Two U.S. figure skating pairs advanced to Saturday’s free skate at the 2022 Winter Olympics, but they’ll have ground to make up after a record-breaking performance.
Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier took sixth place with a score of 74.23 and Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc finished just behind them in seventh with a score of 74.13.
Both finished among the top 16 pairs to advance to Saturday’s free skate, which will begin at 6 a.m. ET on USA Network, Peacock and NBCOlympics.com.
China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong finished in first place. The duo won silver at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, and finished with a short-program record score of 84.41 in Beijing.
Also topping the previous record was the Russian Olympic Committee’s Evgeniya Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, with a score of 84.25 to finish second.
Knierim and Frazier, performing to Heavy Young Heathens’ version of “House of the Rising Sun,” took an early lead as the second pair to skate and held it until Group 4. The duo received a 40.64 technical score and 33.59 component score for a performance that NBC’s Tara Lipinski called “electric.”
“We competed exactly how we’ve been skating and what we set out to do,” Frazier said. “I’m just so proud and still enjoying the Olympic experience. But above all, just so proud of what Alexa and I are doing and how we’re holding ourselves. Some things were a little tight but most of all we went out there and attacked that program and gave it everything we’ve got.”
Cain-Gribble and LeDuc scored a 74.13, placing them second at the time behind Knierim and Frazier. The duo, which won the 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, scored a 39.91 technical score and 34.22 component score while making their Olympic debut.
“We just kept looking at each other and we were like it’s been six years worth of work to get to here,” Cain-Gribble said. “And we weren’t going to let any moment get away from us.”
LeDuc made history by doing so, becoming the first publicly non-binary Winter Olympian.
“We were so joyous,” LeDuc said after the performance. “Just from the moment that we took the ice, I looked around and was like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ I was that small kid 20 years ago watching this and here I am.”
Gold-medal contenders Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov, the reigning world champions, took third with an 82.76, and Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskiy, who earned bronze at the 2021 world championships, finished fourth with a 78.59.