Chinese skating pairs grab gold, silver
Tough night for Canadian skaters
China's Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo bookended the Olympic pairs competition — skating first in the short program and last in the free skate — suggesting that starting order means very little in determining the final result.
They won the gold medal despite a couple of small errors in their free-skate program Monday at the Vancouver Winter Games.
Shen and Zhao received a free-skate score of 139.91, for a total of 216.57.
Another Chinese pair, Qing Pang and Jian Tong, skated flawlessly and won the silver medal, scoring 213.31. Defending world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany took the bronze with a score of 210.60.
The Canadian pair of Bryce Davison and Jessica Dubé, skating to Marvin Hamlisch's The Way We Were, finished sixth after scoring 121.75 in the free skate, for a total of 187.11.
Skating to Sunset from Grand Canyon Suite, Canada's other team of Cody Hay and Annabelle Langlois, who train in Barrie, Ont., were also shaky.
Langlois fell hard on a side-by-side triple Salchow early in the program, and the pair never really got into a groove. They dropped to ninth place, scoring 115.77 in the free skate for a personal-best total of 179.97.
Heading into the free skate, Davison and Dubé, who train in Hamilton, had been in sixth place, with their medal chances already hanging by a thread.
Their podium chances suffered a critical blow when they failed to cleanly execute their program in the free skate.
Again, the triple Salchow gave Dubé trouble, as she fell hard early in the free skate — almost a carbon-copy of what happened during the short program. It seemed to rattle the pair, and they appeared tentative and out of sync at times during their spin combinations.
Shen and Zhao, skating to an arrangement of Tomaso Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor, captured China's first-ever gold medal in the pairs event. It's also the first time since 1960 that a Russian pair has failed to win the gold.
"It's been so many years," Zhao said. "To finally get this gold today is so exciting."
"To get the figure skating gold and silver has been a hope for so long," Shen said. "Now it's been realized."
In 2002, after a judging controversy, Canada's Jamie Salé and David Pelletier shared the gold medal with Russia's Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze.
Shen and Zhao won mostly on the basis of their outstanding skate in Sunday's short program. They earned a world record score of 76.66, giving them a slight cushion for the free skate.
And they needed it.
They made a few mistakes in the free skate, including a mishap during a lift, when Shen slid down Zhao's back coming out of the element but still managed to maintain her balance.
Their failure to skate cleanly meant there was some suspense about the final placings.
Pang and Tong were the only pair of the night to skate a perfect program, moving up two places from the short program and bumping Russia's Yuko Kavaguti and Aleksandr Smirnov off the podium.
Savchenko and Szolkowy, who were within striking distance of Shen and Zhao, trailing by less than one point heading into the free skate, fell flat when the heat was on.
Szolkowy fell awkwardly on a double Axel, and the pair was noticeably out of sync on a number of spin combinations that they normally nail.
The German pair hung on to the bronze after a poor performance from Kavaguti and Smirnov, who also posted a mistake-filled program.