Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov did on Thursday what no Russian pairs’ team had been able to do in the previous eight years – win a world title – and they did so in their senior world championships debut.
In doing so, they became the youngest pairs’ world champions since the legendary Russians Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergey Grinkov, who won four titles from 1986-90 while Gordeeva was a teenager.
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With a total score of 227.59, the Russians outperformed two-time world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China (225.71). The most decorated active pairs’ team, Sui and Han now have five world medals after claiming gold in 2017 and 2019, and silver in 2015 and 2016.
Mishina and Galliamov’s countrymates Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitry Kozlovsky, who share their ages of 19 and 21, respectively, took the bronze with a 217.63 total. Boikova and Galliamov were in first after Wednesday’s short program in Stockholm.
Mishina and Galliamov, who won the 2019 world junior title, are the first pair from once dominant Russia to win a world title since Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov, who ended an eight-year drought in 2013. This year, skaters are representing the Russian Skating Federation – as opposed to Russia – as the nation’s flag and anthem are barred from major international sporting events due to doping issues.
“We were really surprised to come first, I don’t know what to say at the moment – we don’t understand it yet,” Mishina said of the win.
“Indeed it was a tough season, we entered it smoothly, there were hardships and problems,” added Galliamov, who contracted COVID-19 in October.
Entering this week, Sui and Han had won all six of their competitions since taking silver at the 2018 Olympics, though they continue to work their way back from Han’s hip joint surgery last April. In what was their first competition of the season, Sui under-rotated two jumps.
“We didn’t have a lot of pressure and this [free program] makes us to improve,” Han said. “Also, we feel happy in this competition.”
Two U.S. pairs finished in the top 10 for the first time in nine years, with Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier placing seventh (192.10) in their first season together and Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc (185.31) ninth, matching their result from 2019.
Neither team performed to its ability but both did enough to secure two pairs’ spots for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, more than the U.S. had in PyeongChang four years prior when it sent one team for the first time since the inaugural Winter Games in 1924.
“The fact that three spots was a part of the conversation is a testament to the progress that we’ve made,” LeDuc said, referring to both teams’ higher placements after the short program. “We’re seeing improvement in U.S. pairs each year; the placements are getting higher and higher. … Four years from now, let’s see if we can do it.”
Knierim, who filled that lone 2018 Olympic spot with husband Chris, stepped out on both side-by-side jumps, putting her hand down on the second.
“I feel like I let down the team; I made too many mistakes,” Knierim said, adding that she did not feel like the dialed-in “Alexa I usually am when I compete,” and she was trying to find herself throughout the performance.
Cain-Gribble and LeDuc, who replaced replaced Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson on the world team a few weeks ago after the U.S. silver medalists withdrew for personal reasons unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic, each doubled an intended side-by-side triple jump.
“We’re a little bit disappointed with some things today, and at the same time we’re also very encouraged by some other things in the program,” LeDuc noted.
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