| ||Associated Press|
VIENNA, Austria--Evgeny Plushenko ended Alexei Yagudin's two-year rule as men's champion by winning the free program Thursday at the European Figure Skating Championship.
Plushenko completed a quad and eight triples and was a first-place choice of all nine judges to easily defeat a slightly off-form Yagudin.
Yagudin managed a quad but only did six triples and made a costly step-out on his final triple jump attempt. Three other jumps, including the quad, had insecure landings.
Plushenko, 17, also stepped out of one jump, but that was at the end of a quad-triple-double combination. Still, his routine to a medley of Russian folk music earned him all 5.8s and 5.9s.
Yagudin had five 5.7s sprinkled among his 18 marks. The rest were 5.8s. He was so disappointed with his routine that he walked out of the kiss-and-cry area even before seeing the second set of marks.
He skated with a soft cast on his right hand where he broke a bone in a training accident Jan. 25. He was leading entering the free routine after taking the short program.
Third went to an elated Dmitri Dmitrenko of Ukraine. It was the best finish for Dmitrenko since he won the European title in 1993. The 26-year-old Dmitrenko was visibly moved when he realized he held on to third.
It was the second gold medal in two nights for the Russians who have not lost in any event since 1996.
However, France's Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat were on the verge of ending the Russian rule by taking the original portion of the ice dance event.
Anissina and Peizerat have a solid lead entering Friday's free dance worth 50 percent of the final score. They won the original dance section, which had Latin rhythms as the basic of the melodies.
"We are not skating with the hand brake on," Peizerat said. "Now we enter the part that makes the most difference. But we are not skaters that go in with our hands in the pockets, ignoring the talent of the others."
With most of the scores in the 5.7 and 5.9 range, they are ahead of Italians Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio.
Third are Russia's best hopes, Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh.
Russians have swept every title at the Europeans in the past three years, and it is unlikely that Lobacheva and Averbukh can move up. Current world and European champions Angelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov are not competing because of Krylova's back problems.
The Russian women's winning streak is likely to continue.
| ||Evgeny Plushenko used a quad and eight triples to end Alexei Yagudin's two-year rule as men's champion. |
Irina Slutskaya established herself as a clear favorite heading into Friday's short program.
Slutskaya looks to regain the championship she lost to compatriot and two-time defending champion Maria Butyrskaya in 1998.
Slutskaya became the first Russian or Soviet woman to win a European title when she was only 16, then came back to successfully defend her title the next year.
Then she failed to qualify for the cutthroat Russian national squad last year. She reemerged this year winning the national championships, the Cup of Russia and the Grand Prix final in January beating Michelle Kwan with two triple-triple combinations.
In the first final on Wednesday Russians went one-two in the pairs with Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze winning ahead of Maria
European figure skating results
Butyrskaya drops to third
Yagudin looking forward to Worlds
Berezhnaya, Sikharulidze capture European pairs title