Zhang and Zhang win pairs title in Paris

Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China perform their long program to music from The Myth soundtrack.

China’s Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang were the winners in the Pairs event, with teammates Qing Pang and Jian Tong capturing the silver.

Russia’s Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov captured the bronze, their first senior Grand Prix medal.

Performing to music from The Myth soundtrack, Zhang and Zhang opened their program with a rather rare element: a side-by-side double Axel-triple toeloop combination jump. The 2006 Olympic silver medalist awed the audience with a high triple twist, a big throw triple Salchow, and a solid throw triple loop, and executed their other elements equally well.

Their powerful performance earned the the 2006-07 Grand Prix Final bronze medalists a new personal best of 125.36 (68.00/57.36) points for a first place finish in the long. With a total score of 196.96, the team easily maintained first overall by over 10 points.

“We are quite pleased with this performance,” said Hao Zhang, “but we didn’t have enough time for our spin and the death spiral, so we didn’t achieve a high level on these elements. But it was better than last year.”

Teammates Pang and Tong opted for a romantic theme, choosing Nino Rota’s Romeo and Juliet for their long program music. Pang doubled her jump on the opening side-by-side triple toeloops, but the pair landed a double Axel-double Axel sequence – a result they weren’t able to achieve on their two previous Grand Prix events.

“We had a big problem at Skate America with our pair spin (level zero),” explained Tong. “We changed five elements before the Cup of China. Now after the Cup of China, we changed again four elements. So it was better here. We improved our score since Skate America by about 15 points. ”

Combined with traditionally strong throws, which the 2007 World silver medalists “saved” for the second half of the program, and a strong triple twist, it was enough to earn them 122.61 (63.17/59.44) points for a second place finish in the long and overall (186.93 points).

“We still have to change our footwork and our death spiral to increase the level,” added Tong. “We hope to improve our program for the Grand Prix Final. Overall we are satisfied with today’s performance.”

USA’s Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent finished third in the long program with a new personal best of 109.70 (58.42/51.28) points, and with a total score of 165.76 points, missed the podium by just over four points.

The team only produced side-by-side double Lutz-double toeloops as their combination jump (which received a deduction for using the wrong take-off edge), and only did side-by-side double toeloops for their solo jump.

The secret of their success, however, was misleadingly simple: a clean and fully rotated throw quadruple salchow. They are one of three teams known to attempt this difficult and rare element, but are the only ones to execute it cleanly. They also landed a solid throw triple loop in the second half of the program and received high levels for their non-jumping elements.

Competing in their first Grand Prix event of the season Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov landed a side-by-side triple toeloop-double toeloops, but then they once again experienced problems with the catch on the triple twist, and Mukhortova fell on her jump on the side-by-side triple Salchows.

Nonetheless the Russian champions skated with more power and confidence than they ever exhibited before, highlighted by their decision to keep their long program to Rachmaninov’s Elegy from last season. The students of Oleg Vasiliev earned a personal best of 108.06 (56.58/52.48) points for a fourth place finish in the long. With a total score of 169.82 points, however, they were able to maintain third place overall.

“We are happy to have won our first medal on the Grand Prix, but we can’t say that our performance was really good,” said trankov. “We made some mistakes and we lost some levels on our elements. The competition was late today, and there was a long break in between practice and competition. Maybe because we were lacking experience, we burnt out a little.”

Ukrainians Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov hung onto fifth place overall (152.59 points) on the strength of their program component scores in their free skate.

The 2007 Winter Universiade silver medalists opened with clean side-by-side triple toeloop-double toeloops, but the program went downhill from there. Morozov doubled his jump on the side-by-side triple Salchows, while Volosozhar put her hand down on both throws.

The team also had problems on their first lift, which only received a level two, and the team made mistakes on the pairs combination spin and death spiral. They placed sixth in the long with 98.41 (50.37/49.04) points.

Canada’s Jessica Miller and Ian Moram also received a credit for their quadruple salchow throw, but with the two-footed landing, it earned them only 6.88 points. The 2007 Cup of China bronze medalists also made mistakes on their side-by-side triple toeloops and the throw triple loop, earning 98.66 (54.18/44.48) points for a fifth place finish in the long and sixth overall (142.92 points).

Adeline Canac and Maximin Coia of France were seventh, followed by Great Britain’s Stacey Kemp and David King.

Zhang and Zhang earned 15 points for their win at this event, and will compete again next week at Cup of Russia alongside Mukhortova and Trankov (11 points).

This was a non-scoring event for Pang and Tong who have already qualified with 28 points from Skate America and Cup of China.

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