Ageless ice queen Savchenko hits new heights at worlds

by Emmeline MOORE

Milan (AFP) - Ageless Aljona Savchenko is still not ready to call time on her stunning career despite adding a sixth world title to her Olympic gold with another world record performance.

Savchenko, 34, and partner Bruno Massot, 29, gave another mesmerising performance in Milan on Thursday night to cap a golden season by smashing both the free skate and overall world records on their way to claiming pairs gold.

"I'll think about it tomorrow," said Savchenko when asked about her future, with Massot adding: "Ask again next week".

Their rendition of 'La Terre vue du ciel' by Armand Amar earned a standing ovation from a captivated crowd at the Mediolanum Forum, and a score over 20 points clear of second-placed Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia.

The duo were in disbelief when their scores flashed up. It bettered their gold medal-winning performance in Pyeongchang with a new world record score of 162.86 points in the free skate.

They also posted a new world record overall score of 245.84 points.

"At the end, I kissed the ice and thanked the ice," Savchenko said, tearfully.

Savchenko had already become the oldest female figure skating champion in Winter Olympic history when she claimed gold at her fifth Games.

And she tied Norwegian legend Sonja Henie for the female record of 11 world championships medals. Henie was 24 when she claimed her last medal in 1936.

Only Soviet Irina Rodnina has won more world pairs titles, with ten between 1969 and 1978 -- the last when she was aged 29.

Swedish men's singles skater Ulrich Salchow holds the record for world medals with 13 -- ten in gold and three in silver -- between 1897 and 1911.

German pair Savchenko and Massot were the only podium finishers from Pyeongchang to compete at worlds.

"Thinking about family who could not be at the Olympics was the motivation to skate here," said Savchenko.

"That is why we gave all the energy we had inside and why it was so emotional."

- 'Young enough to continue' -

It has been a long road for the skater from Kiev, who started her career with her native Ukraine, winning the world junior title and competing in her first Olympics with Stanislav Morozov.

After Morozov quit skating she moved to Germany to skate with Robin Szolkowy, sparking a successful partnership which reaped five world titles and two Olympic bronze medals.

But when Szolkowy decided in turn he had enough of the gruelling discipline after a trophy-laiden ten years, Savchenko, then aged 30, insisted she felt "young enough to continue".

She teamed up with Massot later that year, with the French skater becoming a German citizen last November before the Olympics.

Massot admitted it had been tough matching the ambitious Savchenko as they climbed up the world rankings winning world bronze in 2016 and silver in 2017.

"It was hard for her to bring me to her level and hard for me to reach her level," said Massot, who had placed just 15th in worlds with his previous partner.

"I realise the crazy work I had to do during these four years but I was not alone. Aljona was working really hard. We worked together for the same goal.

"That is why it's so emotional. We remember those good and bad moments."

This season they have won everything.

"It was exactly the season we wanted," said Massot. "In September we said 'we will give our best to win everything'.

"We decided not to do Europeans (championships) to prepare the Olympics and realise now it was a good choice.

"We've reached our goal today. It was hard, but magical."