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Home >> Sports
UPDATED: 13:00, December 19, 2004
Shen/Zhao win big at grand prix final
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Chinese big names Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo continued their winning streak this year to take the pairs' title in the ISU figure skating grand prix final in Beijing on December 18.

Russians Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov, last year's bronze medallists, collected 187.32 points to take silver. The bronze medal went to another Chinese pair Pang Qing/Tong Jian in 173.66 points.

The defending champions started with a spectacular double axel plus triple toeloop to the Soong Sisters by Kitaro and Randy Miller.

They resulted in a surprising combined 206.54 points, with 136.02 on the free skating.

It is the best result of Shen and Zhao, about 20 points higher than their former best.

"It's fantastic that we scored over 200 points. We are very satisfied with our performance tonight," Zhao said.

The double world champions both thought they have no problems with difficult maneuver like combination of axels and toeloops and throw triple salchow, but need to improve details.

"We made minor changes to improve our free skating routine, particularly on the sequences and lifts, but still have to do more job before the world championships, " Shen said.

"Yes, we won today but we are not so good at such things as Maria and Alexei," she said.

Zhao and Shen both felt more pressure competing at home despite the persistent ovation from a full crowd.

"It's different here. We are more eager to give the best performance before home fans. You know, that gives you much pressure," Zhao said.

Most of the spectators were on their feet cheering when the duet posed on the ice rink before the music arose in the Capital Stadium. And the applause lasted two minutes even after they finished.

That's why Petrova and Tikhonov thought the pressure was on them.

"Every time competing in China would be a tough job for us," Tikhonov said.

The 33-year-old was considering retirement but would not make a decision until next season.

"I'm old for skater, and maybe it's time for me to quit. But if I have any decision, it would be after this season. Let's see," he said.

"And if we think we could still compete with the strong Chinese pairs, we might go on," he added.

Their compatriots Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin, runners-up in 2003, were absent in the final since Totmianina fell down head-first and injured her neck in Pittsburg and withdrew all the remaining series.

Shen and Zhao are the first pair from China to become world champions. They have been skating together since 1992.

Source: Xinhua

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