Golden Skate

2004 World Figure Skating Championships: Pairs Highlights

The 2004 ISU World Figure Skating championships opened in Dortmund, Germany Monday with approximately 179 skaters participating from 43 countries. Held in Dortmund for the third time, the event took place in the Westfalenhalle arena beginning March 22 with the Men’s Qualifying Round and the Pairs Short Program.

In their sixth trip to worlds, Russia’s Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin won their first gold medal. China’s Xue Shen and Hongo Zhao fought for the silver while teammates Qing Pang and Jian Tong grabbed the bronze.

Short Program

Performing to Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini, Totmianina and Marinin opened with a throw triple loop followed by side-by-side triple toeloops, a double twist, and a one-armed lift. The two-time World silver medalists earned marks ranging from 5.7 to one 6.0, placing first after the short.

It was the first 6.0 the team had ever received. “It’s wonderful!” said a happy Totmianina. “I always dreamed about getting a 6.0 before the new judging system will be adopted.” Marinin added, “There are many of our compatriots here, and we felt their support.”

Teammates Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov opened their short with side-by-side triple toeloops followed by a split double twist and a throw triple loop. The 2004 European silver medalists impressed with good spins and a nice lift with changes in position to earn marks from 5.5 to 5.9 for a second place finish after their routine to music by Baxter.

“It was the best program we did this season,” Tikhonov commented. “We felt a lot of pressure because there are three pairs from China, two other Russian pairs and the Polish couple. All of them are very good. The level in pair skating is very high right now.” With Worlds being the last competition of the season, the team was happy with their start. “Now we have a good position to catch the title,” noted Tikhonov.

Skating to Illumination by Rolf Loveland, Pang and Tong executed side-by-side triple toeloops, a high throw triple loop, and a front hand-to-hand lift. Though the team executed a high lateral double twist, their side-by-side spins were out of unison and the 2004 Four Continents champions earned marks from 5.2 to 5.9 for a third place finish after the short.

“We’re quite pleased with this program, but we had a problem with our side-by-side spin,” Tong admitted. “We’re very happy with our placement. I think it’s the first time that we beat our team-mates Shen and Zhao in a part of the competition. Today we felt good on the ice, we really felt with the music.”

Shen and Zhao’s routine to Kismet by Bond featured a high throw triple Salchow but Zhao fell on the side-by-side triple toeloops. The reigning World champions went on to execute a difficult lift, good spins, and a split double twist, earning marks from 5.1 to 5.8 for a fourth place finish after the short.

“I don’t know why I missed the triple toeloop,” said a stunned Zhao. “It is normally a very solid element. I did not feel very tight in the air, but was not nervous at all.” Shen added, “We will fight and do our best in the long program.”

Dorota Zagorska and Mariusz Siudek of Poland had a good skate to the Legend of 1900 soundtrack, executing a throw triple loop, side-by-side tripe toeloops, a lift with a summersault entrance, and a double twist. The husband-and-wife team earned marks from 5.2 to 5.9 for a fifth place finish after the short.

“This was our best short this season,” noted Siudek. “I was a bit shaky after the toeloop, but Dorota gave me power for the rest. We are here just for skating and the place is not so important for us. Nine years ago, we had our first championships here in Dortmund and it is very nice to come back to the place where everything started. For the free skating we expect a big group of friends helping us during the competition.”

China’s Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang were sixth after the short.

“We’re very happy with how we did today,” said Dan Zhang, “although there were some minor things we could have done better.” Hao Zhang added, “I felt very good before the competition. Last year, we were sixth at the Worlds. This season, we had a lot of competitions and we got a lot of experience. We hope to finish higher at the Worlds this year than last year, that’s our goal.”

Long Program

Shen and Zhao, who were fourth after the short, opened their routine to Swan Lake with a side-by-side double Axel-triple toeloop sequence that was in perfect synch. The team went on to execute a huge throw triple Salchow, side-by-side triple toeloops that were close together and in sync, and a high triple twist and throw triple loop. Although the 2004 Grand Prix champions stumbled on the exit of their final lift, they were awarded marks from 5.6 to 6.0 (twelve) for a second place finish in the long which moved them up two spots to second overall. Shen jumped up and down with joy, hugging her partner when the scores were revealed.

“We knew we couldn’t win anymore when we took the ice,” admitted Zhao, “and we just wanted to give our very best.” Zhao, who was angry and depressed at himself after the short, continued, “Today, all my anger is gone. We were able to do all our elements. The placement didn’t matter, we just wanted to give the best we can. We’re so happy to have received so many 6.0s, but I think we still can do better!”

Overnight leaders, Totmianina and Marinin, performed their long to Marton’s Art On Ice, opening with a side-by-side triple toeloop-double toeloop combination. Totmianina had to grab her partner’s shoulder on the landing of the triple twist, but the team had no problems with the throw triple loop and throw triple Salchow. The three-time and reigning European champions were awarded marks ranging from 5.6 to one 6.0 for a second place finish in the long and overall.

“We are so happy to have won our first World title,” said Totmianina. “It was altogether a very tough competition, the level was very high. It was very hard for us to skate after we heard that Pang and Tong received such high marks. We assumed they skated clean, and we knew we couldn’t afford any mistakes.” She continued, “At the beginning [of our program], we smiled at each other and communicated with our eyes. Then we focused on ourselves.”

Skating to Variations on a Theme of Paganini, Pang and Tong opened their long with a side-by-side triple toeloop-double Axel sequence followed by a triple twist with great hang time. The 2004 Chinese champions then executed a throw triple loop, a throw triple Salchow, side-by-side double Axels, and a throw triple toeloop. The team displayed wonderful transitions, footwork, and spins to earn marks from 5.6 to one 6.0 for a third place finish in the long and overall.

“We are so satisfied with our performance,” said Tong. “We have never skated this well at Worlds and the 6.0 was an additional plus on today’s performance. We feel strong and happy to have won a medal here in Dortmund.”

Petrova and Tikhonov performed to The Princess Circus, opening their routine with a lift in place followed by side-by-side double Axels. From the Axels, the team did turns into triple toeloops, in which Tikhonov put his hand down and two-footed the landing. The 2003 World bronze medalists continued with a good throw triple loop, a triple twist, and side-by-side double Axels. After displaying good unison in their side-by-side flying camels, Petrova two-footed the landing on a throw triple Salchow. The 2004 Russian silver medalists, who stood in second after the short, earned marks ranging from 5.3 to 5.9 for a fourth place finish in the long, slipping to fourth overall.

Zhang and Zhang, who stood in sixth after the short, performed to Kálmán’s Czardasfurstin Suite, executing a triple lateral twist followed by side-by-side double Axels with turns into triple toeloops. The 2004 Four Continents silver medalists then executed a throw triple loop, side-by-side triple Salchows, and a throw triple Salchow to earn marks ranging from 5.2 to 5.8 for a fifth place finish in the long and overall.

“It was their very best performance in a competition,” said their coach, Bin Yao. “They had a very good practice and they were really ready for it. They were put together when they were young so they could learn a lot from Shen and Zhao.”

Zagorska and Siudek had some errors in their performance to Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto, and slipped from fifth to sixth place overall after placing sixth in the long.

Russia’s Julia Obertas and Sergei Slavnov of Russia were seventh.

2004 marked the first time that two Chinese couples ever held two spots on the World podium at the same time and in the same city. Pang and Tong’s coach, Bin Yao, was on the first Chinese team which competed 24 years ago in Dortmund.

“In 1980, the first Chinese team came to the World Championships in Germany, and now China has three couples in the top six. Germany is a lucky place for us,” said Tong.

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