Reuters - Wed, 24 Mar 22:12:00 2010
Vancouver silver medallists Pang Qing and Tong Jian destroyed their rivals with a unique brand of flair to win the pairs gold at the figure skating World Championships in Turin.
The Chinese duo, who led after Tuesday's short programme, also topped Wednesday's free session with 136.11 points, giving them a total of 211.39 to deny defending champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy.
The Germans, performing to the tune 'Out of Africa', moved up to second overall (204.74) from third after showing good control on their lifts.
Yuko Kavaguti, with a large red heart dominating her dress, finished third with Russian partner Alexander Smirnov.
Italian pair Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek ended up 11th overall in their first major tournament together having thrilled the home crowd by surprisingly qualifying on Tuesday.
"We are very happy to do as well as possible. The emotions are strong (here in Turin) but they would have been strong anyway as it's our first big competition," Berton said.
"We're very pumped up. This is just our starting point."
Olympic pairs champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo retired straight after last month's Vancouver Winter Games, increasing the number of pull-outs to hit the 100th edition of the worlds.
Men's Olympic champion Evan Lysacek of the United States and Russian silver medallist Yevgeny Plushenko have both skipped the event, hosted on the same rink used for the 2006 Winter Games.
Vancouver bronze medallist Daisuke Takahashi made the most of their absence by mixing pizzazz with technical excellence to seize the advantage after the short programme.
The Japanese skater, dressed as a glam rock rebel, scored 89.30 points to lead the 24 skaters who qualified for Thursday's final free programme.
"I'm very pleased to have achieved a high score in the short programme without the quad, but my goal is to include the quad, especially for next season," Takahashi said.
Canada's Patrick Chan lies second on 87.80.
Brian Joubert did produce a quadruple jump and let out a roar of delight after his speedy routine but was placed only third to the anger of the throngs of French fans in the crowd.
A debate has raged since Vancouver over whether skaters should be more handsomely rewarded for the most difficult jump.
The original dance, the second of three segments in the ice dance competition, precedes the men's free programme on Thursday.
Figure Skating World Championships:
Original Dance - Thursday 11.45am & 2.45pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Men's Free Skate - Thursday 8pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Ladies Short Programme - Friday 12.30pm & 2.45pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Free Dance - Friday 8pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Ladies Free Skate - Saturday 6pm on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Exhibition - Sunday 6.15pm on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player