Germany’s celebrated pairs skater Aljona Savchenko is in Pyeongchang on a hunt for an elusive Olympic title at her fifth attempt.Aljona Savchenko
The Ukrainian born 34-year-old has a mantlepiece straining under the weight of awards earned from a sparkling career in the rink.
And with partner Bruno Massot she will start as one of the favourites in the 2018 competition which gets underway with the short programme on Wednesday.
But there are some sizeable obstacles blocking their path.
China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong have every right to believe they can add this to their world championship title in Helsinki last year with Savchenko and Massot runners-up.
Then there’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, the Canadian team gold medallists.
Radford is on a high after becoming the first openly gay Olympic champion.
And two time European champions Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov representing Olympic Athletes from Russia hope to have a say in the outcome too.
A couple on and off the ice, they successfully defended their European crown in mid-January in Moscow before winning the pairs short programme segment of the team event in South Korea.
Skating for honour rather than for medals, are the North Korean pair Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik, among 22 athletes from north of the boder taking part amid an inter-Korean reconciliation drive.
Savchenko and Massot turned up in Pyeongchang in superb shape after establishing a new pairs free skate record en route to Grand Prix Final success at Nagoya in Japan in December.
“We did a very good free in Japan, but I think we still can do better than that,” said Massot.
“The goal is to skate clean at first, then the result will come,” said his experienced partner.
“We want to bring art on to the ice and combine pair skating and ice dance so that it becomes one.”
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 French born Massot, who moved to Germany and received German citizenship last November.
– Strong field –
With multiple world and European podiums together this could well be their time to strike it big.
They tuned up in the team event won by Canada on Monday, with not everything going to plan as Savchenko took a fall.
“With a fall, you cannot be satisfied. But this is why we have that kind of rehearsal,” she shrugged.
Massot was unhappy over the morning scheduling for the figure skating at the Gangneung Ice Arena.
“It is always more difficult when you have an early morning practice and then the competition takes place two hours later. Maybe that schedule is good for the TV, but not for the athletes.”
Ryom and Kim meanwhile are the only North Koreans competing at the Games who met the Olympic qualifying standards.
“They’re not here to win a medal, let’s be honest, they’re ranked 15th in the world. It’s a really strong field,” said their coaching consultant Bruno Marcotte last week.
“They were 15th at the world championships in Helsinki, if they come top 12 we’d be ecstatic.
“Their main focus and mine with them is to help them improve their personal best score.”