Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo sure know how to make a comeback.
Competing at their first event since winning the 2007 world title, Shen and Zhao claimed gold at the Cup of China on Saturday with a landslide victory. Their score of 200.97 points was almost 15 ahead of reigning world silver medalists Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao.
"Our goal is the Olympics," Zhao said. "That is why we're here ... to reach our goal step by step."
Japan's Nobunari Oda won his second Grand Prix title of the season, beating world champion Evan Lysacek. Akiko Suzuki of Japan was the surprise winner in a lackluster women's competition, while Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto easily won the ice dance title.
Shen and Zhao retired after winning their third world title in 2007. But the two-time Olympic bronze medalists decided to try one last time for that elusive Olympic gold.
Though they were rusty in spots, their free skate to "Adagio in G Minor" showcased their power and their passion. Their triple twist was huge, and their lifts were smooth and featured unique positions.
They got a roaring, standing ovation from the fans when they finished.
"I am very happy about today's performance," Zhao said. "Although there are some technical details we still need to work on, I think we'll be OK."
Zhang and Zhang finished with 186.49 points to jump up to second after finishing fourth in the short program. Ukrainian pair Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov dropped to third place with 170.79 points.
Just as he did at Trophee Eric Bompard two weeks ago, Oda won with a whimsical Charlie Chaplin medley. He had great speed and flow to his jumps – though he did pop one of his axels – but the best part of the program was his presentation. You could practically see the black bowler as he pantomimed putting on and taking off a hat.
"I am happy to keep this place, but I am very disappointed with my performance tonight," Oda said. "I didn't even attempt the quad, so I still have a lot more progress to be made in my jumping for future competitions."
Oda finished with 239.58 points, while Lysacek had 232.17.
This was the American's first competition since winning the world title. The footwork on his "Sheherazade" was majestic and had the audience roaring. But the landings of a few of his jumps were shaky, and he appeared to two-foot the opening jump in his triple flip-double toe loop-double loop combination.
Suzuki was consistent, and that was good enough for her first senior Grand Prix title on a night when many of the top women struggled. She finished with 176.66 points, ahead of Finland's Kiira Korpi (163.27) and world silver medalist Joannie Rochette (163.18).
"I'm happy I won, but I'm more glad that this was a solid performance," Suzuki said. "I'm definitely surprised by this win, but it has increased my confidence level."
Belbin and Agosto's powerful "Ave Maria" free dance widened the lead they had after winning the compulsory and original dances. The Americans finished with 194.51 points, well ahead of Russia's Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski (180.57) and Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy (179.92).