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Chinese lovebirds win gold at Four Continents

Canadians claim silver and bronze; Yankowskas, Coughlin fourth

Qing Pang and Jian Tong won the pairs title at Four Continents.
Qing Pang and Jian Tong won the pairs title at Four Continents. (Getty Images)

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By Alexandra Stevenson and Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(02/18/2011) - Sweethearts Qing Pang and Jian Tong can add more gold to their wedding chest.

As expected, the Chinese world champions built on their lead after the short program and won the Four Continents title with 199.45, some 17.76 ahead of Canadian silver medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford.

Canadian bronze medalists Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers were third. U.S. champions Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin settled for fourth after popping an intended throw triple Salchow into a single.

The veteran Chinese, who are both 31, performed to the ethereal "Liebestraum (Dream of Love)," very appropriate since they revealed here in Chinese Taipei they will marry later this year.

"We are always happy to win a competition, and to have won this event for the fifth time is truly special to us," Tong said. "Although I didn't do two elements (he singled their second double Axel and doubled a triple toe), I'm still very pleased that we won tonight.

"Our next goal is to win the world title again. This season is special for us and different for us. Some teams have retired or decided to take a rest, but we decided to go on. I think our biggest motivation is our love for skating."

Earlier this week, Tong hinted at retirement; after the free program, though, he seemed to hedge his bets.

"Retirement is a difficult question for us," he said. "Before, we needed to train about four hours a day to keep our level. But now, after some injuries and illness, especially a knee injury on my part, we need to train six to seven hours a day to be in top shape.

"We still love what we do and it is hard to say goodbye to figure skating. We hope that we still can enjoy competing and don't get a negative feeling about it. We want to enjoy the sport as long as possible."

Duhamel and Radford -- who are in just their first season together -- had the highest technical score, some 5.32 ahead of the Chinese, thanks to superior side-by-side jumps including side-by-side triple flip combinations and triple toes. However, their program components were far lower than the winners'.

"Probably exactly one year ago we did our first try-out," Duhamel said. "We haven't even been skating together for one year. This is more than we could have asked for. We're really happy to lay down a good long program, because that's what we do every single day in practice.

"Our next goal is to do a clean short program at the world championships in Tokyo and to help Canada to get three pair spots for next year's world championships."

The Canadians are the only team in the world doing side-by-side triple flips, but Radford explained that only came about by accident.

"When we first got together we kind of had an idea that we would do the triple Lutz, because we both could do one and it is fairly consistent for us," he said.

"Surprisingly, the flip wasn't our strongest jump. So putting the flip into the long - we did it for fun one day and we landed it -- was our coaches' idea. We decided, 'we can do this.' It finally came together for us in this competition."

Lawrence and Swiegers gained bronze with 171.73 points despite her fall on a throw triple Salchow.

"We're both very excited to place third and go home with the bronze medal," Lawrence said. "Rudi and I are going to start preparing for next season. We're getting two new programs."

Yankowskas and Coughlin opened their free skate well, with side-by-side double Axels; a throw triple loop; and triple toe combinations, but the mistake on the throw triple Salchow dashed their hopes for a medal. They were fifth in the free skate and finished with a fourth-best 166.97 overall, a season's high.

"Whenever you see singles like that, a lot of times it's missed timing completely," Coughlin said. "When we're under stress, we need to always stick to our rhythm and I think sometimes you can get out of that a bit. Easy mistake to fix, something we don't do at home often."

"Coming off the U.S. Championships where we skated so well, it's a little disappointing," Yankowskas said. "We've trained a little better than we've competed but I think we are still getting used to the stress of bigger international competitions and being national champions. Things will continue to get better than better."

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig were sixth overall after falls on their side-by-side triple toes and double Axels. They earned 105.07 for their free and ended with 157.30 points.

The U.S. silver medalists were hampered by equipment problems. During Thursday's short program, Ladwig's heel separated from his left boot, and he finished the program wearing one of Swiegers' boots.

Jim Peterson, Evora and Ladwig's coach, said, "Rudi immediately sprang into action. He took his own boot off and literally raced to hand it to Ladwig.

"We definitely would have had to withdraw. We know them well, because they had partially trained with us in Florida, but this was a very selfless act. . . Obviously, these things happen but, of course, we do feel we would have placed higher had things not worked out this way."

Ladwig was able to look on the bright side.

"The components [scores] were higher than we've ever had," he said. "We brought the fight but it wasn't perfect. I think we were pretty scrappy.

"We will be sure to take extra screws with us for the rest of our careers!"

Mary Beth Marley and Rockne Brubaker, fourth at the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, climbed from tenth after the short to eighth overall.

Their free skate to The Addams Family received negative Grades of Execution for only two of the 12 required elements. Judges took a half point off their opening move, a triple twist, in which she crashed into him on the catch; and 0.40 on their double Salchows.

"It was definitely better [than yesterday]," Brubaker said. "We missed some levels and had some mistakes here and there but overall, we were definitely more together, we skated more as a team today. I think that helped a lot. Our skating skills are over a full point higher than they were yesterday. It's the biggest difference."

"[The experience] was amazing," Marley said. "I couldn't believe we were coming. I would not have believed in August that we would be here. I'm just so excited that we put out a good performance."