Figure skating: Chinese duo wins pairs gold at Four Continents
By ESTHER HONG
Associated Press Writer
JEONJU, South Korea — Chinese pairs skaters Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao notched their highest score of the season Thursday as they grabbed the gold at the Four Continents championship in their last outing before the Olympics.
The world’s No. 2-ranked pair nailed all their jumps and throws to handily outscore Americans Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker with a season’s best 126.36 points. Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin finished third.
The Chinese pair will be aiming for gold next month at the Vancouver Olympics, having won silver at the previous Winter Games in Turin. Zhang Dan said the pair approached the Four Continents as a “warmup” to the Olympics.
“We are very pleased to win this competition and we hope we will do just as well at the Olympic Games,” Zhang Dan said.
The ambitious throw they attempted in Turin — a quad triple salchow — won’t be in the program. Zhang Dan took a hard spill when they tried the throw at the last Olympics in a bid to become the first pair to land it in competition.
“No quad triple salchow. We will keep to our current program,” she said.
The Chinese pair had been looking for a confidence-building win in Jeonju after two lackluster finishes this season.
“Because this is our third time going to the Olympics, we really think our biggest competitors are ourselves,” Zhang Hao said. “We just want to do our best. We just want to perfect our current program.”
In the ice dance, Canadian duo Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje secured their lead with a seductive Spanish flamenco in the original dance segment.
“We had really exciting year with this program because we traveled to Madrid to learn the choreography and learn the culture,” Weaver said. “We are proud of ourselves of learning the dance. It’s something different.”
Fellow Canadians Allie Hann-McCurdy and Michael Coreno were in second place in the original dance and overall with a comedic Italian tarantella, and will seek to grab the title Friday in the free dance.
Chinese pair Huang Xintong and Zheng Xun rounded out the top three in both the original dance segment and overall with a high score with their Greek folk dance.
Weaver and Poje won despite Poje stumbling on the sequential twizzle step, which was “usually flawless” during practice.
“When it came to that, I was thinking a little too much and it became too much in my head,” he said. “I didn’t let my body go with the flow, and so I made that mistake.”
Hann-McCurdy and Coreno’s Italian folk dance was a nod to Coreno’s Italian heritage.
“We were really happy with our skate today. We’ve been training really hard. For us, our focus was to qualify for the next show, so we’re really happy,” Hann-McCurdy said.
Coming in at fourth and fifth place Thursday were Americans Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell, and Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein.
The men compete in the short program later Thursday.