Germany now has five medals – one gold, three silver and one bronze – leaving them behind the United States on eight medals and just ahead of France on four.
It was a disappointing night for two-time world champions Savchenko and Szolkowy, who were considered strong contenders for gold. Skating to the music “Out of Africa”, they made several errors including a fall that dropped them down to third place.
They finished 5.97 points out of first place, on 210.60 points, giving China a gold-silver double, with Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo taking first place on 216.57 points and Pang Qing and Tong Jian second spot on 213.31.
In front of 11,350 spectators at the Pacific Coliseum, Szolkowy fell while performing a miscued double axle jump. In a separate error, Savchenko attempted a triple axle but only managed a double.
”I’m happy anyway that we’ve got a medal,” Savchenko told broadcaster ARD afterwards. ”If the elements don’t come together, it’s obviously disppointing.”
Szolkowy said: ”I simply wanted too much. But at the Olympics, you really only have one chance and I tried to keep fighting. Now we’re consoling one another. When we see the bronze medal on the night table in the morning, we’ll be pleased with ourselves.”
Elke Treitz, vice president of the German Ice Skating Union, said: “Our pair were so good this morning in practice. But then it was a long day until the performance.”
Meanwhile, Austria’s Nina Reithmayer is threatening to break Germany’s domination of the women’s singles luge after finishing second following the first two competitive runs on Monday.
The gold medal will be decided on Tuesday after the third and fourth runs with Germany’s Tatjana Hüfner ranked first with a combined time of one minute 23.241 sec, but Reithmayer is just 0.05 sec behind her.
Germany’s women swept the medals in the luge singles at both Salt Lake City in 2002 and Turin four years ago, but Reithmayer could well break the German monopoly after Felix Loch won the men’s singles on Sunday.
“I don’t think about (beating the Germans), because we have another hard day tomorrow with two more runs,” said the Austrian. “My first run was better than my second, but I’m happy and proud with what I have done, I’m relaxed now.”
World champion Erin Hamlin of the United States already looks to be out of contention and lies 15th at 0.813 sec off the pace.
With the body of Nodar Kumaritashvili being flown home to Georgia on Monday, the mood is still sombre at the Whistler Sliding Centre, where the Georgian died in a training run accident last week.
In other Olympics news, the head of the German Ski Federation’s Alpine has complained about paltry crowds at the Winter Games, saying so few turned out for the men’s downhill on Monday it might as well have been an event for child racers.
“Compared with Kitzbühel and Wengen (World Cup events) it’s like a kid’s event,” stormed Wolfgang Maier. “I find it all a bit thin for an Olympics. This race is a huge event for North America and then only 8,000 spectators come along.”