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Pang and Tong Climb Back to the Top of the World Podium

It has been four long years since they climbed to the top of the podium at the World Figure Skating Championships, but Chinese pairs skaters Qing Pang and Jian Tong were golden once again at the 2010 global competition in Torino, Italy, yesterday.

Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy won the event the last two seasons, but had to settle for silver this year. Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia captured the bronze.

In the men’s event, Daisuke Takahashi of Japan skated to the lead in what was an exciting men’s short program. Canada’s Patrick Chan and Brian Joubert of France were not far behind in second and third places, respectively.

THE PAIRS

Pang and Tong claimed the gold with an overall score of 211.39. “We are very happy to be back here in this place (Torino) and to have won our second World title,” Tong said. “The audience was very supportive and helped us to perform as well as we did.”

Pang and Tong opened their dramatic program skated to the “The Impossible Dream” with a double Axel-double Axel sequence. Pang then doubled the toe loop in what should have been side-by-side triples. The Chinese stars went on as if nothing happened, reeling off difficult lifts and their trademark high triple throws to score 136.11 points (65.55 element score/70.56 program component score).

“When we started out to skate it was our dream to become champions,” Tong said. “So many skaters start out [with the] dream to become champions but only few achieve this dream. We kept our dream alive. It is very hard but it is also the beauty of figure skating.”

Pang and Tong earned $67,500 (u.S.) for the victory. The ISU is awarding a global pot of $710,000 (U.S.) at the World Championships to skaters/couples who place first to 12th.

Third after the short program, Savchenko and Szolkowy performed a dynamic long program to move up a spot in the final rankings. They scored a total of 204.74 points. “We feel better tonight. We are happy that our long program was the way we skated it. … Szolkowy said.

The German stars turned in a beautiful performance to the romantic “Out of Africa” soundtrack and scored 135.22 points (65.86/69.36). Their routine featured a throw triple flip, side-by-side double Axels and a throw triple Salchow at the end of the program. The only glitch came when she doubled the first jump in their planned triple toe-triple toe sequence. “There was a little, little mistake,” Szolkowy said. “It has been a long season, a hard season. There were good programs and bad programs, and it is important to finish with a good program.”

This wasn’t the duo last competition, according to Szolkowy. “We will continue to compete. Our big goal is Sochi (2014 Olympic Winter Games),” he said.

At the beginning of their program to “Sentimental Waltz” and “On the Blue Danube,” Kavaguti and Smirnov went for the throw quadruple Salchow but she crashed hard onto the ice. “It was risky to try the quad throw Salchow after not going for it in Vancouver but we challenged [ourselves], we took that risk. We missed it, but we are satisfied of our performance,” Kavaguti said.

Kavaguti and Smirnov quickly regrouped to nail side-by-side triple toe loops, a double Axel-double Axel sequence and a triple twist. They had a second miscue late in their program as they attempted a throw triple loop. She first put her hand down to try to save the landing but couldn’t stabilize herself and fell.

The European champions earned 130.67 points (65.39/67.28) and slipped to third with 203.79 points overall to take the bronze medal, which they also earned last year. “Each competition is different. We tried to do our best here [and] finally tried to perform a quad throw in competition,” Smirnov said. “Not everything was perfect, but we are pleased with the result and with each other.”

Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov (RUS) finished fourth with an overall score of 197.39. Their performance was highlighted by a triple twist, side-by-side triple Salchows and throw triple loop. They had one noticeable mistake when Trankov stumbled badly on the throw triple Salchow, which Mukhortova landed perfectly.

Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang placed fifth with a strong performance that earned the highest technical score of the night (195.78). Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison (CAN) also skated very well and ranked sixth (177.07).

Meanwhile Americans Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett placed seventh (172.47) in their debut at Worlds. “It’s been an amazing learning experience,” said the 16-year-old Denney. “We’ll definitely go home and work on improving and making ourselves ready for next season. We’re definitely growing and maturing as a team.”

Their teammates Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, also making their debut at the World Championships, finished in ninth place with a final score of 165.96 points. “It was a good end to the season,” Ladwig said.

THE MEN

Takahashi earned 89.30 points (47.40/41.90) and said he was pleased with the score, considering he did not attempt a quad. “My goal is to include the quad, especially for next season,” he said. “I believe I can have an even higher score. Tomorrow I’ll decide at the last minute if I’m going to do a quad toe or a quad flip or no quad at all.”

If he can hang on to the lead, Takahashi will make history as Japan's first men's figure skating champion.

Takahashi gave an inspiring performance in Tango-themed program to “Eye” by Cobe. The Olympic bronze medalist nailed a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, a triple Axel and a triple Lutz. He also performed two level-four spins. “I love not only the Tango, but all Latin music and the character,” Takahashi said. “I cannot judge how good I’m at interpreting it, but I enjoy performing it and maybe my joy is translating.”

Skating to “Tango de los Exilados” Chan earned his season best score — 87.80 points (47.40/40.40). “I felt really comfortable after the warm-up and then after [while I was] off the ice waiting for my turn to skate,” he said. “I think the program went very well, just the way I wanted to. I’m glad that the last time I’m doing my short program was good one. I can get this off my chest.”

The 2009 World silver medalist landed a triple Axel, a triple flip-triple toe loop, a triple Lutz. Chan earned a level four for each of his two spins and his circular step sequence. “Finally [this was] a kind of redemption after the Olympics disappointing short program, so I’m mostly relieved and I am happy with the result of course,” said Chan who placed fifth in Vancouver.

Joubert, the 2009 World bronze medalist, gave an energetic and focused performance to “Rise” by Safri Duo. He earned scored 87.70 points (47.90/39.80). “I’m very proud,” said Joubert who had a dismal showing at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games with a 16th-place finish. “It was very difficult for me after the Olympic Games. The six minute warm-up [here] wasn’t so good, but I did my job. It was great to skate and I had a lot of fun with the audience. That’s my goal for this competition.”

The 2007 World champion’s program was highlighted by a big quadruple toe-triple toe loop combination. He also nailed a triple Axel and a triple Lutz. “I don’t care about the place today,” he said. “I just care about my performance. I did a quad-triple and I think I didn’t get a lot of points for [it in] this combination like the ones with a triple-triple combination; maybe it wasn’t as clean.”

Joubert was clearly emotional during his performance. He punched the air during his program after he completed every element. “It was not so much celebrating,” Joubert said. “It was more a releasing of the pain I've been feeling since Vancouver.”

The competitors ranked fourth to ninth also turned in strong performances. Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) placed fourth with 84.20 points, Michal Brezina (CZE) was fifth (81.75) and Jeremy Abbott (USA) rounded out the top six (81.05).

Abbott, the two-time and reigning U.S. champion, placed ninth at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver where sat in 15th after a faulty short program. “I was really pleased with how I skated today,” Abbott said. “I really had to work my performance to get in the zone. I really had to work for everything. I wasn’t feeling perfect, but I was able to get the job done.”

American Adam Rippon placed seventh in the short program with 80.11 points. “Because this is my first [senior] Worlds, I have been trying to take everything in and enjoy the experience. The Italian crowd is amazing,” he said. “I think this is the best that I’ve skated the program overall.”


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