The first medals of the 2003 World Figure Skating Championships were awarded Wednesday night here in the nation's capital. Chinese skaters Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo successfully defended their world pairs title, performing a moving and nearly flawless routine to a Violin Fantasy on the Opera Turandot for their long free-skate. They had the crowd here on their feet, and two of the 14 judges gave them perfect scores.
Ms. Shen performed on a bad ankle, and Mr. Zhao said it was the crowd that helped them come through. "When I saw and felt the audience so excited with our performance, we also felt so excited. And here, I want to thank the American audience for their support," he said. "I appreciate my partner's performance. I think, if we could make a difference between the two gold medals, I want to make my medal smaller than Shen's, give part of my gold medal to her."
The pairs free skate performance was good enough to overtake the leaders after the short program, Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin. The Russians settled for the silver medal, and Marinin believed his mistake on a triple toe loop jump hurt their chances to stay ahead of the reigning world champion Chinese pairs skaters. "You know in such a kind of competition, the small mistake cost a lot," he said. "But we did all that we could, and what else can I say?"
The bronze medal went to another Russian pair, Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov. The Americans ended up with one of their worst performances in the pairs event at a world meet, with ninth, 10th and 16th-place finishes. But it is not a complete surprise, because two of the U.S. pairs were making their world meet debuts.