Savchenko and Szolkowy skated smoothly in the free skating to protect their lead from Wednesday’s short programme, but the performance of the night in Nice came from Volosozhar and Trankov as the Russians soared from a mediocre eighth place in the short to finish with a silver medal.
“They skated really well, but we did enough,” Szolkowy said. “I’m so happy.” The margin of victory was narrow, 201.49 to 201.38.
“We feel something special today because we made such a big step,” Trankov said. “I think it’s never happened before from so far back. Our short programme was horrible, we never skated so bad. We can’t understand what happened (on Wednesday), but we found the motivation for the free programme.”
Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran of Japan took the bronze medal with 189.69.
“It still hasn’t quite sunk in for me. We weren’t expecting this exactly,” Tran said. “We had two good performances.”
Earlier, Patrick Chan of Canada overcame some wobbly footwork to take the lead in the men’s event after the short programme.
Savchenko and Szolkowy have been working on perfecting a throw triple axel, but left it out of their programme again, just like at the Grand Prix final in December where they beat the Russians by just 0.18 points. After Savchenko nailed her landing on the throw triple flip, their confidence grew and the crowd at the Palais des Expositions in Nice clapped along.
The last throw, a triple salchow, was impeccable and, as Savchenko afforded herself a smile, Szolkowy punched the air.
The Russians had earlier piled the pressure on everyone with a dynamic performance.
“After the short programme we had a lot of letters and messages of encouragement,” Trankov said. They made no errors, with Trankov’s boundless energy driving the routine, and they could not contain their joy at the end – knowing that they had proved a point after their disastrous short.