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Skate Today

Shen and Zhao Stomp Out Competition at Cup of China

In what was a picture perfect comeback former World Champions Xue Shen and Hongbao Zhao stomped out the competition last weekend at the Capital Gymnasium in Beijing. The two-time Olympic medalists started out their Olympic quest at the Cup of China – the third in a series of six Grand Prix Qualifying Events. The series which started two weeks earlier in Paris will culminate in Tokyo, Japan December 3-6, 2009, where the six top qualifiers in each discipline will go head-to-head for prize money worth up to 25,000 per discipline.

The husband and wife duo dazzled the home crowd with a soft and elegant routine in the short program set to the music “Who Wants to Live Forever” by Brian May. The home town team opened with spectacular side-by-side triple toe loops and was rock-solid on both their triple twist and a throw triple toe loop.

Skating first Shen and Zhao set the bar high earning a segment score of 72.28 points. Their passion and power gave me goose bumps and sat them atop of the leader board, almost ten points ahead of their closest challengers Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morosov of the Ukraine. The big surprise came when they were nearly ten points above their training mates Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang, who finished their short program Friday in fourth place with 61.92 points.

”We are quite pleased with today’s performance. We were able to show a high technical level and we felt the passion of the Chinese fans,” Zhao told the press. “We are a little surprised with our score, because we did make a few little mistakes, and we want to do better next time, but for now, it was good.

Volosozhar and Morosov are the reigning European silver medalists and also performed a strong program to “Dreams Illusion” which featured a throw triple loop and a level three triple twist. Currently training with World Champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy under the tutelage of coach Ingo Steuer of Germany. They have been making steady improvements this year adding difficult transitions in between their elements.

“We felt good on the ice and we did the elements like we do them in practice, and I don’t think the mistake on the jump is a major problem,” Volosozhar commented about the program. So I’m quite positive about our performance today.”

Third after the short program Junior World Champions Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze produced high quality elements including side-by-side triple toe loops, a triple twist , and received high levels of execution on their well-matched program. They picked up a segment score of 62.54 points.

Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang are one of three teams aiming to win Olympic Gold in Vancouver for China, come next February. All three teams are coached by China’s first Olympian Bin Yao. Each of the three teams have a realistic shot to be on the Olympic podium if not on the top step. The Zhang”s bring power and technical prowess, Shen and Zhao bring passion and artistry, and Qing Pang and Jian Tong bring a lyrical style and gentleness to the arena. The Zhang’s who are not related edged out their compatriots in 2006 to win Olympic silver in Torino. Here in Beijing the team paled against their elder rivals Shen and Zhao. They struggled on their side-by side triple Salchow in short program landing themselves in a distant fourth place with 61.92 points.

In the free skate Shen and Zhao continued to shine. Landing a huge throw triple loop and throw triple Sal chow for which the duo was awarded with GOE’S (Grades of Execution) as high as +3 for those elements. The lifts and the death spiral were all awarded level four with the exception an Axel lift which was awarded level three. Skating to “Adagio in G Minor” they displayed superior musicality landing elements on the peak of the music. Their only errors came when he two-footed their opening side-by-side triple toe jumps, Shen stumbled coming out of the 2A/2A combination, and they received zero points on a under-rotated pair spin.

“We are pleased to have followed our plan which we started in May. Our program is a love story. It was good, but not yet perfect,” Zhao said “We didn’t get any points on our pair spin, because it was under rotated,” Zhao stated. We could have had a higher score if it were not for this mistake.”

The audience roared as the two-time Olympic bronze medalists closed their program, which earned the duo first place marks of 128.69 points and a total score of 200.97 points.

Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang rallied in their free skate and pulled up to capture the silver medal with an event total of 186.49 points. The World silver medalists racked up a technical score of 65.77 points. The technical score exceeded that of Shen and Zhao by 3.64 points, but they lacked the artistry of their teammates receiving a program component score (PCS) of 58.80 in comparison to 66.56 points earned by the gold medallist.

Despite struggling on their opening 2 A/ 3t combination their other elements were strong. Skating to “Shehereazade” by Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov they reeled off a huge triple twist, a side-by-side triple Salchow, a throw triple Salchow and a throw triple loop. They executed six level four elements, but the Axel lift received a level three and the triple twist a level one.

“There were a few mistakes, but it was still good. Yesterday I made a big mistake, but I didn’t think about it today.”

Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov struggled in their free skate to the soundtrack from “Pearl Harbor”by Hans Zimmer and ended with a overall score of 170.79 points. He double the back-end of a planned triple toe/double toe combination, popped a planned triple Salchow into a single and she fell on the throw triple loop. Despite the mistakes the duo was able to hold off the Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin who finished fourth overall with 157.60 points.

Russians Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze dropped to fifth place overall with an event total of 153.30 points. The youngsters under-rotated two jumps, had a messy landing on the throw triple loop and botched a pair spin which earned zero points.

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