Three US women advanced to the free skate but struggled to break into medal contention in an event that has been overshadowed by the latest Russian doping scandal.
The dominant Russians had three of the top four spots, and Alysa Liu was the only American breaking into the top 10, in eighth.
“I don’t know how anybody else skated. I only know how I skated. Again, it’s disappointing. I hope that they skated well. And if not, then I guess we’re in the same boat,” said Karen Chen, who came in 13th. “We’ve just got a focus on delivering a more solid long program.”
Liu skated a more conservative program, downgrading her planned triple axel into a double in order to land a cleanly.
Though Liu was all smiles during the program, she said it was a struggle to switch to a new coach late in the season. She shouted out her former coach for helping her with her choreography.
“The change was really recent so it was a hard change, of course, for me,” Liu said. “I’m just really glad I get to show his choreography. Hopefully I did it justice.”
Fellow American Mariah Bell, in 11th, also had a shaky performance. Both she and Chen fell. All three US skaters now advance to the free skate on Thursday, when the medals will be decided.
On this night, all eyes were on Russian Kamila Valieva, who walked away with the top performance at Capital Indoor Stadium. Russian teammates Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova came in second and fourth, respectively. Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto was in third.
The 15-year-old Valieva returned to the Olympic stage a day after she was cleared to compete in the individual event. The controversial ruling was made Monday by a Court of Arbitration for Sport panel at the Olympics. Valieva already earned a gold medal when the Russians won the team event last week.
The medals won’t be presented in Beijing, however, because the International Olympic Committee is waiting for the longer-term investigation of Valieva’s doping case to play out.
Joey Mantia snags first speedskating medal
Joey Mantia is finally taking home his first medal in his third Olympics.
The 36-year-old American, along with Casey Dawson and Emery Lehman, earned the bronze in team pursuit on Tuesday. It was the second speedskating medal for the United States in Beijing after Erin Jackson won gold in the 500 meters.
“I feel like the weight has been lifted in a sense,” Mantia said. “Now I can just kind of breathe.”
At 36 years, 8 days, Mantia is the oldest medalist in team pursuit, breaking the mark of Rintje Ritsma of the Netherlands.
It was the Americans’ first medal in men’s speedskating since the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Crucial fall costs Japan in women’s team pursuit
Nana Takagi lost her balance and crashed into the padding at the Beijing speedskating oval coming through the final corner of women’s team pursuit, costing defending champions Japan a second straight gold.
Canada cruised across the line for the improbable victory, while Takagi was reduced to tears by her untimely mistake.
“My mind hasn’t recovered from the fall,” she said through an interpreter. “It’s hard to me to think or talk about it right now.”
Takagi was at the back of a three-skater train and appeared to simply lose her balance. She got up and finished, more than 11 seconds behind Canada, then collapsed into the arms of one of her teammates, younger sister Miho Takagi.
“We have been chasing Japan for so long,” Canadian skater Isabelle Weidemann said. “We look a lot at their synchronicity. They skate so beautifully together. They look like one perfect unit.”
Until Takagi went down on the final turn.
“To be honest, I was in an excellent mood,” she said. “I thought I’m going to complete my best skate in the past one and a half weeks, together with my sister.”
The bronze went to the Netherlands, which beat the Russian skaters with a trio that included individual gold medalists Ireen Wust and Irene Schouten.