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Chinese pair claims 4 Continents title

CHINA'S Pang Qing and Tong Jian skated a near-flawless performance to win the pairs title at the Four Continents competition on Thursday in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Now four-time winners of the event, Pang and Tong included a couple of huge lifts and throws en route to a score of 194.94 in the free skate. The only noticeable mistake for the 2006 world champions was being slightly out of sync on a side-by-side spin.

"Before we came to this event we were very excited about it, especially knowing it's going to be the venue for the 2010 Olympics," Tong said. "We tried to live up to the expectations and we were able to do that, and we're very happy with our performance."

Canada's Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison took silver, skating a strong performance to "Carmen" in earning a total score of 185.62.

China's Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao were third with 174.98.

Patrick Chan of Canada nearly set a record for the men's short program. The 18-year-old Chan scored 88.90 points, the second highest since the new judging system was introduced in 2003. Russian Evgeni Plushenko scored 90.66 at the 2006 Olympics en route to a gold medal.

American Evan Lysacek was second with 81.65 points, while Takahiko Kozuka of Japan took third with 76.61.

"I took my full advantage to really play the crowd and enjoy it and give myself chills," Chan said.

The free skate is tomorrow and promises to be a thriller. Chan was thrust into the skating spotlight last year when he upset Jeffrey Buttle to win the Canadian title in this same Vancouver arena. Buttle went on to win the world championship, then promptly retired.

Chan opened with a huge triple axel, a jump that had been giving him trouble earlier in the season, and then skated smoothly to the end, dazzling the crowd with agile footwork and a combination spin to close his routine.

Lysacek said he almost didn't compete after he finished a disappointing third at last month's US championships.

"The most important thing I could have done is take that first step. It's not a huge step, but it's standing up and dusting myself off and getting out there," Lysacek said.

In ice dancing, Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were poised to capture their second consecutive Four Continents title. They scored 60.90 points for their original dance to the Charleston, and carry a total 97.30 points into yesterday's late free dance.

American champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who train with Virtue and Moir in Canton, Michigan, scored 60.42 to remain second at 95.65. Americans Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates were third at 90.89.

Virtue and Moir are making their season debut against international competition just six weeks before the world championships in Los Angeles. The two were off the ice until eight weeks ago while Virtue recovered from surgery to both her legs.


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