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Pairs short program starts final figure skating event of 2022 Winter Olympics

Pairs short program starts final figure skating event of 2022 Winter Olympics
Posted at 4:15 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 04:01:52-05

The fifth and final figure skating medal event of the 2022 Winter Olympics gets underway Friday, Feb. 18, with the pairs short program.

And the 19-team field is stacked.

Two world champion teams will go head to head, while being chased by two other world medalist teams, plus two American teams hungry to make an international impact – and a team that has two world medalists (with their former partners) who paired up just 10 months ago.

Watch the pairs free skate at 5:30 a.m. ET on USA and stream live on NBCOlympics.com and Peacock.

Learn the names Sui Wenjing and Han Cong. They’re the big storyline here.

The Chinese skaters – who even train in Beijing – would love nothing more than to win Olympic gold at their home Games. They would follow in the footsteps of Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, who in 2010 became the first Chinese team to win an Olympic pairs title.

Even more motivation for Sui and Han?

The silver medal they earned at the PyeongChang 2018 Games.

They led after the short program but had the third-best free skate score and ultimately lost out on the gold medal by 0.43 points.

World champions in 2017 and 2019, Sui and Han took silver to rivals Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov, representing the Russian Olympic Committee here, at worlds last year.

SEE MORE: Pair Mishina/Galliamov win team event free skate for ROC

Mishina and Galliamov have been on a tear since their world title, winning both their Grand Prix assignments this season plus last month’s European Championships.

Both teams had a taste of the pairs competition during the team event short program. Sui and Han came out on top in that round by a slim 0.19 points.

Top competitors to those teams include the other teams from the ROC: Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitry Kozlovskii (2021 world bronze medalists) and Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (three-time world medalists).

The U.S. is represented by 2021 U.S. champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, ranked seventh by season’s best score, and 2022 U.S. champions Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, ranked eighth.

This is the first Games for all but Knierim, who competed in 2018 with husband and then-skating partner Chris Knierim.

Ranked ninth is the team of Vanessa James and Eric Radford, representing Canada. James is the 2018 world bronze medalist for France with Morgan Cipres, while Radford is the 2018 Olympic bronze medalist and two-time world champion for Canada with Meagan Duhamel.

SEE MORE: Knierim/Frazier nail their short in skating's team event