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German pair win second-straight world title

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, the German figure skating duo, have won their second straight World Championship pairs title. Frenchman Brian Joubert (shown in video) leads the men's free skate competition in Los Angeles.

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AFP - German duo Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy won their second-straight pairs title at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships on Wednesday.

"Defending the title means a lot to us," Szolkowy said. "We knew it would be different when you have to defend a title.

"We skated both programmes well, it was a good competition for us."

In the men's competition, France's Brian Joubert surged to the early lead after the short programme on Wednesday.

Skating to the Schindler's List soundtrack, the German duo earned their second-consecutive World Championship crown to go with three-straight European titles. They earned 67,500 dollars in prize money.

China's Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao claimed silver, while Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, of Russia, took the bronze.

Savchenko and Szolkowy executed the most difficult aspects of their routine with precision.

Their performance included a triple toeloop sequence, backward outside death spiral, pair combination spin and a triple twist.

They finished it off with a spot-on triple salchow throw that sent the crowd of about 5,000 at the Staples Center arena into a wild celebration.

The only blemish was a innocent slip by Szolkowy while gliding backwards but he recovered quickly from the fall.

"I don't know what happened. You just have to move on," he said.

Zhang and Zhang now have a third silver medal to go with two others they won at the 2006 and 2008 World Championships.

Zhang Hao said they felt good in training but get too nervous in the big show.

"Our training is very good but once we get into performance we can't perform the same," Zhang Hao said. "It is almost the Olympics. We need to fix this."

Kavaguti and Smirnov skated last to the music I Pagliacci by Leoncavallo as they followed the German duo. They were second after the short programme but couldn't hold on in the free skate.

But they were pleased they bettered their fourth-place showing at the 2008 Worlds.

"We improved," Smirnov said. "For the third time we had to skate after the World champions -- after the Chinese couple Shen/Zhao in 2007 and the Germans in 2008 and 2009."

The Russians just bumped 2006 World Champions Pang Qing and Tong Jian off the podium spoiling what would have been silver and bronze for China.

Joubert, the 2007 World Champion, leads 2006 World bronze medallist Evan Lysacek and two-time Canadian champ Patrick Chan heading into Thursday's men's free skate.

"I had a good score with a big mistake at the beginning," Joubert said. "The rest of the programme was clean, especially my footwork."

Skating to the music of Rise by Safri Duo, the 24-year-old Joubert took a few spins and turns in order to settle into his routine and post a score of 84.40.

He stumbled on an opening quadruple jump before putting a solid finish on his skate.

"I didn't take enough speed into my quad toe and that is why I made the mistake," Joubert said.

Lysacek is making a return to the worlds after missing the event last year because of an injury. He posted a 82.70 for a slight lead over reigning Four Continents titlist Chan who was left scratching his head after receiving a 82.55 for his short programme skate.

Joubert said he felt nervous going in but in a good way.

"I need to feel the pressure," Joubert said. "I am not a robot. I know I am ready for the (Worlds) because after my mistake I felt okay."

The 18-year-old Chan was scratching his head in the kiss and cry area but said later he was not upset with his scores. His coaches have been telling him for years this would happen when he gets on a world stage.

"It was a reality check," Chan said. "At the Worlds you are expected to do a clean programme. I have always been told by my coaches that I am leaving points on the table.

"I am not here to criticize the judges. It was realistic."

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