Alexa Scimeca Knierim

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Sonja Henie record at stake; figure skating worlds pairs preview

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When Aljona Savchenko won her first gold medal at her fifth Olympics with her third different partner in PyeongChang, she said she “wrote history.”

She can write some more this week.

Savchenko, who at 34 became the oldest female figure skating champion in Winter Olympic history, and partner Bruno Massot are the only pairs medalists from PyeongChang who are back for the world championships in Milan.

The Germans headline the field for the short program Wednesday and free skate Friday.

Savchenko can tie Norwegian Sonja Henie for the female record of 11 world championships medals. She can grab a share of second on the all-time pairs list with a sixth world title, four shy of Soviet Irina Rodnina‘s record.

Savchenko, who won four crowns with now-retired Robin Szolkowy, goes for her first world title with Massot. They’re clear favorites.

Olympic silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong withdrew from worlds due to Sui’s foot injury. Olympic bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford retired.

It’s arguably a surprise that Savchenko and Massot chose to compete in Milan. They’re the first Olympic pairs champions to compete at a post-Olympic worlds since 1992.

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Their top challengers are Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who outscored Savchenko and Massot in the Olympic short program but dropped off the podium in the free skate with a fall on their throw.

U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, 15th at the Olympics, made the top 10 in all of their four world championships appearances with a best finish of seventh. The last U.S. pairs medal came in 2002, the nation’s longest drought in any figure skating discipline.

The Knierims were the only U.S. pair in PyeongChang, but in Milan they’re joined by Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay.

Stellato earned singles silver at the 2000 World Junior Championships, then retired at age 17 due to hip injuries. She came back at age 32 in 2016 in pairs and, with the Sochi Olympian Bartholomay, took bronze at this year’s nationals.

Key Short Program Start Times (Wednesday ET)
Deanna Stellato/Nathan Bartholomay (USA) — 1:39 p.m.
Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 4:05 p.m.
Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 5:14 p.m.
Aljona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 5:20 p.m.
Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 5:33 p.m.

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MORE: Best figure skating moments from PyeongChang

Nathan Chen, Knierims land U.S. contingent in second place after team event

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Grand Prix Final champion Nathan Chen made his Olympic debut in PyeongChang as part of the U.S. quad competing in the team event on Thursday night. Both Chen and two-time U.S. national pair champions Alexa Scimeca Knierm and Chris Knierim contributed their short programs.

Chen scored 80.61 points in after his short program, set to “Nemesis” by Benjamin Clementine. Chen executed the first quadruple flip ever seen in Olympic competition, before tacking on a double toeloop in combination. His planned a second quad jump, a quad toe, but doubled it instead. It was invalidated, and then he fell on his triple Axel attempt.

NBCOlympics.com: Nathan Chen finishes fourth with a fall in team event short

He finished in fourth place in the phase, and earned Team USA seven points. On the NBC broadcast, he said he was disappointed with his performance and because he felt he “let the team down.”

In first place is Shoma Uno, who is often seen as Japan’s No. 2 man behind reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu. Earlier in the week, Hanyu officially opted out of the team event to allow for the maximum recovery time after he injured his ankle in November. Japan is not expected to earn a medal in the team event.

NBCOlympics.com: What is the figure skating team event?

Uno cracked the 100-point barrier with his first place score of 103.25 points. He earned 10 points for Japan. Alexei Bychenko from Israel is in second place and earned nine points for his country.

Three-time world champion Patrick Chan from Canada finished third overall, earning eight points for his country.

South Korea’s skater, Cha Jun-Hwan, made his Olympic debut by skating in front of a home audience. He scored his country five points by finishing in sixth place on home ice.

Mikhail Kolyada, competing on behalf of the Olympic Athletes from Russia, finished in eighth place and earned the team three points. The Russian squad is widely seen as a medal threat in this event, having won gold in the team event the first time it was contested in 2014.

The sole U.S. pair team at the PyeongChang Olympics took the ice later Thursday. The married U.S. pair, the Knierims, were nearly flawless after their short program. Their “Come What May” performance scored 69.75 points.

Later Thursday, European gold medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov finished first in the pair event, representing Olympic Athletes from Russia. The pair team picked up 10 points for OAR/Russia. Two-time world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford followed for second place, earning Canada nine points. The pair representing Germany, Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, finished third and earned eight points.

The sole U.S. pair team at the PyeongChang Olympics took the ice later Thursday. The married U.S. pair, the Knierims, were nearly flawless after their short program. Their “Come What May” performance scored 69.75 points and earned seven points for Team USA.

NBCOlympics.com: For the Knierims, the Olympic journey is bigger than themselves

The Gangneung venue is where the Knierims returned to competition exactly a year ago, after Scimeca Knierim recovered from multiple abdominal injuries.

The short program phase only includes a field of 10 skaters in the team event. Each earns points for their country, and after each skating discipline finishes the short program phase, the bottom five teams will be eliminated. The top five teams advance and have one entrant perform their free skate or free dance.

Team standings after the men’s and pairs’ short programs:
1. Canada – 17 points
2. United States – 14 points
3. Japan – 13 points
4. Olympic Athletes from Russia – 13 points
5. Israel – 11 points
6. China – 10 points
7. Italy – 10 points
8. Germany – 10 points
9. South Korea – 6 points
10. France – 6 points

U.S. picks Nathan Chen for team event short program in PyeongChang

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Two-time U.S. national champion Nathan Chen will skate the short program for Team USA in the figure skating team event, according to a U.S. Figure Skating announcement on Wednesday.

Chen is planning two quadruple jumps in the short program, which is set to Benjamin Clementine’s “Nemesis.” “I feel like I’m a good addition to the team,” Chen said before the announcement, according to a PyeongChang 2018 media release. “Also, we’re at the Olympics, we get only one shot on the ice, so to have another shot is like a great experience. It would be good to put the program out there before I get to do the individual.

NBCOlympics.com: Nathan Chen plans to put it all together at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics

“I think we have a pretty good shot of getting on the podium.”

Four years ago in Sochi, the U.S. contingent took home a bronze medal in the first-ever figure skating team event.

After his first practice, Chen described what it was like to skate on ice in PyeongChang first the first time at the Games:

“The ice feels awesome. I still have a couple of practices to get my feet under me, but ultimately everything feels good right now.”

NBCOlympics.com: American figure skating preview

The federation also announced Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, a married pair team, as the skaters in the pairs short program phase of the team event. The two-time national champions are the only U.S. pair in PyeongChang, but have said they don’t find competing four times in the span of a week daunting. The team event opens the Olympic figure skating program, followed by the pairs’ event.

“We’re both really excited being in the team event,” Chris told media on a recent teleconference. “Even if there was another pair team, we would still be doing both of the events. It’s a big opportunity when you go to an Olympics and you get to compete your short and long for a normal Olympics. But now, for the team event, we have the opportunity to compete two more times in front of the world.”

The team event kicks off with the men’s short program and pairs’ short program on Feb. 8 in Primetime on NBC and NBCOlympics.com.