Two of the top contenders to win figure skating’s pairs event nearly wiped each other out during their final practice at the Gangneung Ice Arena.
You could call it a close shave.
Aliona Savchenko and her partner, Bruno Massot, were slowly coasting near the boards of the main rink as their practice drew to a close Tuesday when Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford suddenly popped up next to them. The Canadians were practicing one of the elements of their routine, a side-by-side jump, when Duhamel realized she was a mere inches away from Massot’s surprised face.
“I was in the middle of the air and they were standing right there,” Duhamel said. “It’s tight quarters all the time and I tried to stay on the spot and do my double toe without moving.”
Easier said than done.
AP Photo/Peter Kneffel
Savchenko and Massot froze while Duhamel landed the jump, then the German pair flashed big grins and gave their Canadian counterparts an elaborate round of applause.
Such close calls are common during warmups and practice, especially when none of the skaters have their own music playing. They are left to watch out for each other on the packed rink, and that can be tough to do when there are four pairs and a total of eight people sharing limited space.
Frankly, it’s a wonder that more skaters don’t collide.
Savchenko is already dealing with a cold and nagging sorenessin her landing foot, and that could mean the pair changes their programs to avoid their throw triple axel, which is particularly hard on the landing.
So it's not as if they needed any additional problems heading into Wednesday's pairs short program.
AP Photo/Peter Kneffel
Savchenko was a five-time world champion and two-time Olympic bronze medalist with her former partner, Robin Szolkowy. She won a bronze medal with Massot at last year’s world championships, and the pair is among a handful of favorites to win Olympic gold.
Duhamel and Radford are two-time world champions, and they helped the Canadian win team bronze at the 2014 Sochi Games before nabbing gold in the team event earlier this week.
When jokingly asked if he thought Duhamel was trying to get rid of one of her biggest rivals, Massot smiled and said: “No, no, no. We’re actually really good friends!"