Chinese pair finishes second

NAGOYA, Japan -- Former world champion figure skaters Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov won the short program Thursday at the NHK Trophy.

The Russian duo, world champions in 2000, scored 66.44 points. China's Pang Qing and Tong Jian were second with 64.82 points in the new International Skating Union scoring system.

"We're very happy with the skate," Tikhonov said. "It was
technically clean, all the elements were good, and it's a great way
to start the competition."

Poland's Dorota Zagorska and Mariusz Siudek were third with
61.84 points, followed by Americans Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr.

The men's short program begins Saturday and will feature the
three top Americans: national champion Johnny Weir, Michael Weiss
and two-time world silver medalist Timothy Goebel.

Skating to tango music, Petrova and Tikhonov turned in a
flawless routine that opened with a triple toe loop. It was their
first event after they withdrew from Skate America last month
because of injury.

"Maria was injured and I wasn't in top form," Tikhonov said.
"We decided not to go there and that gave us two weeks to get
ready for the NHK Trophy."

World bronze medalists Pang and Tong were coming off a
second-place finish last week at Skate Canada and said they were
pleased with their performance after a marathon trip from Halifax.

"We worked it out and it took us 48 hours to get here," Tong
said. "But we're happy to be here and had a good result after the
short program and are satisfied with the way we skated."

The pairs program concludes with Friday's free skate.

Reigning world champions Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov placed first in the compulsory dance. The Russians had 41.47 points while world silver medalists Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria were second with 39.80 points.

Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder were third, followed
by Americans Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov.

Reigning world champion Shizuka Arakawa of Japan takes to the ice Friday in the women's short program.

The NHK Trophy is the third of six events on the Grand Prix