Sat, October 31, 2009

Comeback Shen/Zhao crowned, Japan collects two titles at Cup of China

2009-10-31 13:51:59 GMT2009-10-31 21:51:59 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

BEIJING, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- China's figure skating legends Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo tabbed their comeback from two-year retirement with a convincing victory, while both men's and ladies title went to Japanese here on Saturday at the Cup of China Grand Prix.

The triple world title holders Shen and Zhao, who left the Chinese national team in early 2007, hit a high-flying 128.69 points in the free skating for their routine to "Adagio in G Minor" by T. Albinoni, and piled up their total score to 200.97 for their opening crown in the Olympic season.

As a golden combination in China, Shen and Zhao, having won three world trophies in 2002, 2003 and 2007 but only two Olympic bronze medals in Salt Lake City and Turin, shouldered high expectations heading for next year's Winter Games in Vancouver.

"The routine was actually a challenge to us. It demands fine performance with passion as well as high techniques," commented the 36-year-old Zhao at the post-competition press conference.

The couple, however, don't want to push themselves too hard after making a successful comeback.

"We are sure to do our best in the following competitions, but the most important thing is to be fit and to resume the level of our best since both of us have a series of injuries," said Shen. "Our biggest aim is to show up at the Vancouver Olympics."

Fellow Chinese Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao, finishing a disappointing fourth after Friday's short program, graded a flawless performance earlier on Saturday, sealing the runners-up prize with 124.57 points in free skating and 186.49 in total.

The Turin Olympic silver medalists beat Ukraine's Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov, on 170.79 points (62.98+107.81),to the third place overall.

Earlier in Saturday evening, the men's title was earned by Japan's Nobunari Oda, winner of the French Grand Prix earlier this month who performed a great free skate to collect 156.23 points before winning the overall title with 239.58.

Reigning world champion Evan Lysacek of the United States, who only finished third on Friday's short program, posted 151.37 points to lift his ranking to second with 232.17 overall, out of reach for third-placed Sergei Voronov of Russia, the 2006 world junior silver medalist, who finished with 220.39.

Another Japanese Akiko Suzuki lifted the ladies trophy with a strong skating in free skate, beating the 2007 European bronze medalist Kiira Korpi of Finland and Canada's Joannie Rochette, the world runner-up of this year, to the second and third places respectively.

Taking advantage of some strong rivals' errors, Suzuki, nearly nobody before the Cup of China and coming in fourth after Friday's short program, continued with a solid performance in free dancing to West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein for the crown, upgrading most of her spins to level four to score 117.14 points and a total of 176.66.

American duo Tanith Belbin/Benjamin Agosto, runners-up of the ice dancing at Olympic Winter Games in 2006, dominated the field to claim the ice dancing gold after posting 95.85 points from their graceful free dance.

They had led Friday's compulsory and free dances, and then took the overall crown with 194.51.

Russian pair Jana Khokhlova/Sergei Novitski, the 2009 European champions, finished with 180.57 overall, while Federica Faiella/Massimo Scali of Italy, 2009 European silver medalists and six-time Italian national champions, took the bronze with 179.92.

The Cup of China Grand Prix was the third stop of this season's six figure skating series, and skaters compete for a global prize money of 180, 000 U.S. dollars per individual event and receive points according to their placements.

Top six skaters/couples of the series will proceed to the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Tokyo, Japan in December.

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