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November 8, 2009

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Pang, Tong rally to victory with flawless free skate

CHINA'S 2006 pairs world champions Pang Qing and Tong Jian overcame a 1.60-point deficit from the short program to win the NHK Trophy for the second straight year with a flawless free-skating performance.

They skated to "Impossible Dream" by Joe Hisaishi to earn 132.35 points for their personal best total of 199.65 points in Nagano, Japan.

The Chinese veterans, who won last season's Grand Prix final title, beat overnight leaders Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia into second spot as they did in the Grand Prix Rostelecom Cup two weeks ago in Moscow.

With two wins, Pang and Tong assured themselves of a spot at the December 3-6 Grand Prix final in Tokyo.

Kavaguti dislocated her right shoulder when she crashed on the ice in an opening quadruple salchow throw. After a medical break to correct the problem, the pair went on to collect 124.15 points for a total of 193.05.

"The season is not over yet and we want to work hard and produce much better results," said Pang, who will turn 30 next month.

Americans Rena Inoue and John Baldwin were a distant third with 158.78 points.

Earlier, Brian Joubert of France captured his first Grand Prix title of the season with a strong performance in the men's free skate.

Joubert, who was first after the short program, landed a quadruple toe loop at the start of his routine to strengthen his lead and finished with 232.70 points for a 15-point margin over Johnny Weir of the United States. Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic was third with 217.48 points.

Japan's Miki Ando won the women's event, overtaking American Ashley Wagner in the free skate to win her second Grand Prix of the season.

Joubert tripled a planned quad salchow for his second element and did a triple toe loop instead of a quad later in his routine.

"I want to show that I am not just a jumper but a figure skater," Joubert said. "My goal was to do three quads but I also wanted to show good choreography and good steps."

Joubert, the 2007 world champion, finished fourth at the Trophee Bompard in Paris, but improved his chances of qualifying for the Grand Prix final.

American Jeremy Abbott, second after the short program, had a disastrous free skate and finished fifth on 208.45 points.

Japan's Daisuke Takahashi, who is making a comeback after knee surgery, was fourth with 214.29 points.

Takahashi stumbled on his opening quad toe loop and fell on two elements after that. "I was a bit tired and nervous. My mental toughness was low," he said. "I need more practice to improve my stamina."

Ando, who won the Rostelecom Cup in Russia, landed six triple jumps in her routine to Cleopatra to finish with 162.55 points. Russia's Alena Leonova was second with 160.85 while Wagner was third with 155.99 points.

Wagner, who was first after the short program, touched down on a triple salchow and singled a triple lutz late in her routine to fall into third place.

In ice dance, Four Continent champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States extended their lead over British siblings Sinead and John Kerr in the original dance to 9.61 points. They had been 3.05 points apart after the compulsory dance.

The ice dance contest was to wrap up with free skating today.


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