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November 16, 2009

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Shen, Zhao skate to victory

FROM Kim Yu-na's world record-setting performance to Evan Lysacek's powerful free skate, it was a great Saturday night for world champions at Skate America.

Two-time Olympic bronze medalists Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China also won at Lake Placid, New York, another big step toward next year's Vancouver Winter Olympics in their comeback.

They were nowhere near as clean or impressive as in their sensational short program the previous day. Still, they added their first Skate America title to their victory at Cup of China two weeks ago. Not a bad way to start a comeback after retiring two years ago.

"When we didn't compete, the last two years," Shen said, "we skated in Stars on Ice and that really helped us with our presentation mark."

Shen and Zhao got 127.04 points in the free skate for a winning total of 201.40.

Ukrainian duo Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov, tallied 110.12 on Saturday to finish second with 171.82 while another Chinese pair, Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao, settled for third on 168.19, finishing second in the free skate with 111.35.

A couple of hours after South Korea's Kim did about everything but carve 007 into the ice with her world-record 76.28 points in the women's short program, Lysacek won his first crown at this event.

He wasn't nearly as brilliant as in his short program the previous night, but he didn't need to be in beating Canada's Shawn Sawyer. Lysacek hit seven triple jumps and finished with some fancy footwork and an impressive combination spin that got the crowd onto its feet. His 237.72 points were nearly 29 better than Sawyer.

"This was a very big step forward since Cup of China," Lysacek said, referring to finishing second to Japan's Nobunari Oda in Beijing. "I had no technical deductions. I'll work on my program at home and my concentration and strength for the Grand Prix final."

His victory qualified him for that competition next month in Tokyo - and put Lysacek in a strong mindset for January's nationals and the Vancouver Olympics.

Kim will be a heavy favorite at the Olympics, particularly if she keeps outdoing herself.

Kim capped a mesmerizing performance to a James Bond medley with a marksman's pose.

"I'm trying to do a clean program every time," Kim said after blowing away the field, grabbing a 17.48-point lead over American Rachael Flatt heading into the free skate. "It's not about the score. I don't want to think about the score."

Flatt had a rare fall in her program, but still beat Julia Sebestyen of Hungary by 0.26 points.


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