Winter Olympics

In her fifth Olympics, Aljona Savchenko wins emotional figure-skating gold with Bruno Massot

The German duo’s sensational four-and-a-half-minute routine conjured up a magical world-record free dance for gold.

Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot conjured up a magical world-record free dance to win Olympic pairs figure skating gold on Thursday – and promptly burst into floods of tears.

The German duo’s sensational four-and-a-half-minute routine just denied China’s world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, the hot favourites who were pipped to the title by less than half a point after Sui took a tumble. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada took bronze.

The 34-year-old Savchenko’s dream of an elusive first gold at her fifth Winter Games had looked dashed after an unfortunate error by her French-born partner Massot – who only received German citizenship in November – in Wednesday’s short programme.

His double instead of a triple salchow left him distraught and them trailing their Chinese rivals in fourth.

But 24 hours later Massot righted that wrong, matching his decorated ice companion step for step, their dance to “La Terre vue du ciel” by Armand Amar holding the crowd at the Gangneung Arena in thrall.

At the end of their performance they lay in each other’s arms on the ice, before Massot bowed to his partner and they made their way to the “kiss and cry” corner, where the tears flowed when their score of 159.09 points flashed up, beating the world record they set of 157.25 at the Grand Prix Final in December.

That gave them a winning combined total of 235.90.

They had to then sit and watch as first Duhamel and Radford, team event gold medallists, then Sui and Han try but fail to deny them their moment of glory.

Sui and Han finished agonisingly adrift on 235.47 with the Canadians on 230.15.

Sui, who revealed she was feeling pain from an injury, looked visibly disappointed and said: “I was quite nervous, this being my first Olympic Games.

“We really wanted to do well, but simply fell too short in the end. But I hope that this will give us the motivation we need over the next four years to do well again at the Beijing 2022 Games.”

At the rink prize ceremony Massot, 29, lifted his ice queen onto the top of the podium, to the roar of the crowd.

‘Deeply touched’

Ukrainian-born Savchenko represented her country of birth in her first Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002.

She then teamed up with Robin Szolkowy to represent Germany for the last three Games, coming away with bronze from Vancouver and Sochi, and the not inconsiderable feat of five world titles.

With Szolkowy leaving the stage she turned to Massot, a native of the Normandy city of Caen who moved to Germany and received German citizenship only last November.

It was a move that paid off handsomely with this title Germany’s first in the pairs since Ria Baran and Paul Falk in 1952.

One couple that were ruing missing out on a medal was Vladimir Morozov and Evgenia Tarasova.

The European champions, competing under the Olympic Athletes from Russia flag, were placed second after the short programme, but errors in their free dance to Candyman left a sour taste and they had to settle for fourth.

Despite finishing 13th, North Korean duo Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik were thrilled at their personal-best display and touched by the reception given by the home crowd in South Korea.

With North Korea’s self-style “Army of Beauties”, a 200-strong band of cheerleaders, erupting in song at every triple twist lift and double axel, the pair earned 124.23 points to beat their previous best of 119.90 for a highest ever total of 193.63.

Kim said: “I was very nervous about the competition, but once we went in, the sight of our cheer squad and the southern countrymen cheering together offered great support and stimulation.

“I’d like to express my gratitude to the people of the South. I was deeply moved by the Olympics in the South.”

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.