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Domnina, Shabalin out of world championships

Injury forces Russian ice dance pair to withdraw

Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin enjoyed their gold medal at Europeans but won't get to add a world title to their trophy case this year.
Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin enjoyed their gold medal at Europeans but won't get to add a world title to their trophy case this year. (Getty Images)

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By Linda Przygodski
(03/12/2008) - That elusive worlds gold medal for Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto just became much more attainable.

In a prepared statement, Russian Figure Skating President Valentin Piseev said that European ice dance champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin will not compete in this month's 2008 ISU World Figure Skating Championships.

"My knee is still hurting," Shabalin told the Russian news agency "Allsport" over the phone. "As much as I tried to divert my thoughts from that, you still can't betray your body. After Europeans, I actively took care of rehabilitation and treated my knee. I spent two weeks in a clinic near Moscow where I underwent different and unusual therapies -- kryotherapy -- healing through cold, Tibetan massage. In addition to that, I went to the CITO [clinic] every two days, where I underwent therapy with homoeopathic medication. However, the situation didn't significantly improve."

Earlier this season at Russian nationals, the duo sat out due to Shabalin's original knee injury. According to Piseev, Shabalin re-injured his left knee during a training session last week. Doctors advised the Russian ice dancer that he should not compete in worlds, as to not aggravate the injury any further.

Shabalin had his first meniscus surgery on his left knee after he and Shabalin won gold at the ISU Grand Prix Final in December. The team was back on the ice in January to prepare for the 2008 European Championships, where they were healthy enough to win gold and solidify their place as the leading contenders for the top spot at the world championships. But even in Croatia, the injury had not gone away.

"I didn't expect it to be as bad as it was," the 26-year-old ice dancer revealed after the free dance at Europeans. "I thought the doctors would give me painkillers, and I wouldn't feel anything. But they couldn't give me so strong painkillers. Each practice was a torture. Sometimes I didn't think I would have enough strength."

In a statement released to the press on Wednesday, the Russian Figure Skating Federation (FSFR) stated, "During practice, Maxim Shabalin twisted his leg and felt acute pain in his knee, which was operated [on] in December. After careful examination on March 11 by Professor Anatoly Orletskiy [of the Central Institute of Trauma and Orthopedy], the partial injury of the left knee inner-side ligaments was diagnosed.

"Maxim was recommended to eliminate physical activity for two weeks and prescribed a course of rehabilitation therapy. Final decision regarding the course of treatment will be determined after consultations with the specialists, including the head of CITO, Sergey Mironov.

"Unfortunately, withdrawal of Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin from participation in the World Figure Skating Championships will not allow the Russian skaters to compete for gold. The FSFR President expressed his hopes that Maxim will successfully overcome his injury consequences and will compete at the highest level at the future championships and 2010 Olympic Games."

In place of the two-time Russian national champions, Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev will head to the world championships in Sweden.

Domnina and Shabalin became an ice dancing team in May 2002. In their first season together, they won every junior-level competition they entered, including the 2002 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final and the 2003 World Junior Championships.

They were ninth at the 2006 Olympics and, following the retirement of Olympic champions Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov, had a breakthrough season in 2006-2007, placing second at Europeans and fifth at worlds. This season, their personal-best total of 207.14 earned at the Europeans was the best score by any Russian team and the second-highest ice dancing score of the year.

Tatiana Flade contributed to this story