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Russia’s Tatiana Volosozhar and Russia’s Maxim Trankov perform their Figure Skating Pairs Free Program at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the Sochi Winter Olympics
Volosozhar, Trankov grab another ‘gold’ for Russia Savchenko, Szolkowy of Germany finish 3rd

SOCHI, Russia, Feb 12, (AFP): World champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov claimed a second gold for themselves and the Olympic hosts on Wednesday night as they led a Russian 1-2 in pairs figure skating. Already team gold medallists they led all the way to seal the title ahead of teammates Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov with Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy taking their second Olympic bronze. Trankov, 30, fell to his knees with his fists clinched above his head and kissed the ice after their performance to the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” as Volosozhar, 27, buried her face in her hands with tears in her eyes. To chants of “MOLODTSI! MOLODTSI!” (Russian for ‘Bravo guys!’) they restored Russia’s pairs’ supremacy at the Winter Games to the delight of the almost capacity crowd at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

Skaters from the Soviet Union and Russia won 12 straight titles until the 2010 Vancouver Games when they failed to medal. “Today was a big day for all of Russia,” said Trankov, after they became the first skaters to win two figure skating gold medals at the same Games. “Two of our couples have skated very well and I think everyone in our big country is pleased. It was the hardest job of our lives.” They became the first couple to win on home ice since 1936. Trankov added: “We dealt with huge pressure. We already have gold in the team event, but this is the realisation of the goal and dream of our lives.” Two-time winners Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, who won the first Olympic pairs title for the former Soviet Union in 1964 at Innsbruck, were in the crowd and rose to their feet to give the pairs a standing ovation.

The married pair defected to Switzerland in 1979. Despite errors with Trankov’s hand touching the ice during the performance and some of their spins being out of synch, the pair extended their 4.53-point lead from the short programme to finish 18.18 points ahead of Stolbova and Klimov, who also won team gold. They scored 152.69 for the free skate and 236.86 overall. Stolbova, 21, and Klimov, 23, brought the house down with their entertaining “The Addams Family” which earned them 143.43 and 218.68 overall to move up to second from third after the short programme.  “We did everything exactly the way we were planning,” said Klimov. “It was very important for us to perform well at the Olympics that are in Russia. It’s an once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Four-time world champions Savchenko and Szolkowy, who had been second after the short programme, dropped to third after both fell during their free skate to “The Nutcracker”. The Germans, who lost their world title to Volosozhar and Trankov last year, finished fourth in the free skate when Savchenko fell on a triple toeloop and Szolkowy on their final throw triple salchow. “I don’t have an answer. We wanted much more,” said Szolkowy after they scored 136.14 for 215.78 overall. Chinese veterans Pang Qing and Tong Jian, silver medallists in Vancouver, finished in fourth in their final competition before retiring. Trankov only teamed up with Volosozhar after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. They previously competed successfully with other partners — Volosozhar for Ukraine with Stanislav Morozov, who is now their coach, and Trankov for Russia with Maria Mukhortova. Figure skating continues on Thursday with the men’s short programme.

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