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Friday, Nov. 30, 2007

German pair Savchenko, Szolkowy claim short program

Staff writer

SENDAI — Reigning European champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany won the pairs short program on the first night of action at the NHK Trophy on Thursday.

The duo, wearing flashy outfits (she in turquoise, he in white), skated nearly flawlessly to "Asoka," finishing with a personal best mark of 70.32 at Sendai City Gym in the last of this season's six Grand Prix events.

"We are happy with our performance tonight," said Szolkowy. "It was better than last week in Moscow (where they finished second at the Cup of Russia). We made a few mistakes on some small things, but overall it was good. We hope tomorrow will be better."

Ukraine's Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov finished a surprising second with a total of 60.14.

Canada's Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison, who won this season's Skate America, are third with a total of 58.16.

France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, who won the Trophee Bompard earlier this month and are the reigning European champions, were in first place in ice dancing following the compulsory round, where each team performed the Argentine Tango over a five-minute session.

The French pair, who finished fourth at last year's Grand Prix Final, posted a score of 38.96 to lead the Canadian team of Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue (34.67) by more than four points.

The brother and sister duo of Cathy and Chris Reed, Japanese-Americans born in the U.S., but who have chosen to skate for Japan via their dual citizenship, were in last place with a tally of 25.45.

The ladies singles competition, headlined by 2007 world champion Miki Ando, is set to begin on Friday evening, following the ice dance original program and pairs free skate.

ICE SHAVINGS: Sisters Mao and Mai Asada have released a compact disk with selections of their favorite skating music. EMI produced the CD, which retails for ¥3,000 and is available at major retail outlets.

American pairs skater Rockne Brubaker, who is big enough to be an American football player, has the same first name as his father, who was named after legendary former Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne.

"My grandfather was a big football fan," Brubaker said with a smile when asked about the origin of his name.

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