Olympic pairs’ champions not entered in world figure skating championships

Sui Wenjing, Han Cong
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No Chinese skaters are entered for the world figure skating championships, meaning Olympic pairs’ gold medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong will not compete in Montpellier, France, in three weeks.

Entry lists are here. The entry deadline was Monday.

Sui and Han earned China’s lone figure skating medal at each of the last two Olympics — silver in 2018 (missing gold by .43, the smallest margin in history) and gold last month by .63 (second-smallest margin in history).

Sui and Han also earned medals at each of the last five world championships they contested, including golds in 2017 and 2019.

Olympic medal-winning skaters often skip the post-Olympic world championships due to exhaustion, retirement or off-ice opportunities.

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu previously withdrew from worlds, citing an ankle injury. All of the U.S. skaters named to the world team in January are still entered, though it’s believed that some are still deciding whether to participate. Nathan Chen said after winning the Olympic title that he was undecided on worlds.

The pairs’ field in Montpellier will look the most different of the four disciplines. With Russian athletes barred from competition, none of the top five teams from the Olympics are entered.

That means that Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, sixth at the Olympics, are the top team in the field by best total score this season. Another U.S. pair, Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, rank third in the field.

Pairs’ has been the weakest U.S. discipline over the last five Olympic cycles. The last U.S. pairs’ medal at worlds came in 2002. Its last gold medal at worlds came in 1979 (Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner).

If Knierim and Frazier and Cain-Gribble and LeDuc’s finishing placements add up to no more than 13 — sixth and seventh, for example — the U.S. will qualify the maximum three pairs for the 2023 World Championships. The last time the U.S. had a full allotment of pairs was 2003.

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