Winter Olympics 2018

Dazzling couples are hot on V-day

Top: Leaders Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China showing their sizzling chemistry in the pairs skating short programme at the Gangneung Ice Arena yesterday. Above: North Korea's Kim Ju Sik (left) and Ryom Tae Ok can hardly believe their personal-best
Above: Leaders Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China showing their sizzling chemistry in the pairs skating short programme at the Gangneung Ice Arena yesterday. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Top: Leaders Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China showing their sizzling chemistry in the pairs skating short programme at the Gangneung Ice Arena yesterday. Above: North Korea's Kim Ju Sik (left) and Ryom Tae Ok can hardly believe their personal-best
Above: North Korea's Kim Ju Sik (left) and Ryom Tae Ok can hardly believe their personal-best score when finishing 11th to be among the top 16 pairs entering the free skate.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Chinese get the better of rivals ahead of free skate; snowboarder White captures third Games gold

GANGNEUNG (South Korea) • Chinese figure skating duo Sui Wenjing and Han Cong seduced the judges and fans on St Valentine's Day in the Olympic pairs yesterday.

The world champions produced a personal best to lead the short programme ahead of today's free skate.

Their routine to Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah earned 82.39 points to give them a slender cushion.

Sui disclosed that nerves had almost got the better of her.

"I was very emotional today," she said. "Even when I was putting on my make-up, I was already crying. I just felt very nervous.

"But after we got on the ice and finished our routine, I realised there's all there is to it."

Less than a point adrift after delivering their own career best came Evgenia Tarasoza and Vladimir Morozov (81.68).

The double European champions are riding a crest of a wave after helping the Olympic Athletes from Russia claim their first silver of the Games in the team event.

Team gold went to Canada, in large part thanks to the efforts of Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who sit third (76.82).

North Korean skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik were also celebrating the best performance of their lives, finishing 11th and joining the top 16 in going through to the free skate.

Supported by the 200-plus strong band of North Korean cheerleaders, Ryom and Kim wowed the crowd with an excellent execution of their short programme to the Beatles classic A Day In The Life.

The judges awarded them 69.40 points for their clean skate, smashing their previous highest of 65.25 - the crowd gave them top marks with Kim hailing the enthusiastic support.

"Now that we have competed, (we could see) how strong our Korean people can be when we are together," the 25-year-old said of the North Korean cheerleaders and South Koreans. "We are one people sharing the same bloodline."

The 19-year-old Ryom and her partner Kim are the only two of the 22 North Korean athletes at the Games to meet Olympic qualifying standards - the rest got in on a special invitation as part of a landmark agreement that led to some calling these the "Peace Olympics".

While the duo made their long-awaited debut yesterday, snowboarding great Shaun White marked his fourth Winter Games by winning his third Olympic gold.

White, starting last in the half-pipe, watched bronze medallist Scotty James (92.00) wiped out before nailing a spectacular last run of the day to snatch victory from Japan's Ayumu Hirano (95.25), celebrating wildly afterwards.

It was redemption for the 31-year-old, who won gold in 2006 and 2010 and helped put the hipster sport on the map but flopped in Sochi four years ago.

"Oh man, that was awful and amazing at the same time. I knew I did a great ride and I was proud of that and I could walk away with my head high, but when they announced my score (97.75) and I'd won, it crippled me," said the American. "I was so overwhelmed with happiness, I've been through so much to get here."

His joy was punctured when he was questioned by reporters over a sex harassment case involving the female former drummer of his band, Bad Things, which he settled out of court last year.

"Honestly, I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip. But I don't think so," said White, when asked if the case had tarnished his legacy.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2018, with the headline 'Dazzling couples are hot on V-day'. Print Edition | Subscribe