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New format lets skaters test new routines
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An interpretative free skating program has been added to the women's and men's singles figure skating competitions at this year's National Figure Skating Championships, games organizers announced yesterday.


"In order to raise the interpretative ability of the Chinese singles figure skaters, we add the interpretative free skating for the first time in the national championships," said Yang Dong, director of the Figure Skating Department of Chinese Winter Sports Administrative Center.


"The new program will focus on skating skills and how the skaters interpret the music," he said. "We hope it will raise the level of Chinese skaters' artistic interpretation capability."


The score for the interpretative free skating will count for one quarter of the total score. The short program will count for another quarter and free skating will count for the other half.


Also serving as the qualification for China's 11th National Winter Games figure skating events, the National Figure Skating Championships begins today and will run until Saturday in Qiqihar, part of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.


The top 16 singles skaters, the top eight pairs, and all the ice dancing competitors will qualify for the National Winter Games, which will be held January 18-21 next year, also in Qiqihar.


The National Championships gather together most of the top figure skaters in China, including 2006 pairs world champions Pang Qing and Tong Jian, 2006 Winter Olympic bronze medalists Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao, 2001 Four Continents men's singles champion Li Chengjiang, and 2007 Asian Winter Games men's singles champion Xu Ming.


Multiple pairs world champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo decided to withdraw from this year's competition, mulling a possible return for the 2010 Winter Olympics.


Both of the top two pairs in China will display their new routines at the national championships.


Pang and Tong will display a new free skating routine to the music of Romeo and Juliet.


"It is the first time we're competing with the new routine, so we hope to find weak points in it and improve on them before the Grand Prix series and World Championships," said Tong.


The two Zhangs have changed both their short program and free skating routines. The new short program will follow a piano fantasia by Maksim Mrvica and the free-skating music will be the soundtrack of The Myth, a love story starring Hong Kong Kungfu star Jackie Chan and South Korean actress Kim Hee-sun.


"This competition will be a test for our new programs and we will improve all the weaknesses and get good preparation for the upcoming international competitions," said Zhang Dan.


(China Daily October 11, 2007)

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