MONTPELLIER, France (Reuters) – Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier performed a flawless free programme to win the pairs title at the figure skating world championships on Thursday.
The duo finished sixth at last month’s Olympics but in the absence of the Russian and Chinese pairs, Knierim and Fraizier were clear favourites and they delivered.
Russian skaters were banned from competing following their country’s invasion of Ukraine and China opted not to send its athletes to France.
Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong are not competing in the event along with the pairs representing the Russian Olympic Committee who took silver and bronze at the Beijing Games.
Knierim and Frazier scored 221.09 points to beat Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara (199.55) and Canadians Vanessa James and Eric Radford (197.32).
Knierim and Frazier took to the ice minutes after fellow American Ashley Cain-Gribble was carried off on a stretcher after falling on her head. She was conscious and sitting up as she was taken off the ice.
Ukrainians Sofiia Holichenko and Artem Darenskyi pulled out of the free programme after it took them six days to get to France from Dnipro.
“We have decided with our coach to pull out of the free skate because we are now prepared to skate,” said Holichenko, 17.
In the men’s event, Shoma Uno led a Japanese trio after the short programme, improving his personal best to score 109.63 and beat Olympic silver medallist Yuma Kagiyama by almost four points. Kazuki Tomono was third.
Beijing Olympic champion Nathan Chen of the United States and twice Olympic gold medallist Yuzuru Hanyu skipped the event due to injury.
(Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond)