Figure skating: China's Shen-Zhao win Skate America pairs
AP Sports Writer
LAKE PLACID, New York (AP) — Two-time Olympic bronze medalists Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo took a big step toward Vancouver in their comeback when the Chinese pair won Skate America today.
Shen and Zhao were nowhere near as clean or impressive in the free skate as in their sensational short program the previous day. Both blamed that on a lack of sleep.
"Three hours," Zhao said, then wiped his brow.
"Today, the free program was very hard for us," his partner and wife added.
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."
Ukraine's Tatiana Volosozahar and Stanislav Morozov were a distant second.
The event was marred by a nasty fall by Canadian Meagan Duhamel, forcing her and Craig Buntin to withdraw. Duhamel fell hard to the ice and reinjured her right leg.
Duhamel landed on her shoulder, then banged her head on the ice on a throw triple loop. Buntin immediately skated over and helped her to her feet and she was wobbly as she went to the sideboards.
But Buntin said it was her leg, in which she has had several stress fractures, and not her head, that was bothering her.
"It's an old injury," he said, "and on the throw loop her foot stuck in the ice. She said she couldn't feel her leg at first.
"After the camel spin, she almost stopped, as well. But she said her head is OK. I've known Meagan for years and we all know she has a very thick head."
Skate America officials said Duhamel had no injuries other than to her leg.
Earlier, 2006 Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto stretched their lead in ice dance by capturing the original dance.
The 2006 Olympic and 2008 world runners-up moved closer to their fifth victory at Skate America with an energetic, fast-paced folk dance to Moldavian music.
"Our coaches told us it is not a Russian dance, it is not a Ukrainian dance, it is Moldavian," Belbin said with a chuckle. "We love doing it."
After winning the compulsories on Friday, Belbin and Agosto increased their lead heading into Sunday's free dance by nearly 14 points over Russians Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, who struggled in the original dance.
"We made too many mistakes," Novitski said.
Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte were second in the original dance with a playful routine to, naturally, Italian folk music. Israel's Alexandra and Roman Zaretski were third.
The Italians were thrilled with their performance.
"There is a lot of variety with folk dance," Cappellini said. "We are happy to perform music from our country."
The women's short program, featuring world champion Kim Yu-na of South Korea, and the men's free skate, with world champ Evan Lysacek of the United States in front after winning the short program, were scheduled for late Saturday.