GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot were flawless as the rest of the top contenders fell, and their free skate was enough to give the German pair Olympic gold.
Savchenko and Massot scored 159.31 points in their program set to music by Armand Amar on the final day of pairs skating at the Pyeongchang Games. That gave them 235.90 points, catapulting them from fourth place after a shaky short program to Germany's first pairs gold since 1952.
China's Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who led after the short program, recovered from a slow start to their free skate to score 153.08 points. But their early bobbles proved costly — they finished with 235.47 points, less than half a point off the top step of the podium.
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford added a bronze medal after winning team gold with Canada.
The victory was sweet vindication for Savchenko and Massot, who were stamped the favorites after winning the Grand Prix Final but whose error on a jump in the short program left them playing catch-up.
They caught up and flew right by.
The Ukraine-born Savchenko stuck a huge triple twist lift to open their program, and the couple was perfect on a throw triple flip. They followed with a gorgeous combination and a triple toe that drew gasps from the crowd, and a big cheer from German great Katarina Witt seated in the arena.
When the music stopped, Savchenko lay on the ice gasping for air.
The 34-year-old has followed a long and bumpy road to Olympic glory. She won five world titles with longtime partner Robin Szolkowy, and competed in the Winter Games with Stanislav Morozov early in her career. But it took competing for her second country with her third partner in her fifth Winter Games to finally win an elusive gold medal.
It wasn't assured until the final pair of Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov — Russians who happen to be trained by Szolkowy — struggled with the early elements of their program. The moment their scores were read, relegating them to fourth place, the German pair doubled over in tears.
Sui and Han's performance to "Turandot" by Giacomo Puccini would have been good enough for gold at any other Olympics. Like the Germans', the score posted by the Chinese was nearly 20 points better than the previous best, set during the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik, who were 11th after the short program, put together a season-best free skate to the delight of their North Korean cheering section seated in the upper level.
The couple, who qualified for the games on merit, finished 13th out of 16.
"I was very nervous," Kim said, "but when I heard the crowd cheer all the hardships melted away."
Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim became the first Americans to land a quad twist in an Olympic competition when they opened their free skate with it. The spectacular, four-revolution element is so difficult that only a couple of other pairs were trying it.
The rest of their program didn't go nearly as well.
Knierim fell on both of their triple jumps, Scimeca-Knierim was shaky landing their throw triple flip and the married couple was out of sync on their combination spin.
Still, their Olympics were made when they helped the U.S. win team bronze.
WHITE APOLOGIZES FOR COMMENTS
Shaun White has apologized after referring to a sexual misconduct lawsuit filed against him in 2016 as "gossip" during a news conference following his historic gold medal in the men's halfpipe.
White issued the apology on NBC's" Today" show on Wednesday. He said he used "a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject" and he's "truly sorry."
White won an unprecedented third halfpipe gold medal Wednesday. While he did, many on social media resurfaced the details from the lawsuit filed by a former drummer in White's rock band, Bad Things. Lena Zawaideh said White sexually harassed her and refused to pay her wages after he fired her. The lawsuit was settled in May for an undisclosed amount.
White was asked in the news conference if the allegations might tarnish his reputation and said, "I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff."
ON THE BOARD
The joint Korean women's hockey team lost to Japan, 4-1, on Wednesday, but scored its first goal of the Olympics, courtesy of a pair of Americans.
Randi Heesoo Griffin scored at 9:31 of the second period on the Koreans' 33rd shot of the Olympics in their third game. She grew up in Cary, North Carolina, and her mother is from South Korea.
Griffin was set up for the goal by Marissa Brandt, who now lives in a suburb of the Twin Cities in Minnesota and who is playing for the country where she was born. Her birth name is Park Yoonjung, the name she uses on the back of her Korean team jersey.
— Eric Frenzel of Germany won gold in Nordic combined while Akito Watabe of Japan earned silver and Lukas Klapfer of Austria took bronze. Frenzel erased 38 seconds after the ski jumping stage and surged ahead of Watabe on the last uphill of the 10-kilometer cross-country race to defend his title in the normal hill event.
— Jorien ter Mors of the Netherlands won the women's 1,000-meter speedskating event. Japan earned both silver and bronze after Nao Kodaira finished second and Miho Takagi was third.
— Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany won their second consecutive Olympic doubles luge gold medal. Wendl and Arlt finished their two runs in 1 minute, 31.697 seconds. They're the first German team to win two straight doubles golds since Hans Rinn and Norbert Hahn in 1976 and 1980.
— Aksel Lund Svindal won the men's downhill, making the 35-year-old Norwegian the oldest-ever Olympic gold medalist in Alpine skiing. Svindal was 0.12 seconds faster than Norwegian teammate Kjetil Jansrud down the 1 4/5-mile course at Jeongseon. Beat Feuz of Switzerland took bronze, 0.18 behind Svindal's time of 1 minute, 40.25 seconds. The men's downhill was one of three Alpine races that were supposed to be held earlier in the week, but were postponed because of gusty winds.