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Maggie Hendricks

Chinese gold ends Russian pairs medal streak

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For the first time since 1964, a Russian pair will not be atop the medal stand for pairs figure skating. In fact, the Russians were shut out of pairs medals completely, with the Chinese pairs of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao and Qing Pang and Jian Tong taking gold and silver, respectively, and Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy from Germany taking bronze.

The Russian teams began to fall apart early, with the young team of Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov falling on their first jump. In the next Russian couple's skate, Maria Mukhortova fell on her triple Salchow with her partner, Maxim Trankov.

The one pair left, Yuko Kavaguti (pictured above) and Alexander Smirnov, was Russia's last chance to keep a 12-Olympics streak going, but the pressure proved to be too much. Kavaguti put her hand down on their first throw, and the routine fell apart from there. Smirnov had a two-foot landing and then Kavaguti fell awkwardly on another throw. With the dominant performances by the Chinese teams and the difficulty-packed skate from the Germans, the Russians stood no chance. Kavaguti and Smirnov finished in fourth place.

The irony is that ice skating in China would not have hit this pinnacle without Russia. Yao Bin, the Chinese coach who handpicked Shen and Zhao to skate together, built the Chinese program by modeling it after the Russians'.

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