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Figure skating

Shen Xue, Zhao Hongbo win pairs figure skating gold medal at Vancouver Olympics

Enjoy an up close and personal look at the action in Canada.

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By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- China's Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo retired two years ago, got married, and settled into a comfortable life. Their newlywed bliss was disturbed only by the nagging idea that they had left figure skating as three-time world champions, but never Olympic gold medalists.

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So they returned to the ice last May, ignoring the creaks in their older joints and bones. Shen, 31, and Zhao, 36, won every competition they entered, setting world records along the way, and they took the lead in Sunday's Olympic short program.

Skating last among 20 skaters in the deciding free skate Monday, they had the chance to grab the long-sought gold medal.

And they did it.

They topped fellow Chinese Pang Qing and Tong Jian, who finished better in the night's long program but lost in the overall score. Shen and Zhao shook their heads with concern when they heard their score in the free skate -- they earned 139.91 to the 141.81 by Pang and Tong -- but they prevailed with a total score of 216.57.

Pang and Tong got 213.31.

When they realized the gold was theirs, both screamed and shook their fists.

"We are very happy today," Zhao said through an interpreter. "Of course, this is a dream come true. We have had this dream for many, many, many years."

In either case, China was assured of getting its first Olympic gold in pairs skating.

Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy finished third with 210.60 and Russia's Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov claimed fourth place with 194.77.

Monday's competition marked the official end to Russia's dominance of pairs, which has been under attack in recent years. Russian teams had won 12 straight Olympic gold medals dating from 1964 (sharing the 2002 gold with Canada because of a judging controversy).

When Shen and Zhao finished skating, they appeared overwhelmed with emotion; he put his hand over his face and she stood with her mouth open. They nailed side-by-side triple toe loops and double Axels and hit both throws, a triple loop and triple Salchow.

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