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November 15, 2009

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Home » Sports » Skating

Shen, Zhao take lead in US

CHINA'S Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo won the pairs short program at Skate America on Friday with a powerful performance in Lake Placid, New York.

Zhao gave his wife, who happens to be his skating partner, a memorable 31st birthday present. Zhao and Shen performed their best short program, quite an achievement for the two-time Olympic bronze medalists who are back for one more shot at the games.

They earned 74.36 points, more than two points better than when they won the Cup of China in Beijing to begin their comeback after two years on the sidelines.

"The Olympics," Shen said of why they returned to the sport.

"We dream," the 36-year-old Zhao added, and he meant golden dreams.

Their show featured a huge twist lift, synchronized side-by-side triple toe loops, a high lift punctuated by an intricate dismount, and a death spiral in which she holds onto her left blade while being twisted around.

They even wowed American champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, who were fourth after botching their side-by-side jumps.

"It's an honor to be on the ice with them," Brubaker said, admitting he has some of Shen and Zhao's programs on his iPod. "You know when you see something great out on the ice."

Shen and Zhao have been great very quickly on their return. They retired after winning their third world title in 2007 and returned to training in May.

Ukraine's Tatiana Volosozahar and Stanislav Morozov were second, 12.66 points behind. Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin were third. Current world silver medalists Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao of China, who finished second at the Turin Olympics, were a disappointing fifth after some sloppy spins and footwork.

World champion Evan Lysacek of the United States won the men's short program while compatriots Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto took the dance compulsories.

Lysacek, dressed in black from head to toe, scored 79.17 points to outdistance France's Florent Amodio by 6 1/2 points. American Brandon Mroz was third.

Belbin and Agosto, silver medalists at the worlds and 2006 Turin Olympics, scored 39.28 points for the golden waltz. They were ahead of Russia's Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski at 36.94.


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