Chinese team finishes one-two in pairs

Americans Castile, Okolski round out the podium

Castile and Okolski hope to compete Nov. 20-23 at the Cup of Russia.
Castile and Okolski hope to compete Nov. 20-23 at the Cup of Russia. (Getty Images)


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By Tatiana Flade, special to
(02/14/2008) - Qing Pang and Jian Tong led a Chinese one-two finish in the pairs event on the second day of the 2008 Four Continents Championships in Goyang City, Korea, while Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski secured the bronze for the U.S.

Meanwhile, Japan's Mao Asada edged out teammate Miki Ando and Canadian Joannie Rochette in the ladies short program.

Earlier Thursday, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada strengthened their lead in the original dance competition ahead of the two U.S. couples, Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre.

Pang and Tong overtook their teammates Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang with a solid performance to "Romeo and Juliet" by Nino Rota. The 2006 world champions hit a double Axel-double Axel sequence and a throw triple loop and Salchow.

Pang and Tong's only mistake was when she stumbled out of an underrotated triple toe that was downgraded. The couple scored 187.33 points. "We skated quite well today and had only two smaller errors. We are getting better and better, and hopefully we'll be at our best at worlds," Tong said.

Zhang and Zhang, usually a powerful couple, seemed tired and turned in a rather lackluster performance. They were slow, and she doubled both the toe loop and the Salchow before stumbling on the final element, the backwards outside death spiral. These were too many errors, and the Zhangs slipped to second at 181.84 points.

"Today's performance wasn't good. We had some problems, especially with the jumps, and made several errors. For us, it was pretty bad," Dan Zhang said.

Castile and Okolski rallied back from their short program and captured the bronze, their first medal at any ISU championship. Like yesterday, Castile singled the Axel, but the U.S. bronze medalists produced a big throw triple Salchow, a triple twist, throw triple loop, as well as strong spins to move up one spot. They accumulated 159.99 points to overtake teammates Rena Inoue and John Baldwin.

Castile announced, "We are very pleased with our placement, not extremely happy with our skate. We need to skate much better at worlds, and we're going to take the next four weeks to work out some kinks. We'll fight to do well at worlds this year. That's our goal."

The medal slipped away from Inoue and Baldwin when he doubled the side-by-side toe loop, and when they popped the throw triple Axel, their signature move, into a single. The 2006 Four Continents champions scored 156.00 points.

Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent weren't able to improve from their short program and remained in eighth place. She fell on both the quad throw Salchow and the throw triple loop.

Jessica Miller and Ian Moram of Canada also went for the quad throw Salchow, but she stumbled out of it. They finished fifth overall at 149.24 points.

It was a very tight competition between Asada, Ando and Rochette in the ladies short, and there is less than a point between the three skaters. Asada led the group with 60.94 points, while Ando scored 60.07, and Rochette finished just 0.03 points behind the reigning world champion. Rochette's 60.04 points were a new personal best.

All three of them went for a triple-triple combination, and all three got the back end of it downgraded. Asada did a triple flip-triple loop, Ando a triple Lutz-triple loop and Rochette a triple flip-triple loop. Asada also stepped out of her triple Lutz but got high levels for her spins and footwork. "I landed the triple-triple combination, and I was so happy about it, because I made this year all the time mistakes on the combination in competition. I was very sad about that. I did it last year [in December] at Japanese nationals finally, and now I'm even happier," a relieved Asada said right after her performance. She had come without her coach Rafael Arutunian to Korea, and team officials stood at the boards and sat with her in the "Kiss & Cry."

"He [Arutunian] went to Canadian nationals, and I wanted to come to Japan to train, as it's closer to Korea. So I went to Japan and trained with Japanese Skating Federation people," Asada explained, and it looks like a coaching change is under way.

Ando said that she had a headache before the competition and didn't feel 100 percent. Rochette was extremely pleased to have done her triple-triple for the first time in competition, even though it was downgraded.

The three American girls were less successful today. Bebe Liang is the highest-ranked American with 54.05 points, good enough for fifth place. She fell on the toe loop in her triple Lutz-double toe combination.

"I felt really good. Except for a minor mistake on my combination, I was really proud of myself," Liang commented.

Katrina Hacker finished 10th. She fell on an underrotated triple Lutz.

"We only put the combination [triple Lutz-double toe] in, I think, last Monday. A week after I got back from nationals we were thinking about putting it back in. We just decided that if I'm going to do it, I should. I'm upset that I fell on it, but I'm glad that I tried it," Hacker said.

U.S. bronze medalist Ashley Wagner was punished severely: her triple flip was downgraded, and her spiral sequence was only a Level 1. On top of that, she got a deduction on her triple Lutz for a wrong edge take-off. Wagner is currently sitting in 12th place with 47.29 points.

"My performance went really well -- I was really happy with it. I landed everything, and as far as I know, everything was pretty clean," Wagner commented before she found out that her flip was downgraded. "My goal was to go out there and skate clean and put out a really good performance. We'll see how everything ends up going to worlds, but I think this is a good experience for me here, because I'm going to see how I'm going to place myself among the top contenders."

Virtue and Moir increased their lead in the original dance and now are almost four points ahead of Davis and White, 103.24 to 99.29. Moir had three minor wobbles in their dance to the traditional Russian piece "Dark Eyes," but they didn't affect the levels of their elements. The Canadian champions earned a Level 4 for everything except for the combination spin. Moir was off balance on a twizzle in the side-by-side footwork and on a step in the circular.

"I went out there with a lot of energy and some places, like my back cross cut or my twizzle, I didn't really handle the energy as well as I had hoped, but I think that's a major reason why we are here at this competition, that we are trying to use it as a building part for worlds," he explained.

"It wasn't perfect technically. For the footwork sequences, we got a Level 3, [these are] points that you don't want to give away," White said.

Navarro and Bommentre remained in third with a solid performance of their "African harvest" original dance and got a new personal-best score. They were excited to be in the top three for the first time at a major international event.

Jennifer Wester and Daniil Barantsev continued a successful international championships debut with an entertaining western hoedown. They held their fourth-place position, and they are 4.64 points off the podium heading into the free dance.