Tatyana Volosozhar, Maksim Trankov

Volosozhar, Trankov win European Championship with disastrous free skate

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Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov won their third straight European pairs figure skating title, but their performance was far from golden.

Both Russians fell during their “Jesus Christ Superstar” program (video here) in Budapest, Hungary, on Sunday. They totaled 220.38 points to win by 12.4 over Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov in a Russia medal sweep.

But Volosozhar and Trankov, the world champions, were outscored in the free skate by Stolbova and Klimov and benefited from the withdrawal of their biggest competition come Sochi.

Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy pulled out before the free skate, reportedly due to Savchenko’s illness on her 30th birthday.

Savchenko and Szolkowy are the only pair to have beaten Volosozhar and Trankov in top-flight competition. They last did so at the Grand Prix Final in December, handing the Russians their first loss in more than one year.

They would have done so again in Budapest had they skated Sunday and came within four points of their Grand Prix Final free skate score.

Trankov stepped out of a side-by-side triple Salchow and fell on a triple jump. Volosozhar hit the ice on a throw triple Salchow.

Volosozhar and Trankov broke short- and long-program score records at the beginning of the season but are no longer an iron-clad gold-medal favorite.

They’re hoping to restore Russia’s pairs dominance in Sochi. The Soviet Union, Unified Team and Russia won Olympic pairs gold at every Games from 1964 through 2006. No Russian pair made the podium in 2010.

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Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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MORE: J.R. Celski explains decision to retire

Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

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