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Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang Win Pairs Crown; Jeremy Abbott Takes Early Lead at Cup of China

China’s Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang struck gold in the pairs final at Cup of China Friday in Beijing's Capital Gymnasium. "We are very happy to have won today, it means a lot to us,” Hao Zhang said.

Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov of the Ukraine took the silver medal ahead of Qing Pang and Jian Tong (China).

Zhang and Zhang, the 2006 Olympic silver medalists, earned 115.10 points (56.30 element score/58.80 program component score) and accumulated a total competition mark of 182.22 points.

Performing to “The Yangtze River” Piano Concerto, Zhang and Zhang completed a throw triple Salchow, a big triple twist, a throw triple loop and spectacular lifts with Hao Zhang effortlessly lifting his partner with one hand.

The reigning World silver medalists earned a level four for their spins, the lifts and forward inside death spiral. However, Dan Zhang struggled with her solo jumps. Her first jump in a planned triple toe-triple toe sequence was not clean. The jump was downgraded and the sequence didn’t get credit. She also doubled her jump in what was planned as side-by-side triple Salchows.

“In 1998, we won the gold medal at the Junior Grand Prix here in this ice rink, and 10 years later we are still jumping,” Hao Zhang said. "We are 80 percent satisfied with our free skating today. The lacking 20 percent are ten percent for the errors on the jumps and ten percent for the performance itself.”

Volosozhar and Morozov scored 114.71 points (59.91/54.80) and compiled a competition total of 175.05 points, which is a personal best. The medal was the duo’s first on the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series.

The couple delivered a dynamic performance to “Pearl Harbour” that included a side-by-side triple toe loop-triple toe loop sequence. They landed a throw triple Salchow and a triple twist and also performed difficult lifts. The Ukrainians received a level four for their pairs spin and their lifts, and they earned a level three for their side-by-side spins and the footwork.

There were two glitches in the performance. Morozov doubled the side-by-side Salchow, and Voloszhar almost slipped in the death spiral.

“We skated well today, like we did in the short program, but we had two errors, again on the throw and on the Salchow. These were technical mistakes. But we are very happy to have won our first medal on the Grand Prix,” Volosozhar said.

Pang and Tong earned 112.50 points (56.26/56.24) and collected a competition mark of 171.86 points. They planned to open their free program, set to Tango and Concierto de Aranjuez, with a double Axel-double Axel sequence, but he singled the second Axel. Pang then under-rotated the side-by-side triple toe loop.

The 2006 World champions rallied and completed a throw triple loop and Salchow as well as level-three footwork and level-four lifts. They also earned a level four for their pairs spin and the death spiral.

“We did better than in the short program. We competed with this program for the first time, it’s new and we hope everyone likes it. We still had a few problems with our free skating, and we hope improve on that in our next competition,” Pang said.

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig (USA) came in fourth with 143.88 points. They landed a throw loop and Lutz as well as triple twist. Both solo jumps were not clean and downgraded.

Yue Zhang and Lei Wang (CHN) were fifth with a good performance that included a side-by-side triple toe-double toe combination and a double Axel, but she missed the throw triple Salchow (142.10 points).

Zhang and Zhang pocketed 15 points and will compete in two weeks at the Cup of Russia. There they will meet Volosozhar and Morozov again, who picked up 13 points. Pang and Tong have 11 points and their next event is the NHK Trophy.

Men's Short Program

The North Americans ruled the men’s short program. Jeremy Abbott (USA) placed first in that portion of the event with Vaughn Chipeur of Canada and Stephen Carriere (USA) following in second and third, respectively.

The men's leaders after the short program

Abbott earned 77.05 points (42.40/34.65), surpassing his previous personal best of 74.34 points. “I thought today was a bit of a fight. I was very excited about my result and my placement, it is much different this year than last,” Abbott said. “It went well, but it was a bit of a struggle and I had to fight through some things. But I got the job done and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Abbott opened his performance to “Adagio” by Tomaso Albinoni with a shaky triple flip that was supposed to be in combination. He then landed a triple Axel and a triple Lutz, quickly adding a triple toe to the Lutz for a combination. The 2007 Four Continents bronze medalist was awarded a level four for the flying sit and change foot sit spin and a level three for the footwork and the combination spin.

Chipeur nailed a triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe combination, a triple flip. He earned a level four for all three spins and a level three for the step sequences in his routine to “Come On Baby” by Joe Satriani. The Canadian scored 72.70 points (43.80/28.90) and eclipsed his previous personal best of 70.83 points.

“I’m really pleased with the way today went. I thought the program had really good energy. The choreography that Kurt Browning did worked really well, and it’s been a really good change for me and really good vehicle for the year,” Chipeur said.

Skating to “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, Carriere nailed the opening triple Axel and a triple Lutz, but stepped out at the back end of his triple flip-triple toe combination. The technical panel graded his three spins a level four as well, and the 2007 World junior champion received 72.00 points (39.40/32.60).

“It was a little tentative, not my normal self. I definitely know that I can get a lot more energy than what happened today,” he said. “With that state, I’m happy that I went out there and did my job as best as I could. It was the best I could do today. I’m definitely going to push more. My body is here, everything is here now for the long tomorrow.”

Reigning European champion Tomas Verner (CZE) finished fourth with 65.55 points. He doubled his first jump, a planned quadruple toe loop and then received no credit for a triple Lutz-double toe loop combination as skaters are not allowed to repeat any jump in the short program.

Artem Borodulin (RUS) placed fifth. He landed a double Axel, triple Lutz-double to and a triple flip (65.05).

Original Dance

The original dance for the 2008-09 season is rhythms and dances of the 20s, 30s and 40s. The couples chose a variety of dances such as Blues, Swing, Lindy Hop, Foxtrot, Tap Dance and Waltz.

Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia defended their overnight lead, but Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto (USA) were less than one point behind after the OD. Russia’s Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski remained in third place.

Domnina and Shabalin chose a Waltz from Dmitri Shostakovitch’s Jazz Suite from 1934 and captured the mood of the dance very well with their playful interpretation. When asked out their choice of music, Domina answered, “First of all we wanted to set ourselves apart and I think we did that. We put the emphasis on the acting skills to project the 30s with our costumes and expression.”

The European champions completed the side-by-side footwork sequence as well as well synchronized twizzles and a straight line lift. They earned a level three for the lift and the side by side steps, a level four for the twizzles but only a level two for the circular steps and the spin. Domnina and Shabalin earned 57.24 points (27.50 element score/29.74 program component score) and were ranked second in the OD. Overall they held on to first place with a total of 95.58 points.

“We skated well, with the right mood. We like the dance and the audience liked it, too,”" said Shabalin. “Obviously we didn’t get the levels we would have liked — except for the twizzles.”

Belbin and Agosto’s upbeat tap dance featured a difficult dance spin and one-armed rotational lift that were graded a level four. They also earned a level three for their circular step sequence and twizzles.

However, the American couple’s their side-by-side footwork was graded level two. The 2006 Olympic silver medalists picked up 58.08 points (28.90/29.18) to win the OD with a season-best mark, and they stand currently in second place at this point in the ocmpteition at 95.23, just 0.35 points behind Domnina and Shabalin.

“I think our circle (footwork) was definitely a bit smoother (than at Skate America) and overall it just felt like we were performing a little bit better. We had more power and more confidence. It’s a good step forward. Next time will be even better, and each time we get a season’s best, hopefully,” Agosto said.

Khokhlova and Novitski delivered an energetic performance to “Sam’s Blues” and “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” but Khokhlova wobbled on the side-by-side twizzles. “When you make a mistake, you have to pull yourself together in any case,” she said. “There are a lot of elements ahead, the lift, the footwork and if you don’t get into it and don’t do them, you get nothing. I just didn’t pay attention (to the error) and tried to do the best for the remaining elements.”

The reigning European bronze medalists recovered to complete intricate steps, earning a level three for both footwork sequences. However, their twizzles and the straight line lift were graded a level two.

Khokhlova and Novitski received 55.12 points (27.00/28.12) and were ranked fourth in the OD. Overall, they were in third place with 90.80 points. “Jana turned out on the twizzle. I think this is easy to explain, after all this is our first competition and we see on what we have to work on further, although we didn’t make errors in practice,” Novitski said.

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (ITA) came in fourth with a technically strong performance to a Lindy Hop and Foxtrot. They were ranked third in the OD and have 87.74 points overall.

Anna Zadarozhniuk and Sergei Verbillo (UKR) moved up from seventh to fifth with an entertaining routine to a Charleston and Foxtrot from the “Chicago” soundtrack and used effectively a red scarf (79.66 points).

The Cup of China is the third of six events in the Grand Prix Series. The skaters are competing for a global prize money of $180, 000 (U.S.) per individual series event and receive points, according to their placements.