Canadians soar to world pairs skating title as U.S. teams flop again

      BOSTON – Nice to know there is some excellent pairs skating in North America.

         And nice that a couple from the Great White North was so willing to school their neighbors to the south – as well as the rest of the world –  in what the discipline can look like at its best.

         A free skate filled with power and presence, including a quad throw, side-by-side triple lutz jumps and a striking final pose, brought Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford a second straight world title Saturday afternoon

         Only one other Canadian pair, four-time champs Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul (1957-60), had ever won more than one world championship.

         Duhamel and Radford, second after the short program, were clearly superior in the free skate to any of the other 15 finalists and in another solar system from the U.S. pairs, who maintained their recent record of irrelevance in global competition.

         The Canadians had the third best free skate score ever for a total of 231.99.  Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China, ahead after the short program, were second (224.47) after a fall and a botched jumping pass.

         The pair without borders, Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany (216.17) won bronze after getting the clearance to compete together only in October, when the French federation released him for a $33,000 payment from the Germans.

He is French.  She is a native Ukrainian who had won the world junior title for Ukraine, which she represented until 2003, then five senior world titles and two Olympic medals for Germany with Robin Szolkowy, curiously enough a native German.

         Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, the 2015 U.S. champions, finished ninth after a free skate that went from oops (bump-and-run on the quad twist) to bad (his wonky triple salchow landing) to worse (her hands down on the landing of the first throw) to worst (he doubles, she falls on planned side-by-side triple jumps.)  It seemed a positive that her flaw on the second throw was only a step out on the landing.

         The reigning U.S. champions, Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea, were 13th overall after a one-fall free skate.  Only once has a U.S. team finished lower (14th) in the 44 times it has had just two entrants at worlds.

         Scimeca and Knierim’s score (190.06) was 15 points from sixth, 26 from the medals and a light year behind the Canadians.  In three worlds appearances, they now have gone from ninth to seventh and back to ninth.

         After a season of frustration and doubt, with repeated subpar performances, Duhamel and Radford would deliver the only free skate without a negative grade of execution.

And they did it for the second straight season with elements of unmatched difficulty.  They executed them better this time, replacing a negative GOE (minus 1.57) on the throw quad salchow in 2015 with a positive (plus 1).

“It’s exciting to see the progression like what the men had (with quadruple jumps) in the early 2000s,” Radford said.  It is what sport is all about.

         “(Harder elements) give certain teams an opportunity to set themselves apart.  That’s what Meagan and I did last season.  If not for that, we might not be where we are right now.”

They also have been working on a throw quad lutz.

U.S. pairs might as well be throw in the towel.