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Ellenton skaters place seventh, ninth

TURIN, Italy — Pang Qing and Tong Jian have a world title to go with their Olympic silver medal.

Runners-up at the Vancouver Olympics last month, Pang and Tong easily won their second title Wednesday at the World Figure Skating Championships. The Chinese pair finished with 211.39 points, more than six points ahead of two-time defending world champs Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany.

“For us, it’s the impossible dream because ... there are so few people who can be here in the rink for such high-level competition. Skating at this level is our dream, the big dream,” Tong said.

U.S. champions Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett finished seventh, while Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig took ninth. Both American pairs train at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex.

Russia’s Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, second after the short program, settled for a second straight bronze after Kavaguti fell on their throw quadruple salchow — the hardest element attempted by any of the pairs.

Coming so soon after the games, the world championships in an Olympic year tend to feature watered-down fields. When Pang and Tong won their first title, in 2006, the runner-ups were the only Turin medalists to compete.

But this was no gimme. Though Olympic champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo weren’t here, all of the other big names were.

Earlier Wednesday, Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi took the lead in the men’s competition, dazzling the judges with huge jumps and speedy steps in his short program. Canada’s Patrick Chan was second with a clean, well-polished tango, followed by France’s Brian Joubert, who rebounded from a disappointing Olympics with an impressive routine that started with a quad-triple combination.

U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott is sixth, and two-time world junior champion Adam Rippon is seventh. The top two Americans need to finish with a combined placement of 13 or better — sixth and seventh, for example — to secure three spots at next year’s worlds.

Olympic champion Evan Lysacek isn’t competing at worlds, and neither is silver medalist Evgeni Plushenko. That makes Takahashi the favorite, and he delivered. He’s more than a point in front of Chan (87.80) and Joubert (87.70) going into today’s free skate.

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