NICE, France -- She was shopping for a pairs partner, he was just interested in doing a little shopping.
Narumi Takahashi and Regina-born Mervin Tran captured Japan's first-ever world pairs medal, finishing third at the world figure skating championships Friday.
The two have trained in Montreal under Canadian coaches Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte since Takahashi coaxed Tran east with the promise of shopping.
"She called him and said 'Would you like to do pairs?"' said Gauthier. "He said, 'Uh, not really.' She said, 'How about shopping in Montreal?' 'Oh yeah, then I'll go.'
"So he came for shopping really, and then he enjoyed the atmosphere and that's how they started. The two of them, perfect for each other."
The 21-year-old Tran is the son of Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees, and has no familial ties to Japan. Competing for another country is not uncommon in the figure skating, and in pairs and ice dance, only one skater needs to be a citizen of the country the team is representing. Kaitlyn Weaver, for example, who finished fourth for Canada in ice dancing with Andrew Poje, is from the U.S.
The one exception is the Olympics, where both skaters must be citizens of the country they represent. Tran can't compete at the 2014 Sochi Games for Japan unless he becomes a Japanese citizen, which would require giving up his Canadian citizenship.
He said Friday, he'll make a statement about the Olympics following the World Team Trophy next month, which marks the end of the competitive season.
"We're not there yet," Marcotte said. "There's a lot of things to consider, it's a big life decision. But who knows? The focus for this year was really to do a much better season than last year, and they did. I guess at the end of the year, they'll talk about it, but I don't know. Right now I feel more like celebrating."
Gauthier originally met Takahashi in China, where she expressed her desire to move to Montreal to train. She made the move three years later, and then began the task of finding her a pairs partner. Gauthier said Tran was ideal because he was Asian.
"For the look, it would look nicer," the coach said.
Takahashi and Tran, whose girlfriend is Canadian women's singles skater Amelie Lacoste, executed an almost flawless program to "Concierto de Quebec," Tran lifting the tiny four-foot-nine Takahashi off her feet and spinning her in circles after the music stopped.
"I'm extremely happy," Tran said. "I'm very proud to represent Japan for pairs. They've supported us from the beginning where it was not so smooth, until this point now ... I'm very happy and proud to win this medal for Japan."
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany won the gold, while Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov claimed silver. Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were fifth, while teammates Jessica Dube and Sebastien Wolfe were 12th.