Figure Skating
Skater Bios
 Monday, February 14
French invaders threaten Russian rule
Associated Press

 VIENNA, Austria -- While Russia's broad reign over the European Figure Skating Championships looks safe, the French are planning a coup.

Anissina and Peizerat
Anissina and Peizerat are favorites to win.

Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat are intent on taking over the ice dancing domain.

The Russians, who have won every gold medal available at the championships since 1997, continue to dominate. They took the lead in the men's and pairs events after the short programs Tuesday.

But the nation appears to have lost its four-year grip on the ice dancing event. Anissina and Peizerat had the lead after the compulsories, and Italians Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio were second.

"It was a very good start to the competition for us," said Peizerat, who teamed with the Russian-born Anissina back in 1993 when she left her homeland. "It feels good to be in the lead. It's not been easy."

The French twosome, capitalizing on the absence of reigning champions Angelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov and weak Russian opposition, met with little resistance as they clinched both the Yankee Polka and Argentine Tango.

The best Russian effort came from Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh, who finished tied for third with Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas of Lithuania, and will find it difficult to secure a spot on the podium.

If the French or Italian couple were to win the title, it would mark the first time that Russian skaters failed to claim the crown since 1995.

In the 46-year history of the European championships, Russian or Soviet skaters have collected more than half the ice dance titles.