By Chang-Ran Kim, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Muyu Xu
BEIJING (Reuters) -China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong made sure the Beijing Games’ controversial figure skating competition ended in celebration on Saturday by winning the pairs title for the sport’s final gold medal to the rapture of local fans.
Fevered cheers and thunderous applause filled the Beijing Capital Indoor Stadium as the pair’s free skate score was announced in Mandarin, giving China its first figure skating trophy since pairs Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo in 2010.
Sui and Han won silver four years ago in Pyeongchang.
Partners for 15 years – their entire career since they were children – the pair were clearly in their element on home ice as they executed a series of high-scoring elements.
Their opening quadruple twist lift in their free skate to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” sent spectators into a frenzy, with cheers erupting between hushed moments as they performed most of their jumps and throws with clockwork precision.
Sui lost composure as soon as she wrapped her arm around Han’s neck for the final pose of their routine and started crying – perhaps fearing that her botched landing on the side-by-side triple Salchows would rob them of gold.
Sui said she had shed more than 3 kg to be able to pull off the quad twist lift.
After a nervous wait in the kiss-and-cry, the pair broke down in tears of joy and relief, wailing as they heard their score. Their final tally of 239.88 beat the previous world record of 239.82 held by Russians Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov, who took bronze with 237.71.
“I am so happy today,” Han said. “After four years of preparation, we finally fulfilled our dream in Beijing. It is a memorable evening and our dream came true at home.”
Russians Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took silver with 239.25 points – just 0.63 point shy of Sui and Han.
But the emotions of finally getting an Olympic pairs medal following their near-miss four years ago caught up with Morozov as he knelt on one knee at the end of their captivating routine and began sobbing while a tearful Tarasova skated around him.
“We did what we could do. Everything,” Morozov said, commenting on the razor-thin margin that separated the gold and silver medals.
It was a happy ending for host nation China after the Games’ figure skating competition became embroiled in turmoil over Russian teen Kamila Valieva’s doping case.
The 15-year-old, now back in Russia, was cleared to compete in the women’s singles event despite having tested positive for a banned substance prior to the Games. She finished in fourth place amid all the drama.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Additional reporting by Muyu XuEditing by Toby Davis and Andrew Cawthorne)