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Pang, Tong surge to pairs gold at GP Final

Chinese pairs go 1-2; Savchenko, Szolkowy drop to bronze medal

Qing Pang and Jian Tong wave to the crowd with their new gold medals around their necks.
Qing Pang and Jian Tong wave to the crowd with their new gold medals around their necks. (Getty Images)

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By J. Barry Mittan, special to icenetwork.com
(12/13/2008) - China's Qing Pang and Jian Tong upset reigning world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy to take the gold medal on Saturday at the SBS ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, finally topping the podium in their fifth appearance at the Grand Prix Series-ending event. They had never before finished higher than third.

The couple, who was third in the short program, won the free skate with 125.25 points for their tango program. Pang and Tong earned a total of 191.49 points overall. Both scores were personal bests.

Pang and Tong skated the only clean program in the free skate, landing a side-by-side double Axel-double Axel sequence, as well as triple toe loops, a throw triple loop and a throw triple Salchow.

"Korea is our lucky place," Tong said (They also won gold at the 2008 Four Continents Championships in Seoul). "We had a lot of enthusiastic spectators, and we felt their support during our performance. For the last two years, we have been in poor shape, so it means a lot to us to be able to compete again and win the gold medal."

China's Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang, who used the "Yangtze River Piano Concerto" for their free skate, had 119.88 points, placing them second in the segment. The couple, who were also second after the short program, had a total score of 188.22 points. Both scores were season bests. They won the silver medal, their third runner-up finish at the Final. The couple completed a side-by-side double Axel-triple toe combination and triple Salchow, a throw triple Salchow and a high triple Lutz twist, but she fell on a throw triple loop.

"I think overall we did a good program," Hao Zhang said. "You can't always skate perfect. The result is not the most important thing. The performance is important."

Germany's Savchenko and Szolkowy, who led after the short program, won the bronze medal with 185.09 points after scoring 114.95 in the free skate, third place in that segment.

Skating to the motion picture soundtrack Schindler's List and Albinoni's "Adagio," the couple was noticeably off form, making errors on all of their side-by-side jumps and most of their throws. Savchenko and Szolkowy had not lost at a competition since the Cup of Russia in 2007.

"We were disappointed about our performance," Szolkowy said. "Being world champions doesn't mean you always skate clean, and we made many errors."

Ukraine's Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov skated to the motion picture soundtrack Pearl Harbor, scoring 111.75 points and placing fifth in the free skate. Their 175.83 total placed them fourth, which is where they stood after the short program. She two-footed the landing on their side-by-side triple Salchows and the throw triple loop.

Russia's Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov, who were last in the short program, were fourth in the free skate. Skating to Leoncavallo's famous "I Pagliacci," they earned 112.03 points. They finished fifth overall with 167.45 points. They had several mistakes on side-by-side jumps, and Kawaguchi two-footed the throw quad Salchow.

Russia's Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov, who were in fifth place after the short program, earned only 91.60 points in the free skate with their program to Shostakovich's "The Lady and the Hooligan." They finished sixth overall with 153.16 points after making errors on most of their jumps and throws and failing to get up into their Group 3 lift.