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October 31, 2009

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Shen, Zhao sizzle on return to take pairs lead in Beijing

CHINESE pair Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo marked their return to competition yesterday with a dominating performance in the Cup of China short program in Beijing.

The duo showed they hadn't lost their edge in their first time out since retiring after winning the 2007 world title, beating the competition by almost 10 points.

The two-time Olympic bronze medalists dazzled the judges in front of a roaring crowd, opening with a flawless triple toe loop followed by a triple lutz twist lift. They didn't miss a beat throughout, displaying an even combination of passion and technical prowess.

Despite the success, Zhao said there were still some defects in their performance.

"We are satisfied with today's performance and we felt the passion of the Chinese fans," Zhao said. "But today is only the short program. I still feel that there are some areas of our performance that weren't the best, so there is potential for improvement."

The paired scored 72.28 points, easily beating Ukrainian pair Tatiana Volosovar and Stanislav Morozov, who had 62.98. Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze of Russia were just behind in third place with 62.54 points.

Mirai Nagasu, the 2007 US national champion, led the women's short program with 62.60 points in a stunning performance to the waltz "Fragile Dreams" and music from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" soundtrack.

Mirai began with a powerful triple lutz-double-toe loop combination with a back-to-back triple flip followed with an artfully executed double axel. "Coming out of a poor season, I'm so surprised to be here," Mirai said. "It is a little bit overwhelming, and hopefully I will going into the long program strong."

Kirra Korpi of Finland was second with 61.20 points, followed by Carolina Kostner of Italy with 61.12.

In the men's short program, Trophee Bompard champion Nobunari Oda of Japan delivered a passionate performance to Franz Liszt's "Totenanz" to knock world champion Evan Lysacek of the United States into third place.

"I am very satisfied with my performance tonight. I did make a few mistakes, so I believe that I can improve my short program," Oda, who finished with 83.85 points, said. "I didn't think I was tired from France, but I was tired from tonight."

Sergei Voronov of Russia was second on 81.40 points with his impressive triple axel and triple flip, while Lysacek, in his first competition of the season, had 80.80.


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