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Germany pair retains crown

ALIONA Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany won the pairs title at the World Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles for a second year in a row, showcasing their power and versatility with a somber yet elegant program.

The two-time world champions finished with 203.48 points, almost 17 points ahead of Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao of China.

Zhang and Zhang, silver medalists last year, had 186.52 points. Russia's Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov won the bronze medal with 186.39 points.

Earlier on Wednesday, Brian Joubert of France edged American Evan Lysacek in the men's short program despite botching his quadruple jump combination. Polished spins, crisp footwork and choreography that was perfectly matched to his techno pop music made the difference, as Joubert, the 2007 champion, scored 84.40 points, putting him 1.7 ahead of Lysacek going into free skate.

Patrick Chan, Canada's up-and-comer, was third, and the audience thought he deserved better, booing when his marks were posted.

Savchenko and Szolkowy sprinted into the lead with a rollicking and aggressive short program. This performance was just as powerful, but in a completely different way. The selections from the movie "Schindler's List" made for a haunting background, putting even more attention on their skating.

They showed their incredible athleticism with three side-by-side triple jumps ?? most couples do two, at most ?? a huge triple twist, and two throw triple jumps that sent her clear across the ice. Their lifts were incredibly difficult, all done out of unusual entries ?? a spread eagle, for one ?? yet he did them as if she was as light as a pillow.

Most impressive was their throw triple salchow, done in the final seconds of their program. Most couples barely have the energy to skate forward at that point, let alone do a difficult trick.

When their music ended, she clenched her fists and nodded her head. They embraced, and he carried her to the middle of the ice.

"This is what we were expected to do," Szolkowy said. "When you have a little mistake, you try to forget about it and go on. It happens every day in a competition."

Zhang and Zhang needed to be perfect in order to pass the Germans, and they weren't even close. They were as flat as they had been lyrical in the short program, skating what should have been a colorful program in black and white. She also put her hands down on the second jump of their double axel-triple toe loop combination, and doubled their side-by-side triple salchows.

They were also out of unison on their straight-line footwork, surprising for a pair that is normally so technically superior.

"It's almost the Olympics," Zhang Hao said. "We need to do better."


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