- SKATING - Italian, French tie in European ice dance

Tuesday, January 23
Italian, French tie in European ice dance

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia - - French world champions Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat unexpectedly tied their Italian rivals Tuesday after the compulsory portion of ice dancing at the European figure skating championship.

After the French took the opening dance, the Westminster waltz, the Italian pair of Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio went ahead in the second, the Silver samba.

The decision was tight - the French had four firsts of the seven-judge panel on the opening dance and the Italians had four first-place votes on the second.

Both teams are unbeaten this season with three victories apiece, having avoided each other on the Grand Prix circuit.

They enter Thursday's original dance, worth 30 percent, tied. The final free dance Friday is worth 50 percent.

At the world championships in Nice, France, last March, the French stumbled during the original dance and had to rally during the free dance to beat the Italians, who were leading after the compulsories and original.

Anissina and Peizerat won the European title last season, the only title the Russians failed to win for the last four years.

On Monday, Russians took the lead in the men's and pairs. The domination by the Russian men was expected but the pairs provided a surprise.

Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze captured Monday's short program even though she fell on a move their coach said was their favorite, a throw triple loop.

The program to Russian folk music suddenly fell out of sync when Berezhnaya caught a pick landing the throw loop and fell forward. Shaken, their next element was off - the side-by-side spins.

Still, they finished with a split 5-4 decision ahead of French skaters Sarah Abitbol and Stephane Bernadis, who made no mistakes in a martial arts-styled program.

Third and fourth were two other Russian pairs, and the men were in the top positions following the qualifying earlier.

Russian rivals Alexei Yagudin and Evgeny Plushchenko, respectively the current world and European champions, won their groups and head into the short program tied.

Another Russian, an ailing Alexander Abt, was second behind Yagudin in that group. Skating with a sinus infection that sent him to the hospital for treatment just after he skated, his performance was still the best of the rest.

The Russians have lost the men's and pairs titles only once since 1995.

The domination is expected to continue Wednesday when the women have their qualifying. Irina Slutskaya and Maria Butyrskaya, with the last five European women's titles between them, skate in different groups.


Tuesday's results from the European Championships