish in fifth place overall.

Two-time World Champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, of Canada, who were looking to become the first pairs three-peat in 39 years, finished in seventh place. It was revealed earlier in the week that Radford had been battling a hip injury. Their teammates, reigning Canadian silver medalists Liubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch finished ahead of them in sixth place.  

2015 U.S. Champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim finished in 10th place. The event was only their second competition of the season as the team missed most of the season due to Scimeca Knierim’s severe illness. 

“This is a hard competition this year for pairs so it’s no joke to be in the Top 10. We definitely improved on last year’s Worlds by a big margin, which is very nice seeing as how we haven’t been training for a couple months this year. It wasn’t perfect, but we weren’t coming out here to be perfect,” said Knierim following the free skate.

Fellow Americans and reigning U.S. Champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier were in 20th place after the short program and did not qualify for the free skate. 

Olympic Placements:

Based on the results and the ISU’s qualification system for the 2018 Olympic Games, 16 spots in the pairs disclipine are given out at the World Championships and the additional 4 pair spots would be given out at Nebelhorn Trophy in the Fall. While no official confirmation has been given as of press time, based on the ISU’s qualification system and the results of the pairs event at the World Championships, Canada, China and Russia have each earned three pairs spots and Germany, France and Italy have each received two spots. Here’s more of a explanation:

Three teams competing at World Championships in 2017-placement of the top two teams must equal 13 or less to earn three spots for 2018. They must equal 28 or less to earn two spots for 2018. 
Three teams competing at World Championships in 2017-placement of the two teams must equal 13 or less to earn three spots for 2018. They must equal 28 or less to earn two spots for 2018.

Canada earned spots because they had three teams competing and their top two teams placement was 13  (Duhamel/Radford-7th + Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch-6th=13).
China earned 3 spots because they also had two teams competing and their placement was less than 13. (Yu/ Zhang-4th + Sui/Hong-1st=5)
Russia
earned 3 spots because they also had three teams competing and their top two teams placement was less than 13. (Tarasova/Morozov-3th + Stolbova/Klimov-5th+8)

Germany earned 2 spots because they had two teams competing and their placement was less than 28.(Savchenko & Massot-2nd + Hase/Seegert-18th*=20)
Italy earned 2 spots because they had two teams competing and their placement was less than 28. (Marchei/Hotarek-9th + Della Monica/Guarise-13th=22)
France
earned 2 spots because they had two teams competing and their placement was less than 28. (James/Cipres -8th +Esbrat/Novoselov-18th*=26)

*Hase/Seegert and Esbrat/Novoselov did not make the free skate and were given the 18 placement points per ISU rule.

3+3+3+2+2+2=15 spots. While Denney and Frazier were given the 18 points for their short program finish and Scimeca Knierim and Knierim’s 10th placement earned Team USA the necessary 28 points to keep two spots, it appears that Team USA pairs will only receive one spot for the Worlds due to the Rule 400. A.3 listed in the Special Regulations and Technical Rules document, which states if the number of spots qualified exceeds 16, the last country to meet the requirements for multiple spots may not enter a second team. Based on the rules, Team USA is not eligible for any of the spots at Nebelhorn as those spots will be available only to those who have not previously qualified in that discipline. The 16 spots only apply for the Olympics so Team USA pairs will still have two spots for the 2018 World Championships. Again, there has been no official confirmation on this from the ISU nor U.S. Figure Skating and there probably won’t be any until after the World Championships is completed, so stay tuned to Figure Skaters Online for an updates regarding this.