The Chinese pairs followed two-time world champions Tatiana
Totmianina and Maxim Marinin to rank the second, while China's Pang
Qing and Tong Jian, and Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo were fourth and
Zhang-Zhang began with an intricate one-armed lift that led to a
big throw triple loop, energizing the crowd -- particularly
the Chinese fans who shook colorful rattles shaped like hands and
held up banners supporting their skaters.
The Zhangs, who are not related, closed with a huge double twist
that could have been a quad if it was permitted, and a complex
combination spin. The 2005 world bronze medalists slapped hands at
the end, then saw a personal-best 64.72 points go up on the
That put them ahead until almost the end, when "Tot and Max"
took the ice.
"We both have one aim," Zhang Dan said. "We wanted to perform
our best in the Olympic Games."
Their countrymen, two-time world champions and Salt Lake City
bronze medalists Shen and Hongbo, were happy simply to skate at
Zhao has made an amazingly quick comeback from a torn Achilles'
tendon in August. He only began triple jumps last week, but he hit
his triple toe loop while Shen was touching her hand to the ice
"The power is not sufficient, but the performance I am happy
for," he said.
Totmianina and Marinin easily were the class of the event. They
earned 68.64 points, with the highest totals for both technique and
They were so good the crowd was hushed for much of the
performance, the near silence broken only by the sound of their
blades majestically cutting through the ice.
The free skate is Monday night, when "Tot and Max" could become
the 12th straight Russian or Soviet pair to win this Olympic
"Unbeatable, I would like to believe they're unbeatable," coach
Oleg Vasiliev said. "But figure skating depends on many things --
ice, judges, political situations."
It was the first Olympic event under the code of points created
in the wake of the 2002 pairs judging scandal. Three of the Salt
Lake City gold medalists -- Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of
Canada and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia — are in Turin to watch the
Totmianina and Marinin skated as one to "Snowstorm" by Georgi
Sviridov. Their side-by side triple toe loops were flawless, and
they finished with a superb string of combination spins.
"I think it was the best performance of our short program this
season," she said.
And they didn't succumb to the pressure of keeping their
nation's golden streak going.
"I feel the atmosphere inside the ice rink was going up, so it
was like a stone fell off my shoulders when we finished," Marinin
said. "It was just more concentration on the skating. Maybe that
looks like I am really nervous, but it is not that."
Inoue and Baldwin's triple followed the one they did last month
at US nationals and helped get them 61.27 points.
"It felt fantastic, just what I wanted," added Inoue, who
revealed this week she had lung cancer in 1998, just 18 months
after her father died of the disease.
In the third place were Russia's Maria Petrova, skating on a
sore ankle, and Alexei Tikhonov with a clean performance including
a complex lift during which he swung her between his legs and into
the air, followed by a neat twisting dismount.
That got the red-and-white uniformed Russian athletes in the crowd
excited, but they booed when they heard the marks for the world
In the new format, only nine of the 12 judges who score the
event count, and the high and low scores are thrown out.
"We skated with our soul, with our heart and you can see the
audience was with us," Tikhonov said.
Inoue and Baldwin don't have the complete package the top
couples possess. They do have that unique throw, however, and it
was even better at the Olympics than at nationals.
"I knew before we stepped on the ice what would happen," said
Baldwin, who pumped his fist when Inoue landed smoothly.
Baldwin motioned for the fans, including first lady Laura Bush --
to stand up at the conclusion of the program. Whenever he saw an
American flag -- or a familiar face from the States — he paused to
acknowledge them. And their cheers.
The other Americans, Marcy Hinzmann and Aaron Parchem, were 13th
after he fell on side-by-side triple toe loops.
Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy struggled and were
seventh, perhaps distracted by coach Ingo Steuer's alleged ties to
the East German secret police in the 1980s. Steuer got a court
order allowing him to work with the couple here.
(AP via China Daily February 12, 2006)