Sports

Chinese pair golden at Skate Canada

When Canadian champions Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin go to China next week, they might want to check out just what it is they're doing over there to turn out so many outstanding figure skating pairs.

When Canadian champions Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin go to China next week, they might want to check out just what it is they're doing over there to turn out so many outstanding figure skating pairs.

Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang, who are related only in their shared proficiency on ice, won the gold medals at the Skate Canada International figure skating meet Friday night in Victoria.

They did it despite an abbreviated training period as Dan Zhang recuperated from the knee injury she suffered in Turin. How they were able to go on to Calgary and add world silver when she was in such obvious bad shape remains an unsolved mystery.

That they won the second meet in the six-meet Grand Prix series was no mystery at all. Their lifts and throws are spectacular and unmatched by any of the other eight pairs at this meet.

American champions Rena Inoue and John Baldwin finished second and take home $13,000.

Marcoux of Gatineau, Que., and Buntin of Kelowna, B.C., who compete in the Cup of China next week in Nanjing, made so many mistakes they were fortunate to pocket the $9,000 third prize.

Elizabeth Putnam of Toronto and Sean Wirtz of Marathon, Ont., were a solid fourth for $3,000.

In men's singles, Daisuke Takahashi of Japan was first in the short program, Johnny Weir of the United States was second and world champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland was buried in seventh place after an uncharacteristically poor performance during which he fell twice.

Zhang and Zhang narrowly lost the world title to teammates Qing Pang and Jian Tong last March. If that wasn't enough, China also has two-time world champions Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao attempting a comeback.

Zhang and Zhang train on Olympic-sized ice and sometimes have trouble competing in the smaller North American rinks. They also were still jet-lagged from a 21-hour journey to get to Vancouver Island. They also were too good to lose.

''We made little mistakes on our first jumps and we are sorry for that,'' Hao Zhang said in apologizing for the minor glitches.

'Not our night'

Baldwin fell on a jump and badly landed another, but he and Inoue deserved silver.

They'd been third after the short program Thursday but easily vaulted past the Canadian champs.

Marcoux fell on one of her jumps and stumbled on throw landings.

''Tonight was not our night,'' she said.

"This is a world-quality program,'' Buntin said of their free-skating routine. ''We're just going to have to give it time.

''We're going to be a top-three team (at the world championships) soon and we wanted to show everyone that but … we ended up tripping over our own feet.''

Jessica Miller and Ian Moram of Vancouver were seventh among nine pairs.

now