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March 22, 2019

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Sui, Han take pairs world crown

China’s Olympic silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong took the pairs skating crown at the world figure skating championships yesterday after a breathtaking free skate at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, outside Tokyo.

Despite a season blighted by injury, the 2017 world champions skated a lyrical, moving program for a season’s-best 155.60 points (234.84 combined), drawing a packed crowd to its feet with their clean jumps and gorgeous lifts.

“This has been a difficult year for us, we’ve had injuries and other issues,” said Sui, who laughed as Han pumped his fists at the end of the routine.

“But our coaches and team gave us support that we were able to turn into strength.”

Russians filled out the rest of the podium with second place going to Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov after a regal but mistake-marred program that included the latter putting his hand to the ice in the wake of their triple toe loop.

“In the free program it was tough and we had to fight for every single element,” Morozov said after their routine, which garnered a season’s-best 147.26 for a total of 228.47.

“It was totally different to yesterday, we were struggling to get everything right.”

Third place went to Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert, whose dynamic program earned them 144.02 and a combined total of 217.98.

Peng Cheng and Jin Yang of China were fourth with 215.84.

French European champions Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, favorites going into the worlds after an undefeated season, were only able to manage fifth.

James collided with Italian skater Matteo Guarise during warmups for the short program on Wednesday and fell after a botched landing in their routine.

“Worlds hasn’t been our best friend, I fell on the twist in the short program once and I fell on the triple Salchow before, but we know that each time we are getting stronger,” said Canadian-born James.

Cipres echoed her determination.

“I think we did our job today and we are never giving up. We won’t give up until we get the world title.”

Later in the evening, defending champion Nathan Chen upstaged two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu to lead the men’s short program.

Skating to “Caravan” by Duke Ellington, Chen performed a lively program that featured a triple axel, a quad lutz and a quad toeloop-triple toeloop combination for a season’s-best score of 107.40 points.

American teammate Jason Brown was second with 96.81 points after a routine that included a triple flip, a triple axel and a triple lutz-triple toeloop.

Coming back from a four-month absence because of injury, Hanyu showed some rustiness in his opening jump, a double salchow instead of a planned quad salchow.

The Japanese skater quickly recovered with a triple axel and a quad toeloop-triple toeloop combination but finished third with 94.87 points.

Chen’s compatriot Vincent Zhou was fourth with 94.17 points.


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