Host City: Nagano, Japan
Venue(s): White Ring, Nagano
Date Started: February 8, 1998
Date Finished: February 10, 1998
Format: The pairs were ranked on Ordinal Placement for each section of the competition, based on judges' points, with final placement for each section determined by Majority Placements. The tiebreaker for the Original Program was the Required Elements score, while the tiebreaker for the Free Skating was the Technical Merit score. Thus, if a pair was ranked first by a majority of the judges, that skater was placed first overall for that section. Ties were broken by a Subsequent Majority rule. The tiebreakers were then, in order, 1) Number of Majority Placements, 2) Total Ordinals of Majority, 3) Total Ordinals. Final placement was determined by factored placements. The placement for the Original Program was factored by 0.5 (33.3%), and the placement for Free Skating was factored by 1.0 (66.7%). The sums of the factored placements were then used to determine final placement, with the Free Skating being the tiebreaker.
Artur Dmitriyev (RUS) had won the pairs gold medal in 1992 with Nataliya Mishkutyonok and they won silver in 1994 behind Gordeyeva and Grinkov. After the 1994 Winter Olympics Mishkutyonok turned professional, electing not to compete internationally. Dimitriyev found a new partner in Oksana Kazakova. Together they won the 1996 Europeans and were third at the 1997 Worlds. The favorites in 1998, however, were likely Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze (RUS) and the German couple, Mandy Wötzel and Ingo Steuer. Both pairs were overcoming serious injuries, but had won the last two World Championships.
In March 1996 Berezhnaya was practicing with her partner, then Oleg Shlyakhov, when he slipped and his toepick fractured her skull. She required emergency brain surgery and spent several months in rehab, simply re-learning to walk and talk again. Wötzel had sustained a similar injury back in 1989, when she was struck in the head by her partner’s skate blade. Then at the Lillehammer Olympics, Wötzel caught a toepick and fell hard on the ice, landing on her chin. She and Steuer had to withdraw.
In Nagano, Dimitriyev and Kazakova were the best pair. They won the short program, with Wötzel/Steuer second, and Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze third. In the free skate, they again won easily, placed first by eight of nine judges, continuing the Soviet/Russian win streak that had started in 1964. The German judge was apparently watching a different competition, as he ranked them fourth, giving his first-place vote to … surprise, surprise … Wötzel and Steuer. But they would finish third, outskated in the free program by Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze. Dimitriyev joined Irina Rodnina (URS) as the only pairs skater to win Olympic gold medals with two different partners.