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China, Japan Dominate at 24th Winter Universiade

The figure skating events at the 24th Winter Universiade concluded at the Harbin International Convention Center in northeast China today with a sold-out gala that included the competition's medalists and a group of local skaters. A capacity crowd of 8,000 spectators packed the the ice arena of the exposition center and was treated to an action-packed show. The Universiade gold medalists — Yukari Nakano of Japan, Ming Xu of China, Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China, Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski of Israel, and Team Sweden — gave encore performances to the widely supportive crowd.

THE LADIES

In the competition, Nakano climbed from fourth to first and won the ladies gold medal over teammate Nana Takeda, who captured the silver medal. Overnight leader Kiira Korpi of Finland had to settle for bronze.

Nakano skated a lovely long program set to the music “Giselle” by Adolphe Adam. She landed five triple jumps, including two in combination. With a competition total of 154.63 points, Nakano edged Takeda, whose overall score was 152.91. Korpi scored 58.96 points in the short program but had several miscues in her free skate to end the competition in third place with 148.22 points.

THE MEN

Several natives of Harbin, one in the men's discipline, gave the home crowd much to cheer about. A virtual unknown, Harbin's Ming Xu, rallied to win the men’ title. The 27-year-old skated a nearly flawless free program to claim gold over a field that included Alban Preaubert of France and Kristoffer Berntsson of Sweden.

“I am thrilled; I couldn't be more excited,” Xu told the Chinese press, according to www.chinaview.ca.

Landing two triple Axels (including one in combination), Xu compiled a competition score of 179.96 points to win the men’s title.

Artem Borodulin of Russia claimed the silver. He was second in the short program and had the third-best free skate of the night. Borodulin finished less than a point out of first place with a competition mark of 179.37 points.

Preaubert led after the short program but several costly errors in his free skate (the fifth-best of the night) left him holding the bronze medal. He scored 175.34 overall points. Konstantin Menshov of Russia won the free skate. He rocketed from 25th after the short to seventh overall. Meanwhile Berntsson finished a dismal 11th.

THE PAIRS

The Zhangs, the overwhelming favorites heading into the event, are also natives of Harbin. They won their third straight the Universiade pairs title, blowing away the competition in the process.

In the long program, the Chinese duo nailed side-by-side double Axels and triple toe loops followed by a dizzying array of throws and lifts. They compiled an overall competition tally of 195.32 points. The 2006 Olympic silver medalists finished nearly 50 points ahead of the second-placed team of Ksenia Ozerova and Alexander Enbert of Russia, who had a competition mark of 146.1. Bronze medalists Huibo Dong and Yiming Wu of China scored 143.63 overall points.

"The gold medal of the Universiade brings more confidence for us in preparing for the Olympics," Hao Zhang told the Chinese press.

ICE DANCE

Meanwhile the ice dance event gave Israel a much-coveted medal. The Zaretskis claimed Israel’s first-ever Universiade gold medal as they led that discipline wire to wire.

The Zaretskis scored a total of 177.43 points. Russia's Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer claimed the silver medal with 170.43 points. Alla Beknazarova and Vladimir Zuev of Ukraine took the bronze with 163.07 points.

SYNCHRONIZED SKATING

Synchronized skating made its Universiade debut. While the discipline being contested at the competition was rare, the results were old hat. Team Sweden lived up to high expectations and won the gold.

Sweden's rivals from Finland had to settle for the silver, while the bronze went to Russia. Team USA and Team Switzerland ended fourth and fifth, respectively.


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