China takes pairs gold, silver

By RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — There’s a new powerhouse atop the Olympic figure skating pairs podium.

It’s China, not Russia.

And they’re old, not young.

Back from retirement for a fourth Olympics, husband-and-wife team Hongbo Zhao, who’s 36, and Xue Shen upgraded their two previous bronze medals to gold after fending off 30-year-old teammates Qing Pang and Jian Tong Monday night at the Pacific Coliseum.

The judges’ gold-silver decision was not popular with the crowd.

Pang and Tong, who were fourth in Turin, won the free skate with their gorgeous Impossible Dream selection. But Zhao and Shen’s big lead from the short program was the difference in holding on with 216.57 points over their mates’ 213.31.

Germans Robin Szolkowy and Aliona Savchenko, the world champions known as much for their volatility as their irrefutable talent, fell to third after Szolkowy stumbled early on a triple toe-loop combination and a double Axel.

Top Russians Yuko Kavaguti and Alex Smirnov struggled through their free skate and failed to deliver a 13th straight gold medal for their country (including its period as the Soviet Union). It’s the first time since 1960 the Russians haven’t medalled in pairs. They ended up fourth.

The Canadian pairs simply couldn’t shake a triple Salchow curse.

Anabelle Langlois, skating with Cody Hay on the momentum of a strong short program, fell on her attempt while Canadian Jessica Dube missed hers for the second straight night to knock her and Bryce Davison out of medal contention.

They finished sixth with 187.11 points. Langlois and Hay were eighth.

“It’s not completely what we wanted,” Davison said. “Once we made the error, we kind of got out of our skates. Right after, I messed up our side-by-side spin, which is ridiculous.

“But in the end, it’s just figure skating. There’s more to us than that. We competed. We didn’t leave in an ambulance. We’re alive.”

The 24-year-old Davison also vowed to continue in the competitive realm.

Leading up to the Olympics, the three-time Canadian champs discussed their future. They will skate at worlds and plan to soldier on next season.

“After that, it’ll be year-to-year,” he said.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

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