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Category: Tanith Belbin

Big start for pairs event: Chinese stars first on ice

Shen Zhao

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo at practice this week.  Credit: Getty Images / David Hecker

By Philip Hersh

Catching up on figure skating news after spending the last week looking at the Winter Olympic big picture:

OLYMPIC PAIRS COMPETITION begins with a bang Sunday.  Two-time Olympic bronze medalists Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo are the first team on the ice in the short program.

The Chinese, ancient mariners (he is 36, she is 31), have not competed in a major international event since winning the 2007 world title.

"To win an Olympic gold medal is a lifelong dream for both of us,'' Zhao said.

They retired for two seasons, got married, then returned at the brilliant level that had made them one of the world's most dynamic pairs since they debuted at the Olympics with a fifth place in 1998.

"Hongbo persuaded me,'' Shen said.  "We were already married, so even if I said no, it's not like he is going to divorce me.''

PAIRS FAVORITES Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, world champs the last two years, haven't been excited with the ice conditions at the Pacific Coliseum during practices.

Savchenko called the ice "weird'' and "sticky'' and figured that was due to sharing the venue with short track speed skaters, who want softer ice.

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Human Zambonis, home cooking, Zhang's agony, Nagasu's appeal, Kwan's impressive new life: A figure skating Q&A [Updated]

Czisnyfall2Questions first, answers second, now that the six regular-season Grand Prix figure skating events are over:

1.  Who would win an Ultimate Splat-Down between the two falling angels, reigning U.S. champion Alissa Czisny and 2007-08 European champion Carolina Kostner?

The Zamboni operator, for Czisny and Kostner would clean so much of the ice with their bottoms the resurfacing job would be much easier.

Czisny, no surprise, rendered meaningless her excellent short program at Skate Canada by falling twice  and getting credit for just three triple jumps (one given a negative grade of execution) in the free skate. She fell once and had credit for just three triples in her other GP free skate, at Cup of Russia.

Kostner fell once in the short program and once in the long program at Paris, once in the long program in China.  That picked up, as it where, from her dismal effort in the free skate at 2009 worlds, when Kostner fell once and did one clean triple jump.

The sad irony in this is both women are among the most elegant skaters in the world when they stay upright.

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Belbin looks like an Olympic medalist. But we say the winner is . . .

Photo

(Judge for yourself whether ice dancer Tanith Belbin gets style points for this.)

A few figure skating observations as the Grand Prix series heads into its last event before the Dec. 4-5 final in Tokyo:

*Over dinner Sunday night in Lake Placid, five reporters who will be covering figure skating at the 2010 Olympics agreed to hazard predictions on the Winter Games medals.

I decided to come up with an aggregate of our picks by assigning five points for a prediction of gold, three for silver, one for bronze.

I know the whole thing is very unscientific, but the point here is simply to have some fun.

The results showed: no man getting votes from all five of us; Yuna Kim of South Korea being unanimous for gold; wide difference of opinion on the other women's medals; and compelling unpredictability in three of the four disciplines.

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Feathers flying, gender bending ... only in figure skating

Evan Lysacek

Ten things I have learned after three days at Skate America:

1. Vera Wang designed the costume that reigning world champion Evan Lysacek is wearing while performing his short program to Stravinsky's "Firebird.'' Lysacek was skeptical about the feathers Wang hung from the gloved wrists when he first saw them, but now thinks of them as a good fit with the Stravinsky piece. "Stravinsky is sort of a bizarre artist,'' Lysacek said. "The accent of the feathers adds to that.''

2. Bizarre hand coverings are hardly unusual in men's figure skating. Russia's Alexei Urmanov, the 1994 Olympic champion, was known for costumes that often included outlandish gloves. Three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir, for whom outlandish is de rigueur, wore a glove he named Camille while skating his 2006 Olympic short program, in honor of composer Camille Saint-Saens, because Weir was performing to "The Swan'' from Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals."

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