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Shen/Zhao Lead China's Medal Sweep
Pairs world champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo collected perfect 6.0 scores both on technique and presentation for the first time en route to their victory during the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships yesterday in Beijing.

The duo stunningly scored three 6.0s -- two on technique and one for presentation with a near flawless Puccini's Turandot routine. They added another title to their champions cabinet with a winning streak that dates back to last year's German Grand Prix. Previously, they also triumphed in the Russian GP, NHK Trophy and 2003 Asian Winter Games.

It is the second time the pair have won full marks for their performance, previously achieving the score for presentation during the Russian GP.

"The full 6.0 mark is no doubt the sweetest thing for any skater and it is a thrill for us to win several 6.0s tonight," said an excited Zhao.

"The mark represents a confirmation from the judges and means a lot to us."

Zhao said he and his partner were inspired by the local audience as the tournament came to China for the first time.

"I am glad we did a great show on home soil though we are very tired after coming back from the Asian Games," he said. "I think tonight's skate is one of our best."

Besides the Shen/Zhao triumph, their younger teammates Pang Qing/Tong Jian and Zhang Dan/Zhang Hao followed closely in their footsteps, coming second and third respectively to complete a Chinese medal sweep.

"I am very proud to see three Chinese pairs all standing on the podium," said Zhao Hao. "It is a family union and very significant."

The Chinese success also encouraged head coach Yao Bin to set a bigger target for the years to come.

"I dream that they can do the same at the World Championships and even the Olympic Games," Yao said.

Early yesterday, China's Li Chengjiang took an upper hand in a battle between two events' former champions, leading the men's short program ahead of Japanese world bronze medalist Takeshi Honda. Another Chinese, Zhang Min ranked third.

Li, the 2001 event winner and the first Chinese man to win a International Skating Union event title, skated a clean program imitating Chinese traditional martial arts.

But Honda, the first Japanese to win a medal at the World Championships since Minoru Sano in 1977, fell in his opening quadruple-triple jump before he recovered and managed to get 5.2-5.9 on presentation.

"It was a good take-off but I am surprised about the landing (fall). It was a stupid thing," said the 1999 event winner.

"Overall it was a decent skate, a good recovery (after the fall)."

In ice-dancing, world silver medalists Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz from Canada kept their lead after the original dance. The second and third places went to two American pairs Naomi Lang/Peter Tchernyshev and Tanith Belbin/Benjamin Agosto respectively.

(China Daily February 14, 2003)

Chinese and Japanese Dominate the Ice
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