Canadian pairs skaters advance to Olympic free program, but sit outside of top 10

The two Canadian duos in the pairs figure skating short program moved on to the free skate Friday on a day that saw one of the top teams set a new world record.

James and Radford sit in 12th place, Moore-Towers and Marinaro are 13th

Vanessa James and Eric Radford of Canada show off their death spiral as they compete in the pairs short program during the figure skating competition at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games on Friday in Beijing. They currently sit in twelfth place. (Bernat Armangue/The Associated Press)

The two Canadian duos in the Olympic pairs figure skating short program moved on to the free skate Friday on a day that saw one of the top teams set a new world record.

Canadians Vanessa James and Eric Radford sit in 12th place with a score of 63.03, while Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro sit in 13th with a score of 62.51 ahead of Saturday's free program at Capital Indoor Stadium.

But it was the top Chinese pair of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong who smashed their previous world record and season best of 82.83 with a score of 84.41 with their program to the Mission Impossible soundtrack.

Their only bobble was being slightly off on their side-by-side spins, but they otherwise put on a commanding performance with strong technical elements, including a big triple twist and huge speed into their throw triple flip.

WATCH | Chinese skaters Sui and Han hold narrow lead:

Chinese skaters Sui & Han hold narrow lead after short program

10 months ago
Duration 6:24
Sui Wenjing and Han Cong lead by 0.16 points after posting a score of 84.41 on home ice at Beijing 2022.

"I am so honoured to break the record in my motherland," Sui said afterward.

"But the short program is just a start. We hope to show our highest level in the free skating."

Two Russian pairs are in the second and third positions after the short program. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, world championship silver medallists in 2018 and 2019, are second after they scored a season best 84.25 and could have broken the world record had the Chinese pair not already done so. Their power and artistry rivalled that of the Chinese pair, and they sit only two-tenths of a point behind.

"I think we just felt relief that we finished the short program," Morozov said afterward. "We skated well, and we are happy with our performance."

The 2021 world champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov scored a season best 82.76 to sit in third.

"The result speaks for itself. We tried our best to perform a clean skate, and we did all the elements, executed [them] well," Galliamov said afterward. "All in all we are happy with our performance."

The top 16 pairs qualified for the free skate, where medals will be awarded, which gets underway Saturday at 6 a.m. ET.

All the action will be streamed live on CBC Gem, the CBC Sports app and CBC Sports' Beijing 2022 website.

James and Radford only teamed up about a year ago and at first intended just to skate together in exhibitions. James, who was born in Canada, had competed for France at three previous Olympics, while Radford and previous partner Meagan Duhamel won team gold and pairs bronze in Pyeongchang in 2018 and a team silver medal in Sochi in 2014.

WATCH | James and Radford sit in 12th after pairs short program:

James & Radford in 12th after pairs short program

10 months ago
Duration 6:34
Canadians Vanessa James and Eric Radford scored 63.03 in the short program at Beijing 2022.

The pair decided to compete together this season with an eye on Beijing. But after sitting in fourth place following the short program at the Canadian championships — the qualifying event for the Olympics — they withdrew from the competition, citing the fact they had not fully recovered from COVID-19, which they contracted in December.

Despite sitting out the free skate, they were awarded Canada's second of two Olympic spots in pairs based on their scores earlier in the season. 

Their score after the Olympic short program on Friday of 63.03 was well off their season best of 71.84 due to small bobbles, including movement on the side-by-side spins, as well as James making her side-by-side triple toe loop a double.

WATCH | James and Radford after mistake in short program: 'It's a little surprising':

Radford & James after mistake in short program: 'It's a little surprising, a little disappointing'

10 months ago
Duration 1:25
Canadian pairs skaters Vanessa James and Eric Radford discuss their short program where they scored 63.03.

After their skate, Radford called the mistake on the side-by-side jumps "unfortunate," while James called it "disappointing."

"We've been training really hard, we've been training well," James told the CBC's Elladj Baldé. "I haven't missed a toe loop, so it's a little surprising for me today and a little disappointing because we've done the work and it's there so it's more me re-evaluating my mental focus."

Moore-Towers and Marinaro, who placed 11th at PyeongChang 2018, both fell on the throw triple loop but skated an otherwise clean program.

WATCH | Oral History: The skating scandal that rocked the 2002 Winter Olympics

Oral History: The skating scandal that rocked the 2002 Winter Olympics

2 years ago
Duration 7:51
How a judging quid pro quo nearly robbed Canada's Jamie Salé and David Pelletier of a gold medal.

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