US skating champion Ashley Cain-Gribble suffered a bad fall and was stretched off the ice at the World Figure Skating Championships on Thursday – before Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier became the first Americans to win a world pairs title since 1979.
Cain-Gribble, 26, and skating partner Timothy LeDuc, 31, went into the long program at the Montpellier, South France competition as hot favorites. They were second after their short program earlier this week, competing against ten other partnerships in the pairs free skate yesterday.
Ashley Cain-Gribble, 26, fell face first to the ground, failing to land an ambitious jump and wrecking her luck at gold
Cain-Gribble and skating partner Timothy LeDuc, 31, started their long program well, in second place after their short program
Cain-Gribble attempted a triple Salchow but spun out of control, hitting her chin on the ice
Cain-Gribble made an anguished apology to her skating partner for the fall, but he consoled her as she was stretched off the ice to receive doctors’ help
But during an attempted triple Salchow jump, Cain-Gribble lost her balance and came crashing down. She had already fallen twice during the routine, but the final fall brought the couple’s program to a sudden stop.
Medics dashed over with a wheeled stretcher after the hard fall and checked Cain-Gribble for a concussion.
As she received treatment, one spectator shouted: ‘We love you, Ash!’
The brave figure skater appeared in great pain as she was wheeled off the ice by paramedics
The horrific fall wrecked Cain-Gribble and LeDuc’s chances in the world pairs event at the Figure Skating World Championships in Montpellier, south France
She tearfully apologized to partner LeDuc, who refused to accept it and instead consoled his heartbroken partner.
LeDuc was the first openly non-binary athlete to compete at the Winter Olympic Games. He and Cain-Gribble are the 2019 and 2022 US champions and finished eighth in their Olympic debut in February.
Cain-Gribble was taken to the hospital for ‘additional evaluation and observation’, according to US Skating.
The shocking fall overshadowed the victory by fellow Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, who took home the United States’ first world peers title since 1979.
LeDuc continued the routine for a few moments before realizing his partner had fallen down
The couple had wowed judges in Montpellier, winning a silver medal in the short program prior
Knierim and Frazier hugged LeDuc as he walked off the ice following the end of the routine – and the pair’s chance at gold.
‘You realize how dangerous skating can be. Even when you are prepared, things can happen,’ said Knierim.
Frazier added: ‘Our hearts go out to them. They’re our friends first, competitors second, so we were naturally really concerned to see what was going on with them.’
The victorious couple comfortably won gold ahead of Japanese and Canadian runners-up. Knierim and Frazier performed brilliantly to win their prize, taking 20 points more than the Canadians, who were second.
Frazier said the victory was the highlight of his career and ‘even better’ than he imagined it would be.
‘For Alexa and I this was such a personal journey since we started, so to finish the season on this kind of program that means so much to us dearly’, he said. ‘I dreamed about this moment so many times but this was even better.’
Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier take home the United States’ first world pairs skating title for 43 years. It was last won by Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner in 1979
The winning pair from the US completed a calm and collected routine after their compatriots’ fall earlier in the day
Tears of joy: once their routine was over, Knierim and Frazier wept with happiness and relief
They missed the national championships in January after Frazier tested positive for Covid, then finished sixth at the Beijing Winter Olympics last month.
Russia’s dominating skaters were banned from the tournament in France after their country invaded Ukraine in late February, maximizing the American skaters’ chances at top prizes.