Shen and Zhao win third World title

China's Xue Shen (28) and Hongbo Zhao (33) won their third title at the 2007 World Figure Skating Championships.

The 2007 ISU World Figure Skating Championships continued Wednesday with the Pairs’ Free Skate after the Men’s Short Program.

Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao of China won their third World title at this event, while teammates Qing Pang and Jian Tong rose from third place after the short to capture the silver.

Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, who were sixth in both 2005 and 2006, slipped from second to third place to settle for bronze.

Maria Petrova (29) and Alexei Tikhonov (35) of Russia withdrew from the event before the long program after Tikhonov injured his right leg (adductor) during practice. They were in 11th place after the short program.

Poland’s Dorota Siudek (31) and Mariusz Siudek (34) also withdrew after Mariusz injured his back. The husband-and-wife team were ninth after the short.

Mariusz injured his back two years ago,” stated coach Richard Gautier. “Since then, a vertebra goes out from time to time. It is put back in and then after two or three days, he is able to skate again. This time, it happened during warmup just before the free program.”

“This is just not the way I would have like to finish our career,” said Mariusz.

This was the last competition for both teams who are retiring.

Shen (28) and Zhao (33) evoked a hush from the crowd as they took their opening pose and lulled the audience with them as they explored the facets of Meditation from Thais by Massenet with effortless speed and flow.

The two-time Olympic bronze medalists opened with a side-by-side triple toe loop-double toe loop combination and nested spread eagles into side-by-side double Axels which were close together and in perfect sync. As usual, their triple twist elicited gasps from the audience. The team’s spectacular throw triple loop and Salchow were executed back-to-back and after the half-way point of the program which gave them bonus points as well as +GOEs from the judges. The lasso lift and hip lift were level 4 while the toe overhead lift that closed the program was a level 3. Only a lack of synchronization on their side-by-side combination spins prevented this from being a perfect program.

The 2006-07 GP Final Champions were observed sharing an emotional and personal moment as they knelt down on the ice and hugged each other while receiving a standing ovation.

The overnight leaders earned a score of 132.43 points for a first place finish in the long and overall (203.50 points).

Both skaters were happy with their performance.

“I just wanted to thank the ice in Tokyo,” explained Zhao when asked about touching the ice while heading to kiss & cry area. “I like Japan and I am happy I was able to do our last performance here. We will be at shows in Japan and the US after the worlds. That is our plan for now.”

“Right now I’m very tired,” admitted Shen, “and what we need is a long break. This break might take maybe one year. There may be a comeback in the future, but when this will happen we will have to look at our competence and ability as well as physical strength to decide.”

Following their countrymen and closing the event, teammates and defending World Champions Pang (27) and Tong (27) took to the ice with music from Phantom of the Opera of the Ice.

The Chinese Champions opened their program with a side-by-side double Axel-double Axel sequence and side-by-side triple toe loops – all in perfect sync. A high-flying level 2 triple twist was awarded +GOEs as did both their huge throw triple Salchow and throw triple loop. Their skating exhibited all the emotions of the music as they told the tragic story, and the team was awarded 121.71 points for a second place finish in the long – enough to move them up to second overall with a total score of 188.46 points.

“We are very, very pleased with this performance,” said Tong. “I want to thank my partner Qing Pang – she did a great job tonight. It was the best free program of the season. I want to thank our coach (Bin Yao) and our whole team for their support. They helped us to overcome the hard time we’ve had and they gave us confidence. Next year we want to come back strong and give the very best performances.”

“All top three pairs performed well tonight,” continued Tong. “For me, I saw the score for the pair that skated before us which motivated me to skate well. We want to continue to work better and harder to improve our performances. Last year, we were the World Champions, but it was very hard for us this year because of our accident and illness. But all that made us very strong for the competition. I am so happy about our result.”

Savchenko (23) and Szolkowy (27), who stood in second after the short, placed third in the long (119.74 points) and overall with 187.39 points.

The European Champions produced a powerful and emotional routine to music from The Mission soundtrack which was laden with innovative moves throughout. Highlights of their program included a very good throw triple flip and throw triple Salchow, a huge triple twist, three level 4 lifts with +GOEs, and a beautiful level 4 spiral sequence.

“It would be an exaggeration to say we are depressed,” said Szolkowy, “but after the free skate at the European championships, we did expect more. This free skate wasn’t bad, but the fact that we skated first here and left the ice with this performance was bad.”

“It was difficult to skate yesterday the short and also difficult in the free program today, but we fought for it,” Szolkowy continued. “Considering that, we did quite well. To be on the podium was our big goal and we fulfilled that. The bronze medal means a lot to us. Tomorrow morning at the latest when we wake up, we will be very, very happy with it.”

The team had initially planned a triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination instead of a double Axel-double toe loop combination.

“We agreed on this during the program since we do not train such mistakes,” said Szolkowy. “It just happened. If Aliona had done the sequence or I, we would have gotten even more of a deduction. We have had this before, so we decided not to do the 3-3 combination.”

China’s Dan Zhang (21) and Hao Zhang (22), who stood in tenth after the short, rebounded with 116.39 points for fourth place finish in the short, rising to fifth overall with a total score of 173.39 points.

The 2006 Olympic bronze medalists performed their routine to The Offspring of Dragons by Hou De Jian, but had problems with their opening side-by-side double Axel-double toe loop combination when Hao put his hands down on the landing. Nevertheless, the team didn’t disappoint with their huge triple twist, throw triple Salchow, and throw triple loop. The current World silver medalists also produced side-by-side triple Salchows, three good level 4 spins, a level 4 spiral sequence, difficult lifts, and strong footwork.

“We lost too many points yesterday and I did not do well today,” said Hao, “but our score is much better, so I am happy. Since she (Dan) has not completely recovered from a cold, I pay more attention to her because communication is really important in pair skating. We are going back to our home town after the worlds and take [a] long vacation until June. Then we will restart our training and improve our artistic side. We will keep competing at least three more years to do better performances.”

Ukraine’s Tatiana Volosozhar (20) and Stanislav Morozov (28) moved up from eighth after the short to fourth overall (173.62 points) after placing fifth in the long with a new personal best of 116.00 points.

The 2007 Winter Universiade silver medalists produced a mesmerizing program with excellent interpretation to Phantom of the Opera on Ice which was highlighted by a triple toe loop-triple toe loop sequence, a triple twist, three level 4 lifts with +GOEs, good spins, and a solid throw triple Salchow.

Canada’s Valerie Marcoux (26) and Craig Buntin (26) produced an airy double twist, as well as spirals which had good speed and matching positions in their routine to L’Amour by Osvaldo Montes, but the program overall was marred by mistakes. Marcoux put her hand down on the second jump of the side-by-side triple toe loops and stepped out of the landing on both the throw triple loop and throw triple Salchow, while Buntin fell on his jump on the side-by-side double Axels.

The Canadian silver medalists, who stood in fifth after the short, placed sixth in the long (106.52 points) and overall (167.26 points).

“I just feel speechless right now,” said Buntin. “We had such high expectations of ourselves out here. We started out so strong this season, getting off the ice knowing we could have done better is just really disappointing.”

Teammates Jessica Dube (19) and Bryce Davison (21) also had a good start in their routine Blower’s Daughter by Damien Rice, executing side-by-side double Axels, a double twist, and a throw triple Salchow. Davison, however, underrotated and fell on his jump during the side-by-side triple Salchows while Dube fell on a throw triple loop. The Canadian Champions placed seventh in the long (105.65 points) and overall with a total of 164.59 points.

“We skated pretty well except for my Salchow,” said Davison. “[It] is not something I do very often, so I’m a little disappointed in that, but I think we did what we wanted to do with the component mark. I think we are very satisfied with the way we came back from the Four Continents. This year is an important year, but if we are in the top ten this year, maybe we can be in the top five next year.”

USA’s Rena Inoue (30) and John Baldwin (33) placed eighth in the long (104.47 points), slipping from sixth to eighth overall (163.97 points). Inoue fell out of her jump with a hand down on the side-by-side triple toe loops and fell on the throw triple Axel, while Baldwin pitched forward and put a hand down on the side-by-side double Axels.

“It’s the last skate and I am disappointed in our skate,” said Inoue, “but I believe that this is what competitive skating is about. There are ups and downs and it just happened to be tonight that was a down day. Johnny did such a great job and I feel like I pulled him down tonight.”

” It was the most flawed skate we’ve done all together in our career,” added Baldwin. “It was very sad to end like this since we are both such experienced skaters. I think Rena is a ‘skating goddess’ of all women skaters. I don’t think Rena pulled anything down. She is the most consistent skater I know even including single skaters.”

Russia’s Yuko Kawaguchi (25) and Alexander Smirnov (22), who stood in fourth after the short, placed tenth in the long (101.55 points) and ninth overall (163.62 points). The 2006 Cup of Russia bronze medalists had problems on their planned triple toe loop-triple toe loop sequence and didn’t do the second jump which resulted in their side-by-side double Axels being scored zero points. Rule states that if two sets of side-by-side jumps are executed, one of them must as part of a sequence or combination.

“It was amazing,” said Kawaguchi of competing at Worlds in Japan. “We just learned a lot here and we need to learn many, many things for the next season.”

Canada’s Anabelle Langlois (25) and Cody Hay (23) who stood in 13th after short, placed ninth in the long and tenth overall (160.01 points).

“We just tried to stay focused and do the program like we’ve been doing at home,” said Langlois. “We have been skating great in practice.”

“I was nervous at first,” admitted Cody, “and I was shaky in the beginning, but I was very glad to have her (Langlois). It made me feel very settled.”

Langlois enjoyed competing in Japan.

“I’ve been here before and it’s my favorite place to compete,” she said. “It’s a great crowd out there. It was actually the best (crowd) we’ve had all year.”

Russia’s Maria Mukhortova (21) and Maxim Trankov (23) of Russia were 11th, followed by USA’s Brooke Castile (20) and Benjamin Okolski (22).

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