China's pairing of Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo continued to
dominate figure skating skating's pairs on Wednesday, out-scoring
world champions Pang Qing and Tong Jian to win the short program at
the Four Continents championship in Colorado Springs.
Having announced their upcoming retirement at the end of the
season, Shen and Zhao look poised to exit the world stage in a
blaze of glory, having so far won every event this season,
including the Grand Prix final and Asian Winter Games.
The two-time world champions and 2002 Olympic bronze medalists
could add a second Four Continents title to their collection with
an efficient if unspectacular short program that earned them top
marks of 69.29.
Compatriots, Pang and Tong, are second on 65.80, but they are
still recovering following a year plagued by illness and
Still recovering from albuminuria, a condition affecting the
kidneys but which can spread to other organs, Pang cannot train for
more than an hour without taking a break.
Tong, meanwhile, skated on Wednesday wearing a black headband to
hide scars resulting from a car crash in Beijing that left him
unconscious with a nasty gash on his forehead.
"After winning the world championships, practices haven't been
going too well because of her health. And in January I got in a car
accident and I crashed through the window," Tong told reporters.
"Right now our energy is a little low while the high altitude has
The first world champions pair from China, Shen and Zhao
confirmed that Thursday's free skate would mark their last
competitive appearance in North America preceding an international
farewell at the world championships next month in Tokyo.
The ground-breaking pair have refused to rule out for a possible
return, saying they may re-consider in 2009 and scope out the
competition for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.
"After this competition (worlds) we plan to retire," said Shen.
"We will leave the competition and if we are feeling good in 2009
we might try to compete in the (2010) Olympics."
Earlier, Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Benjamin
Agosto got off to a shaky start in the defence of their Four
Continents ice dance crown.
Taking advantage of the four-times US champions lackluster
performance, world silver medallists Marie-France Dubreuil and
Patrice Lauzon of Canada produced a clean skate to lead the field
Skating the Golden Waltz, Agosto's stumble was hardly noticed by
the sparse crowd of about 100 spectators sprinkled through the
World Arena but caught the attention of the judges, causing the
home town favourites to come second with a mark of 37.72.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White, third place finishers at the US
nationals, sit third on 33.68 going into Thursday's original
(Xinhua News Agency February 8, 2007)