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Volosozhar, Trankov oust rival Germans for gold

Russians defeat Savchenko, Szolkowy by more than seven points

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov downed their German archrivals for the first time.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov downed their German archrivals for the first time. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(01/24/2013) - Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov won their second European title in Zagreb, Croatia, defeating archrivals Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany by a wider-than-expected margin of seven points at the 2013 European Figure Skating Championships.

It is the first time the Russians, who teamed up in May 2010, defeated the four-time European and world champions.

The Russians, who are competing despite the death of Trankov's father earlier in the week, skated a good, but not brilliant, free skate that had no major -- but several smaller -- mistakes.

After opening with a spectacular triple twist, which gained +3 GOEs (grades of execution) from seven of the nine judges, Trankov was a bit shaky on his triple Salchow, but still landed the jump on one foot. The team's side-by-side triple toe loop-double toe loop combinations were strong, but then Volosozhar touched her hand down on the triple throw loop and landed the triple throw Salchow on two feet. All three lifts were superb, and judges awarded them 139.22 points for their free skate and 212.45 overall.

"We are happy that we defended the title, but we are not completely happy with our performance today," Volosozhar said.

"We will work for the world championships and hope to skate better there," Trankov said.

Savchenko and Szolkowy opened their free skate to a flamenco version of Ravel's "Bolero" with an excellent triple throw flip that gained five +3 GOEs from the judges. Their sequence of two triple toe loops, sometimes a problem, was done in perfect harmony, but after a good triple twist, Savchenko fell on a triple Salchow, and Szolkowy did only a double.

The rest of their program was flawless, including three very risky lifts and an excellent triple throw Salchow in the last seconds, and they earned 135.03 for their free skate. However, in contrast to the Russians' average program components score of 9.0, the Germans' program components reached only an average of 8.8.

"Overall, we are satisfied with our performance. It is a kind of good comeback after our long layoff due to Aliona's illness," Szolkowy said. "We fought through it, and I think the first half of the program was strong, but in the second half, we ran out of steam a bit."

For the first time in the more than 100-year history of the European Figure Skating Championships, Italy won a pairs medal. Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek claimed bronze after a solid program that included two strong triple throws, including flip and Salchow. Their only big mistake was Berton's fall on a triple Salchow, and they ended with 187.45 points.

In order to improve their presentation, over Christmas they worked with Swiss world champion Stéphane Lambiel, who had successfully skated to the same Spanish "Poeta" music as the Italians' free skate. For the first time, they got some program components over 8.0 points, and their average was about 7.4.

"Today, it was hard to skate because we put a lot of pressure on ourselves after being third after the short program, but we are happy with our performance," Hotarek said.

French pair Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès placed fourth with 178.81 points. Although James did not complete the second jump in their side-by-side triple toe-double toe combinations, the rest of their elements were clean.

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia, who won this event in 2010, had hoped for the bronze medal but instead placed fifth with 175.45 points. Smirnov fell on a double Axel, and Kavaguti stepped out of the triple throw loop and landed the throw triple Salchow on two feet.

The third Russian pair, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, fell twice and placed sixth.