Bouquets, brickbats (and some of both): a 2018 Olympic figure skating scorecard

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Lynn Rutherford and Philip Hersh check in with their winners and losers from the figure skating competition at the recently completed 2018 Olympic Winter Games.


Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir

Edging French rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron by 0.79 points for individual gold made Virtue and Moir the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history, with three gold medals (2010 and 2018 individual, 2018 team) and two silvers (2014 individual and team). The Canadians left PyeongChang with world records for short dance score (83.67 points) and total score (206.07). As Patrice Lauzon, one of their coaches, said, "They are once-in-a-generation talents, and I think a whole generation will be influenced by them and will be inspired by them."

North Korea

With a sixth-place finish at Nebelhorn Trophy last September, pairs team Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik were the only North Korean athletes to qualify for the PyeongChang Games. (North Korean hockey players competed as part of a unified Korean women's team.) North Korea's national Olympic committee missed the deadline to register them for the Games, but diplomacy prevailed when negotiations between the two Koreas prompted the International Olympic Committee to extend the deadline. The skaters made the most of the opportunity, earning a new personal-best score (69.40 points) in the short program and placing 13th overall.

Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot

A determined veteran, taking a last shot at gold in her fifth Olympics. Superior technique, combined with mesmerizing choreography. A seemingly impossible come-from-behind victory. Savchenko and Massot's 4 1/2 minutes of free skate magic at Gangneung Ice Arena had every ingredient it needed to be classified as one of the most memorable figure skating performances of all time.

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford

While other skaters complained of exhaustion, two-time world champions Duhamel and Radford had no problem competing four programs in the span of seven days. Their superhuman effort helped lead Canada to team gold and then earned themselves the bronze in the individual pairs event a few days later. "I can't believe that we did that," Duhamel said. "People thought we were a bit crazy doing that entire team event. Who's crazy now?"

Valentina Marchei and Ondřej Hotárek

No one had a better time in PyeongChang than Marchei and Hotárek, who hugged reporters in the mixed zone, took selfies with abandon and never stopped smiling. Hotárek even hoisted Yuzuru Hanyu into a "Yuzulift" during the exhibition gala's finale. They also skated lights out, performing a solid free skate in the team event, placing sixth in the pairs competition and earning personal-best scores across the board. A great example of soaking up the experience while also peaking at the right time.

- Lynn Rutherford

Eteri Tutberidze

Although early records are incomplete, the coach of Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva is almost certainly the first person to be by the boards for both the gold and silver medalists in an Olympic singles event.

Skate Canada

The best possible realistic scenario for the Canadians was two gold and two bronze medals, and that is exactly what their skaters won -- and they were on the podium in four of the five events. No other country medaled in more than two.

Brian Orser

Orser became the first coach to have the gold and bronze medalists in an Olympic men's competition since Edi Scholdan did it with David Jenkins and Hayes Jenkins at the 1956 Cortina Games.

Dabin Choi

Choi did the best skating of her career at her home Olympics, getting three personal bests and no negative Grades of Execution on her way to placing seventh -- three spots higher than her previous top finish at a senior-level global championships.

Adam Rippon

Eschewing a quad he could not land in favor of trying for clean skating (he wound up with three negative Grades of Execution out of 33 elements but only one big mistake), Rippon won a team bronze -- and a gold medal in brand building despite an unremarkable 10th-place finish in the individual event. He came across as a witty interview subject (both self-deprecating and self-promoting), an impassioned supporter of gay rights (he was the first openly gay skater on a U.S. Olympic team) and an entertaining skater.

Yuzuru Hanyu

Under enormous pressure, on an ankle that needed pain-killers, Hanyu made a case as the G.O.A.T. by becoming the first man to win consecutive Olympic titles since Dick Button in 1948 and 1952.

Figure skating

There was some bogglingly brilliant skating by the medalists in every discipline.

- Philip Hersh


Russian ice dance

When ice dance became an Olympic sport at the 1976 Innsbruck Games, Liudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov of the Soviet Union won, kicking off a string of 11 straight Olympics with Soviet, Russian or Unified Team athletes on the ice dance podium. In seven of those Games, they captured gold. In PyeongChang, the top finish for an Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) was that of Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, who placed fifth, marking the first time Russian ice dancers failed to win a medal at the Olympics.

Non-biased judging

Setting aside the skill and performance quality of the top two ice dance couples, the gold medal may have been decided 45 minutes before any team stepped on to the ice for the free dance. That's when the draw was held to seat the nine-judge panel. Both Canada and France seated judges for the short dance; not so for the free dance. Canadian judge (and, coincidentally, president of Skate Canada) Leanna Caron was drawn, while French judge Christine Hurth was not. Caron gave Virtue and Moir nearly perfect scores, and assigned Papadakis and Cizeron the lowest marks of the panel. High and low scores are tossed aside, but the overall effect was to increase the trimmed mean for Virtue and Moir. With no French judge on the panel to similarly support them, Papadakis and Cizeron were at a distinct disadvantage.

Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov

PyeongChang marked just the second time since 1964 that Russian, Soviet or Unified Team athletes did not win a pairs medal. Tarasova and Morozov, with their quadruple twist and superb technique, are more than capable of reaching the Olympic podium, and a sterling short program put them less than a point off the lead, but errors in their free skate -- a doubled salchow, a fall on a throw -- left them 10 points behind bronze medalists Duhamel and Radford of Canada. Worse, their ersatz jitterbug routine to Christina Aguilara's "Candyman" was shown to terrible disadvantage compared to the compelling choreography of Savchenko and Massot, and Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China. Surely, Nina Mozer and her team can do better for their top pair.

- Lynn Rutherford

Mikhail Kolyada

Kolyada bombed so badly in the team short program, finishing eighth in a 10-man field, that he effectively killed Russia's gold-medal chances, with seven of the eight phases of the competition still to come.

Ashley Wagner

Wagner waited until the Olympics to sound off about the backloaded structure of gold medalist Zagitova's free skate, even though the OAR skater had been doing it that way all season. "I don't think backloading leads to a very artistic or balanced program," tweeted Wagner, who has had her share of problems landing her jumps cleanly when skating a so-called balanced program.

Atmosphere in Gangneung Ice Arena

The ISU's decision to give NBC 10 a.m. starts (which still meant many post-midnight finishes on the East Coast) meant crowds were embarrassingly small at the start of every session, as security and travel made it difficult for fans to get to the arena that early. Add high ticket prices (from $130 to $700), and the arena never was full.

U.S. ladies

All three underperformed. The top finish, a ninth by Bradie Tennell, was the lowest in history by a U.S. woman at the Olympics (previous low: sixth). The aggregate of the three finishes, 30 (Mirai Nagasu was 10th and Karen Chen 11th), was by far the worst of any post-World War II Olympics at which the U.S. had three entrants (previous nadir: 25 in 1948).

- Philip Hersh


Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim

The U.S. pairs champions skated one of their best short programs ever in the team event, placing fourth and defeating Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès of France and China's Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang to add seven important points to the United States' bronze medal-winning tally. In the individual free skate, they landed a quadruple twist, making them the first U.S. pair to do so at the Olympics, but they faltered on their jumps and ended up a disappointing 15th.

U.S. ice dance

In Gangneung, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani picked the perfect moment to deliver an emotionally charged performance of their finely crafted free dance to Coldplay's "Paradise." Their bronze extended U.S. ice dancing's medal streak to four Olympic Games. On the flip side, both of the other two American teams -- Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, and Madison Chock and Evan Bates -- had falls in their free dances and left South Korea with bad tastes in their mouths.

- Lynn Rutherford

Nathan Chen

Two terrible short programs (one in the team event, one in the individual men's competition) led him to say "Screw it" and attempt six quads in the individual men's free skate. He got full credit for all six and landed five cleanly. Both were firsts -- no one else ever had done more than three clean quads in the Olympics. Better yet, he won the free skate to move from 17th after the short to fifth overall.

Javier Fernández/Evgenia Medvedeva

Two-time world champion Javier Fernández of Spain got his Olympic medal, a bronze, but it would have at least been silver if he hadn't doubled a planned quad salchow in the free skate. After utterly dominating women's singles in the two pre-Olympic seasons, silver medalist Evgenia Medvedeva suffered a foot injury in the fall, opening the door for Russian compatriot Zagitova. The 15-year-old seized the opportunity, winning the Russian championships, Grand Prix Final and European championships before taking the gold in Gangneung, thus depriving Medvedeva of her best -- and maybe only -- chance to become Olympic champion.

Patrick Chan

The three-time world champion, the dominant men's skater of the previous quadrennium, finally got his Olympic gold, in the team event. But a fall on his triple axel in the individual short program -- an all-too-common mistake for a skater of his caliber -- immediately killed his medal hopes.

Mirai Nagasu

A history-making team event free skate (she became the first U.S. woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics and the first woman to do eight clean triples in an Olympic free skate) furthered her heartwarming comeback story. Nagasu then flopped in the individual event, exacerbating the failure with an alternative universe post-free skate interview in which she: took false credit for "saving" the team bronze; threw shade at Canada's Gabrielle Daleman; blamed a rut in the ice for aborting the triple axel attempt (but said, "In my mind, I went for it"); and admitted to treating her free skate like it was an audition for Dancing With the Stars.

- Philip Hersh

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And losers:

U.S. women

All three underperformed. The top finish, a ninth by Bradie Tennell, was the lowest in history by a U.S. woman at the Olympics (previous low: sixth). The aggregate of the three finishes, 30 (Mirai Nagasu was 10th and Karen Chen 11th), was by far the worst of any post-World War II Olympics at which the U.S. had three entrants (previous nadir: 25 in 1948).

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(This article originally appeared on icenetwork.)