China's new figure skating pair Zhang/Yang wrap up season with 2nd national title

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Zhang Siyang and Yang Yongchao, China's best figure skating pair in the first season after the Beijing Winter Olympics, were crowned at the season-ending National Championships which concluded in Qingdao on Thursday.

Overnight leaders Zhang and Yang, China's sole pair representatives at last month's World Championships in Saitama, Japan, with Olympians Sui Wenjing/Han Cong and Peng Cheng/Jin Yang not competing, nailed a 117.34-point free skate and totaled 178.77 to claim the title.

This is the second national title in the same season for the Heilongjiang duo, who first paired up in April 2021 and finished 17th out of 23 pairs in their worlds debut.

"We skated smoothly today except the last throw jump. Two weeks after the worlds, I can tell that we now feel more confident on the rink and have performed our programs better," 18-year-old Zhang told a post-competition mixed zone.

"I believe we can do better," said her 24-year-old partner Yang. "This is an important season for us. We've been given chances and also seen our shortcomings, and we'll train harder to aim for better results next season."

Zhang Jiaxuan/Huang Yihang of Qiqihar and Zhao Wantong/Liu Yuhang of Heilongjiang completed the podium.

Yang Yixi and Deng Shunyang, who represented China at last month's World Junior Championships, finished third in the free skate with a result of 98.09, but stayed fourth on 144.44 points.

13-year-old Li Ruotang led Beijing's clean sweep of the women's top five, totaling 179.10 to claim a gold despite a fall at her double Axel-double Axel combination in the free skate. Wang Yihan and Tong Ruichen, also 13, finished on the podium.

Guangdong's Dai Dawei kept cool in the free skate to convincingly take the men's title with a total of 188.43 points. Heilongjiang's Jiang Zhiao moved from fourth to second on 178.96 and Tian Tonghe of Jilin settled for a bronze on 176.30.

The ice dancing placing remained the same, with national champions Chen Xizi and Xing Jianing from Harbin coming top with a 101.66-point free dance and 170.10 in total, and national youth champions Lin Yufei and Gao Zijian second, 18.69 points behind.

A total of 59 skaters participated in the season-ending event after current national champion Chen Yudong suffered a persistent low-grade fever due to acute mumps, and announced on Monday that he had withdrawn from the men's skate. 

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