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Worlds Day 1: Zhang and Zhang Hold Pairs Lead

Delobel and Schoenfelder in First in Ice Dance

Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China took the lead in the pairs event after the short program at the 2008 ISU World Figure Skating Championships Tuesday, being held at the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg, Sweden.

In ice dance, Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France are in the lead while a spill by American Tanith Belbin sent her and partner Ben Agosto tumbling into fifth place.

THE PAIRS

In what was a competition at a high level, Zhang and Zhang of China captured the lead ahead of Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy and Russian's Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov.

The Chinese posted a new personal best of 74.36 points (43.50 element score/30.86 program component score). They also set a new record for the short program score by surpassing Savchenko and Szolkowy’s 72.14 points from the Grand Prix Final in December.

“We beat out personal best. The most important thing is still to come, the free skating. The crowd here was just great. We are always hoping to give a good performance for the crowd,” said Hao Zhang who had surgery just shortly before Worlds to remove a furuncle (or infected boil) from his left leg.

“The surgery was very unpleasant," he said. "Overall it (the injury, surgery, recovery) took two weeks and then we came here directly.”

Zhang and Zhang turned in an excellent performance in their dynamic “Piano Fantasy” program by Maksim Mrvica. The reigning Grand Prix Final silver medalists produced a huge triple twist, a side-by-side triple Salchow, a throw triple loop and a level four pair combination spin.

Savchenko and Szolkowy skated strongly in the early part of their exotic “Asoka” routine. They completed a high throw triple flip and a triple twist. But Savchenko stumbled on the side-by-side triple toes. The reigning European champions recovered to complete a difficult Axel Lasso lift and received a level four for their spins and a level three for the step sequence. They scored 72.00 points (40.75/31.25).

Kawaguchi and Smirnov turned in a solid performance to “Rondo Carpiccioso” by Camille Saint-Saens. Their program featured strong side-by-side triple toe loops, a triple twist and a throw triple loop.

The European bronze medalists got a level four for their side-by-side spin and the pair spin. Kawaguchi/Smirnov picked up a new personal best of 71.42 points (42.28/29.14) to finish third.

ICE DANCE

The ice dancers opened the competition with the compulsory dance, which was the Argentine Tango.

Delobel and Schoenfelder of France danced to the lead followed by Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski (RUS).

Delobel and Schoenfelder showed off deep edges and excellent unison. They earned 40.73 points (20.79 element score/19.94 program component score).

“We wanted to have fun here and enjoy (the competition)," Delobel said.

Schoenfelder added, “It was a good compulsory dance, we wanted to show a special interpretation to make the dance more interesting. We are happy with the marks.”

Virtue and Moir turned in a characteristic Argentine Tango to score 38.71 points (20.00/18.71). Khokhlova and Novitski came in third with a new season’s best of 37.98 points (19.52/18.46)

Reigning World bronze medalists Belbin and Agosto scored 35.02 points.


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