BUDAPEST, January 19 (R-Sport) - Despite two uncharacteristic falls, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov claimed a third-straight European figure skating gold medal on Sunday, leading a Russian podium sweep less than three weeks ahead of the Sochi Olympics.
The Russian pair had broken their own world record in the short program but were sloppy in Sunday's free skate set to "Jesus Christ Superstar," scoring 220.38 points for victory.
Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov's routine to "The Addams Family" racked up 207.98 points for the silver; while the bronze went to Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov with 201.61 points after a Charlie Chaplin-inspired skate.
Much of the intrigue had been removed from the competition even before Sunday's free program began: Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, in second place after the short program, withdrew after Savchenko contracted a virus.
The Germans, the only couple to beat Trankov and Volosozhar in nearly two years, may take heart from the Russians' nervy skate with Sochi firmly in their sights. Trankov's right boot went from under him after he landed his opening triple toeloop, before Volosozhar tumbled after a throw.
“We prepared like always, but it is the second competition for us where we skated not good,” Trankov said in broken English, referring to the Grand Prix Final in Japan in December, when they settled for silver behind the Germans.
“Last season it was the same, we did two bad competitions and then won the worlds. So maybe it’s time to relax, time to understand why we didn’t skate clean. We are in good shape, we just need a good analysis and I hope at Olympics we’ll skate like at the beginning of the season.”
The Russians were too far ahead in the standings for the glitches to impact the result, as it happened, and they will go to the Olympics as European champions.
In their efforts to break up the Russian podium lockdown, Italian pair Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek put in a dazzling routine set to music from "The Mask," though her fall on a second throw cost them valuable technical points and they had to settle for fourth place with 195.61 points.
In a formidable display of figure skating power less than three weeks away from the Sochi Games, Russia claimed an impressive eight out of 12 available medals at the Budapest championships, the highlight of which was Julia Lipnitskaia's gold in the women's singles to become the youngest European champion ever at the age of 15.
In the men's singles, Spain's Javier Fernandez held off a strong Russian challenge to retain his European title on Friday. Behind him, Sergei Voronov nailed a confident free skate with two quads and his fellow Russian Konstantin Menshov, who hadn't impressed in the short program, turned it around with a strong free skate; also landing two quads for bronze.
Those Russian performances, both big personal bests, give the Olympic selectors an almighty headache, with Voronov and Menshov now joining Kovtun and veteran Evgeni Plushenko in looking to claim the one available Russian berth in the men's singles event in Sochi next month.
Earlier in Budapest, Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte took the victory in the ice dance competition, with Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov second for Russia. Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland took the bronze, Britain’s first major competition medal since 2011.