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2010-02-16 22:18:09|  分类: news eye |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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China Ends Russian Winning Streak in Pairs With a One-Two Punch

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — On the night the Russians failed to uphold a 46-year winning streak in the Olympic pairs figure skating event, the Chinese stole the moment.

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, who came out of retirement last year to try to win an Olympic gold medal, finally got their wish Monday, adding a gold to the two Olympic bronze medals they already owned.

They also had won China’s first Olympic gold medal in figure skating, and after skating together for nearly two decades and winning three world championships, they finally could rest.

Their free skate was not perfect, marred by a sloppy dismount to a lift and some other wobbles, but it did not matter. Shen, 31, and Zhao, 36, enthralled the audience with dazzling throws, Shen flying so high she seemed headed for the rafters. During lifts, she seemed weightless, soaring above him like a gliding bird.

When their program was done, Zhao knelt on the ice. Shen, his wife, lovingly patted him on the back.

“We have had this dream for many, many, many years,” Zhao said in Mandarin, through an interpreter. “We have won many competitions and every time we heard the national anthem and saw the national flag being raised, we always wished it was the Olympic Games. Today we achieved our goal.”

Two Chinese flags were raised at the Pacific Coliseum on Monday night, one for Shen and Zhao, who won with 216.57 points over all, a world record. The other flag went up for their compatriots and training mates, Pang Qing and Tong Jian, who won the silver medal, with 213.31 points.

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy — the two-time reigning world champions from Germany — took the bronze, with 210.60 points.

Shen and Zhao stood rinkside, applauding and smiling, while Pang and Tong were still on the ice, finishing up their routine. The rest of the crowd was cheering, too — and for good reason.

Pang and Tong, the 2006 world champions, had the highest score in the long program with a breathtaking performance of daring lifts, precise jumps and tangible emotion. When they were done, Tong dropped to his knees and kissed the ice.

“I don’t know what got into me,” Tong said, in Mandarin, explaining why he gave the ice a big, long smooch. “I felt that there was a power that made me do that. I just want to thank all the spectators for supporting us. They gave me the power and the courage to compete the way we did.”

Savchenko and Szolkowy also had a lot of support from the crowd, but it backfired: They said the pressure to win ended up being too great.

Savchenko doubled a triple toe loop, and Szolkowy fell on a double axel. They dropped their heads when their program was done.

“I think everyone knows we’re disappointed,” Szolkowy said. “Our performance tonight was not the one we wanted to show.”

But the Russian team of Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov might have felt more pressure than any other because they were trying to continue the Russian winning streak in this event. They ended up fourth, with 194.77 points.

Russian or Soviet teams have dominated the Olympic pairs competition, winning the past 12 gold medals, a run that began in 1964. (In 2002, dual gold medals were handed out to the Russian and Canadian teams because of a judging scandal.)

To keep that streak alive, Kavaguti and Smirnov were considering using their secret weapon: a throw quadruple Salchow. But they played it safe, with a triple, and Kavaguti also put her hand down on the landing.

Later, she fell again, during a throw triple loop, landing hard on the ice. After rising, she grimaced and rubbed her left wrist. That same grimace appeared on her face in the kiss-and-cry area, when she saw their score.

“There was too much stress,” Kavaguti said. “I guess we didn’t handle the stress.”

The American teams didn’t feel the same burden. Both pairs knew that they were too inexperienced to come close to the Chinese or the Russians. In the worst-ever showing for American pairs teams at the Olympics, Mark Ladwig and Amanda Evora finished 10th, and Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett were 13th. Previously, the best American team had always finished seventh or better.

Ladwig and Evora — the runners-up at last month’s United States national championships — finished with 171.92 points. Their score in the free skate was 114.06, their personal best by about 16 points.

Denney and Barrett, the national champions, scored 158.33 points. Their coach, Jim Peterson, said that Barrett had been battling a rib injury that had made it difficult for him to breathe.

Still, Barrett said he was thrilled to even be at the Olympics. He said he nearly quit the sport two years ago, before he began skating with Denney.

“We weren’t looking to medal here,” Barrett said. “We still have a ways to go.”

Shen and Zhao, though, look to be at the end of their career. They have been skating together since 1992, longer than some of the other pairs skaters — including the 16-year-old Denney — have been alive.

Shen said she and her husband will go back to their hometown of Harbin and work to inspire children to take up figure skating.

At the same time, they may hang up their skates.

“I think that it’s hard to continue skating,” Shen said, answering a reporter’s questions about what the couple would do next. She blushed, then laughed, and said, “Maybe it’s time to have a baby.”



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