First medals awarded at World Championships
(March 27, 2003)
What a way to finish the Pair's event at the World Championships.
In a night marked by thrilling surprises and several disappointing upsets, the show ultimately belonged to China's Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao. Skating last in the final group, they gave a performance that will go down in history as one of the most memorable pair free skates of all time.
Absolutely flawless, their normally huge jumps, throws and twists were even bigger than usual, but it was the chemistry and passion in the program that made the biggest impact on the audience. All around the rink the audience was standing a full 20 seconds before the Shen and Zhao finished skating, as it was such a magnificent performance.
Shen and Zhao were rewarded for their outstanding performance with a total of four 6.0 marks, two for technical merit and two for presentation.
"We had conflicting feelings during this competition," said Zhao. "When Xue got injured, we thought about withdrawing, but then we did OK in the short program. We were unsure about how the free skating would go because 4 ½ minutes is very long.
"We were very, very nervous, more so than usually, although we have been to so many competitions. Then I saw that Xue nailed each element, each jump, and I got colder and colder inside. I was very excited, and it all came out at the end. It was one of our best performances."
Skating very well to a light and fun piece to music from Cotton Club was Russia's Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin, who finished second.
"It is sad. It was hard, all through the season," said Marinin. "Of course, the World Championships are a completely different competition. It is the most important. We were lacking confidence a bit.
"It was a good performance and an interesting competition. The Chinese pair was better tonight."
Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov, of Russia, skated cautiously to finish third.
Wednesday night, the teams highlighted innovation and creativity in their programs, particularly in their execution of carry lifts. Special mention goes to the Americans, Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn, who brought the audience to its feet very early in the evening with a perfect skate, and to Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto, of Canada, and their teammates Jacinthe Larivière and Lenny Faustino, who both had outstanding performances to finish fifth and 13th, respectively.
"We wanted to finish the season strong and I think that is what we did," said Langlois. "Our down this season was at nationals, and the important thing for us was to not let nationals keep us down. Four Continents was a bit better, Grand Prix Final was better and this was the top, we just kept going up."