Thu, Jan 22, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Russian pair profits from world champions’ tumble

AP , HELSINKI

Russia’s Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov perform their pairs short program in Helsinki on Tuesday during the European Figure Skating Championships.

PHOTO: AFP

Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov took advantage of a fall by world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, edging past the Germans to win the pairs short program at the European Figure Skating Championships on Tuesday.

Mukhortova and Trankov, second at the Russian nationals this month, scored a personal-best 69.62 points. That was almost three points ahead of Savchenko and Szolkowy, who are seeking their third straight European pairs title. Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov of Russia were third, with 65.38.

The free skate was yesterday.

In ice dance, Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski lead after the compulsory dance, the Finnstep. Fellow Russians and defending European champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin are down in fifth after Shabalin fell, a rarity in compulsories.

Savchenko and Szolkowy swept all of the major titles last season, winning the Grand Prix final, Europeans and the world championships, and were expected to cruise to another European crown. But Szolkowy fell on their very first element, side-by-side triple toe loops.

The Finnstep, a version of the quickstep inspired by Finland’s Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko, was approved by the International Skating Union only in June, meaning skaters are still learning it.

It’s a fast dance with quick steps, and can be tricky.

But it suited Khokhlova and Novitski perfectly. They scored 37.43 points, more than a point ahead of Italy’s Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali. British siblings Sinead Kerr and John Kerr were third with 34.89 points.

Domnina and Shabalin scored just 33.53 after their fall. That was still enough for fifth place — behind French pair Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat with 34.38.

World ice dance champions Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France are not competing in Helsinki because of Delobel’s recent shoulder operation.

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