SOCHI, Russia — The theme of the night was pink, and if four-time pairs figure skating world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy get their way, it will continue past the Sochi Olympics.
Up in the commentary booth sat Johnny Weir (never one to shy away from an outrageous outfit) sporting a neon pink jacket while overseeing the action. On the ice, Savchenko and Szolkowy stole the show despite placing second in the pairs short program with a routine set to the music of "The Pink Panther."
Fittingly, Savchenko wore a hot pink, figure-hugging costume to complete the performance and make a statement that the German duo hope will change the face of pairs competition.
[Photos: Aliona Savchenko’s hot pink bodysuit]
"It is really good for our sport, for figure skating, to bring some color and some new ideas," Szolkowy said. "The only two colors in this competition are yellow from the Italian team and the pink from Aliona. The rest is just black."
Pairs skating and ice dance tends to languish in the shadows behind the individual disciplines, and Szolkowy believes that imaginative costumes and performances like his and Savchenko's can help elevate pairs to nearer the forefront of figure skating.
He has a point. The color doesn't have to be pink, but anything that breaks the overwhelming monotony of black or dark-themed outfits has to be a positive thing.
A few others followed suit. Canada's Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch also had a splash of pink, and Italian pair Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek donned bright yellow attire. But for many of the 20 teams on display Tuesday, black outfits — albeit spiced up with a sprinkling of sequins — were the norm.
[Photos: Ridiculously photogenic Olympians]
Figure skating is unlike any other sport. After all, here we are talking about color schemes as a potential way of improving its appeal. Compared to any other competition, that is a little bit weird.
But Savchenko and Szolkowy are right. The pairs event needs to push the boundaries of imagination to stand a chance of being mentioned in the same breath as the singles skaters.
The drama of the individual performances speaks for itself, and the pairs find it hard to compete with the inherent grace of a routine by Julia Lipnitskaia or Kim Yuna or the powerful, self-assured aura of Evgeni Plushenko.
"For figure skating, you need something new. You need to show what you have," Savchenko said. "Our routine and costume is funny. For me it is more fun. I feel really good in this outfit and this program. We need to do something different."
Savchenko and Szolkowy racked up 79.64 points but were behind Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, who finished first in the short program with a score of 84.17. The result left the home crowd at the Iceberg Skating Palace predictably delighted, and Volosozhar and Trankov will probably just have to avoid major errors in their free skate on Wednesday night to take home the gold.
With Russia having only managed one gold to date — in the team figure skating event — such an outcome would clearly be greeted with delight.
Another Russian pair, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, are in third place at 75.21. United States pair Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir sit ninth (67.44), and fellow Americans Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay are 14th (56.90).
Neither of the USA pairs was expected to medal but both were pleased with their performances. But this was a night to be pink.
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