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Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao Victorious at Cup of China

Samsung Anycall Cup of China, the third stop on the Grand Prix circuit concluded in Beijing this weekend.

It was a banner competition for Japan. Nobunari Oda claimed his second Grand Prix victory assuring him a berth at the Grand Prix Final in December. Akiko Suzuki, 24, easily won the ladies event and skated to the top of an international podium for the first time in her career.

PAIRS

China’s Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao kicked off their comeback to the competitive arena with a resounding win over teammates Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang and Ukraine’s Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov.

Skating in their first competition in almost three years, Shen and Zhao of China celebrated a successful comeback by winning their first competition since the 2007 World Championships.

With no ISU ranking, Shen and Zhao had to skate first in the short. The three-time World champions (2002, '03, '07) were greeted with loud applause when they took to the ice. After a couple of technical glitches in the beginning of the short program, the married couple reeled off a series of strong jumping passes and throws and collected 72.28 points. “We are quite pleased with today’s performance. We were able to show a high technical level,” Zhao said. “We are a little surprised with our score, because we did make a few little errors and we want to skate better next time.”

The couple earned 128.69 points for their free skating performance and accumulated a total of 200.97 points. “We are very pleased to have followed our plan since May. Our program is a love story. It was good, but not yet perfect,” Zhao said.

“It is a good feeling to have come back,” Shen added: “We didn’t get any points on our pair spin, we under-rotated it. We could have had a higher score if not for this mistake.”

Zhang and Zhang stood in fourth place following the short program but came back strong in the free skate. The reigning World and Olympic silver medalists scored 124.57 to come in second with 186.49 points.

Volosozhar and Morozov received 107.81 points and slipped to third with 170.70 points in total.

MEN

Reigning World champion Evan Lysacek from the U.S. captured silver behind Oda while the bronze medal went to Russia’s Sergei Voronov.

“I am very satisfied with my performance. I wasn’t tired from France but I was tired and I had to push myself,” said Oda who earned a new season’s best score of 83.35 points in the short program. “I still made a few mistakes. I believe that I can improve on my short program.”

He was awarded 156.23 points for his charming Charlie Chaplin free skate and the Japanese star’s combined score of 239.58 points gave him his second gold medal in as many weeks.

“I am very happy to have won my second gold medal, but I am disappointed with my triple Axel,” Oda said. “I popped it and I didn’t even try the quad. I believe I can do better than that at the Grand Prix Final.”

Lysacek placed third after the short with 80.80 points but delivered a solid free skating performance to “Sheherazade” that included two triple Axels, one in combination with a double toe. However, his triple flip was deemed cheated and subsequently downgraded. Lysacek earned 151.37 points and moved up from third to second with 232.17 points overall.

Voronov, the reigning Russian champion, was second after the short with a score of 81.40, almost 10 points higher than his previous season best of 72.80. Though his free skating performance earned a new season’s best score of 138.99 points, he slipped from second to third with a 220.39-point tally.

Italy’s Samuel Contesti placed fourth with 135.77 and Stephen Carriere from the U.S. slid into fifth with 129.84 points.

LADIES

The ladies event had its share of excitement. Mirai Nagasu from the U.S. skated into first in the short program ahead of Finland’s Kiira Korpi and Carolina Kostner from Italy.

But after the long program only Korpi remained in the top three. Nagasu dropped to fifth after several jumps were deemed under-rotated and downgraded and Kostner tumbled to seventh. Canada’s Joannie Rochette rose from seventh to capture the bronze.

Suzuki who stood in fourth following the short put down a strong free skating performance to “West Side Story” and earned a new personal best of 117.14 points. Her total score of 176.66 put her far ahead of the rest of the field. “I am very happy that I have won, but I am even happier with my performance today. I am totally surprised that I have won the gold medal!” Suzuki later told the press.

Her combined score is the second highest behind Yu-Na Kim in the series to date.

Skating to “Crooked Room” and “Passenger to Copenhagen,” Korpi had a few technical glitches in the long program but still earned a new season high tally of 102.07 points. The reigning Finnish champion was ranked third in the free skate but her score of 163.27 points overall was enough to hold onto second. It was Korpi’s first medal on the Grand Prix circuit.

Rochette stood in seventh after a sub-par performance in the short program but rallied to place third overall. The reigning World silver medalist picked up 111.06 points for the long and 163.18 in total.

Rachael Flatt skated into fourth with 157.71.

THE DANCE

Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto claimed gold ahead of Russia’s Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski and Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy.

Belbin and Agosto won all three portions of the competition and danced away with the title with 194.51 points. “We felt very comfortable here. This is our fifth Cup of China and our seventh time in Beijing at this arena, so we are very, very familiar with our surroundings,” Belbin told the press. “We are very happy to stand on top of a podium once again. We weren’t able to do that in the Grand Prix last year.

Khokhlova and Novitski, the reigning European champions scored 180.57 points to win the silver medal. Faiella and Scali placed third with 179.92 points.


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