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Russian trio capitalizes on German withdrawal

Trankov and Volosozhar take six-point lead; Savchenko and Szolkowy prepare for worlds

Competing at their first European Championships together, Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov look to be in control of the pairs event.
Competing at their first European Championships together, Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov look to be in control of the pairs event. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(01/25/2012) - With the withdrawal of three-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, little stands in the way of a Russian sweep of the pairs medals at the 2012 European Figure Skating Championships.

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, who placed second to the Germans at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships and the recent Grand Prix Final, jumped out to a nearly six-point lead after the pairs short in Sheffield. Six of their seven elements were excellent, especially the triple twist, but Volosozhar touched her hand down on the landing of the throw triple flip. They earned 72.80 points.

"We are a bit disappointed because we would have liked to compete against the three-time world champions from Germany," Trankov said. "The triple throw flip was not clean, but otherwise we are happy."

Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov earned 66.89 points for their clean program, and Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are third with 58.66 points.

Savchenko and Szolkowy withdrew earlier in the day, due to an injury to Savchenko's upper left thigh.

"During the last practice this morning, the muscle injury in her upper thigh, which she has been suffering from for nearly two weeks, got worse again," said Elke Treitz, vice president of the German skating federation. "Without spins, the twist and step sequences, the pair is not competitive."

The team's coach, Ingo Steuer, said his skaters would continue to prepare for worlds.

"Until today, we did not train the pair spin at all because we knew that Aliona could not go down [to the ice]," he said. "But at least once, we wanted to test it, and the pain came back heavily. They cannot skate because the risk is too big that they will injure themselves more heavily.

"It is a tough decision for the skaters because it is the first time in their long career together that they have withdrawn. We will now prepare for worlds."

German team doctor Stefan Pfrengle said the skaters would remain in Sheffield.

"This injury must be treated quickly. Therefore, they will stay in Sheffield, and the physiotherapist and I will treat her every day. From my point of view as an orthopedic specialist, she can restart on the ice in five or seven days, if the pain slowly disappears."

Savchenko and Szolkowy are also scheduled to appear in a series of Art on Ice shows in Switzerland in early February to earn some much-needed training funds. However, they face the same challenge Evgeni Plushenko did in 2010: if they do shows after withdrawing from an ISU championship event, they may be suspended from eligible competition.

Steuer and members of the German skating federation are currently negotiating with the ISU to arrive at a solution to this problem. Dr. Pfrengle's statement that the injury might be healed in a week may help the Germans' cause.