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European Glory for Kavaguti and Smirnov

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov rallied to win their first European crown with Russian skaters in several disciplines making their presence felt at the competition being held in Tallinn, Estonia. The 2010 ISU European Figure Skating Championships opened on Jan. 19: It is the first time in history that Estonia has hosted an ISU Championship. A combined total of 177 skaters/couples from 38 ISU member nations are competing at the championships.

It was a magical moment for Russia’s Kavaguti and Smirnov who claimed their first European title, upsetting Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, the two-time and reigning World champions. Russia’s Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov claimed the third step on the podium.

Kavaguti and Smirnov rebounded from a disappointing result at the Grand Prix Final last December to take the title by a slight margin over the Germans.

The Russian team trailed the Germans by less than a point after the short. “We were very happy with our performance. We wanted to get better and better with every competition, and we did,” Kavaguti said. “After Russian Nationals we had a short break, then we continued practice in order to perform our elements cleaner.”

Kavaguti and Smirnov put down a dynamic free skating performance to “Sentimental Waltz” and “On the Blue Danube.” Kavaguti did not let a step out on the landing of the side-by-side triple toe loop early on affect the rest of the program. They reeled off a solid series of jumps, throws and spins that garnered a personal best score of 139.23 points, a 15.08 increase over their previous best of 124.15 points.

Their combined tally of 213.15 provided Kavaguti and Smirnov with their first major international title. “We are so happy and satisfied with our performance,” a glowing Kavaguti told the press. “The audience gave us energy and we gave energy to the audience.”

“This is very unexpected for us. I don’t have words right now. It’s just great,” Smirnov added.

Savchenko and Szolkowy’s up and down season continued in Estonia. After skating into first place in the short the duo experienced a couple of technical issues in the long and slipped to silver with 211.72 points overall. “Of course we are a little disappointed, but not too much. We came here to win and to skate clean. But we did some small mistakes. Except for the errors on the throw (flip) and the second triple jump (Salchow), it was a good performance, a clean performance,” Szolkowy said.

Mukhortova and Trankov claimed the bronze medal with 202.03 points. “It wasn’t our best performance, there were a few errors,” Trankov admitted. “But we’ve skated clean in most competitions this season, which is important in an Olympic season.”

Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov from the Ukraine placed fourth with 187.83 points and Russia’s rising stars Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov skated into fifth at their European Championships debut (159.84 points).