Chinese pair steal show in pairs

Updated: 2007-03-21 08:49
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Two-time world champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China skated their best ever short program at the World Figure Skating Championships on Tuesday to take the lead in pairs and relegate the defending champions to third.

Chinese pair steal show in pairs
China's top pair Shen Xue(L) and Zhao Hongbo perform during the pairs short program event at the World figure skating Championships in Tokyo March 20,2007.[Xinhua]
Chinese pair steal show in pairs
Shen and Zhao scored a personal best,and an international best, with 71.07 points. Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China finished third with a 66.75 points, while the German pair of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy were second with 67.65 going into the final skate.

Taking the lead was a major break for Shen and Zhao, who are looking for their third world title after injuries forced them to miss the last two worlds. Their previous best was 70.52 points, which they scored at the Grand Prix Final in December 2004 in Beijing.

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Skating to "Romanza" by Spanish composer Salvador Bacarisse, they scored well with a high-flying triple twist. Although they were slightly off with their spins, they made up for it with synchronized landings on the triple toe loop jumps.

"I am satisfied with the score," Zhao said.

Pang and Tong are still recuperating from injury.

"I was sick and had injuries, but I started to practice regularly two weeks ago," Pang said.

The pairs gold, to be decided Wednesday, will be the first of the championships.

This year's worlds promise to be unpredictable.

The men's medal is up for grabs, with no clear favorite and a large pack of potential contenders.

Defending champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland says he is in good form, skating not for glory, he already has two world titles and an Olympic silver medal, but for the love of the sport.

He will be hoping to wow the crowd with a flamenco-inspired program, but is something of a question mark having competed in only one other major tournament this season. He won that, coming back from sixth place after the short program, and also won his seventh Swiss nationals.

Ready to dethrone him are French skater Brian Joubert, who won the Grand Prix and his second European title in January; U.S. champion Evan Lysacek, winner of last month's Four Continents tournament; and a pair of talented young Japanese skaters, Daisuke Takahashi and Nobunari Oda.

The men's medal will be awarded Thursday.

On Friday and Saturday, defending women's champion Kimmie Meissner of the United States will have to hold off a group of teenagers,not least of which is her teammate, 18-year-old Emily Hughes.

Meissner, who is 17, finished sixth at the Turin Olympics but then, with veterans Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen posing no threat, came out of the shadows to take the world title last year in Calgary.

This year, she will have to contend with a pair of 16 year olds,South Korea's Kim Yu-na and Japan's Mao Asada. Kim won the Grand Prix, but Asada, the youngest woman in the championships, has the season's high score of 199.52 points.

Earlier Tuesday, Patrice Lauzon and Marie-France Dubreuil of Canada took the lead in the ice dancing competition after the compulsory rhumba, but with a tight, four-couple pack behind them.

Dubreuil and Lauzon scored 38.96 points, more than 1 1/2 points more than last year's world champions, Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria, who were second with 37.42.

Behind them, Oksana Domina and Maxim Shalbalin of Russia, Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France and U.S. champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto were all in a bunch, the Russians had 37.29 points, the French had 37.20 and Belbin and Agosto had 37.17.

Dubreuil and Lauzon were world silver medalists last year but were forced to withdraw from the Olympics when she fell heavily on her hip during the original dance.

The original dance, to be contested Thursday, is the next portion of the competition.