Cloud Hangs Over Medal-Winning Pairs Performancesby Troy Schwindt
|Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao|
Photo by Matt Stockman/Getty Images
(2/8/07) - Two-time Olympic bronze medalists Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao of China won their third Four Continents Championships title on Thursday afternoon, dominating the nine-team field at the World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The two-time World champions racked up 203.05 points, a little more than three points off their personal best mark. They won their first Four Continents title in 2003. Country mates Qing Pang and Jian Tong captured the silver with a score of 185.33, while Rena Inoue & John Baldwin of the United States claimed the bronze medal with a score of 175.48.
There was a cloud, however, over these medal-winning performances. Canadian Jessica Dube was struck under her left eye by her partner Bryce Davison's skate during a side-by-side spin. She fell hard, face down on the ice. A medical crew responded immediately and took her to a local hospital. Dube and Davison were the first team to perform their free skate. Read more about the accident.
During the post-event press conference, Lindsay DeWall of U.S. Figure Skating told media that Dube was doing fine and issued a press release.
“I was with Jessica at the hospital and she's OK,” said Annie Barabe, coach of Dube and Davison. “She's in good spirits and sent her well wishes to all of the other skaters. She's being attended to at the hospital right now and is receiving excellent medical attention.”
Shen said she and Zhao, who skated last, heard about the accident upon arriving at the rink.
“It affected me,” Shen said. “I was cautious for the side-by-side spin, and we were far apart from each other.”
Shen and Zhao, who have skated together since 1992, were still able to deliver a strong performance to “Meditation from Thais” by Jules Massenet, executing back-to-back triple throws late in their program.
“It felt good today, and I'm very happy and just a little bit tired,” Shen said. “Yesterday Hongbo didn't sleep very well, just two hours. This performance was about the same as the Grand Prix Final, but we were a little slow because of the altitude. We lost one point (overtime deduction). Technically we still can do better; there were some little errors. But the triple twist was much better today than yesterday.”
Pang and Tong, the reigning World champions, turned in a crowd-pleasing performance to Andrew Lloyd Webber's “Phantom of the Opera.”
The team missed much of the early season when Pang became ill.
“We're quite pleased with the performance today,” Tong said. “We had some problems with our health and other things. We have confidence that we will skate much better at the World Championships.”
Inoue and Baldwin, who won the silver medal two weekends ago at the State Farm U.S. Championships, struggled with their second double Axels and their signature throw triple Axel.
Baldwin, however, did execute his opening triple toe loop.
“It felt really good because I'd missed it five times in a row this season and at four Grand Prix competitions,” Baldwin said. “I did the triple toe and then I let down on the second double Axel, something I never miss, so I was really surprised to have flipped out of the second double Axel.”
The altitude, Baldwin said, played a factor with every team. He said their coach, Peter Oppegard, told them to attack the front end of their program.
“He said to pretend like you're just doing the first section of the program and to go all out,” Baldwin said. “That's what we did tonight.”
Inoue said their goal coming into Four Continents was to skate more aggressively than they did at the U.S. Championships.
“I felt at nationals that I was very nervous and we held back a lot,” she said.
Both teams looked at their performances as building blocks for future competitions.
“It was strong, [but] it wasn't our best,” Castile said. “Some stuff was a little bit sloppier than we would have liked, but given the circumstances and being here and using this competition as a warm-up for Worlds, it was exactly what we wanted to do.
“We definitely want to start building big time from this to go to Worlds and really work on our polish and finishing and side-by-side elements.”
Their score of 160.04 shattered their previous best international mark of 132.86.
“We have a lot of work to do to be in that top 10 (at Worlds),” Castile said. “We want to work on getting that side-by-side triple toe back, and we need to work on our side-by-side spins and our polish.”
Nam and Leftheris finished with a score of 153.39. Nam hit the ice on the duo's throw triple loop.
“We went a little bit slow going into it, and sometimes when you are a little slower you have to pick up the rhythm a little bit and we kind of kept it the same,” Nam said. “I didn't get my hip up on the landing.”
Leftheris said the element has been a strong one as part of their short program and in practice.
“In competition I think it's still that feeling of being able to do two throw triples in one program,” he said.
Leftheris, like many of the other skaters, said the altitude influenced his skating.
“I felt pretty good in the opening, and then going into that last side-by-side spin, my leg started to give on me which usually doesn't happen,” he said.
Nam said their first ISU championships are simply another step in reaching their goal of the Olympics.