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Olympic Road Has a Hurdle For Germans; Savchenko Sidelined With Illness

Winners of six straight German pairs titles, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy missed this season’s German nationals, which were Dec. 17-20 in Mannheim. In an Olympic season, the move appeared unusual. It was later reported in the German media that the two-time and reigning World pairs champions missed the competition because Savchenko was suffering from infectious mononucleosis.

Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Savchenko and Szolkowy also pulled out of three shows: in Regensburg, Bozen and Oberstdorf.

The German media also reported that the couple's participation at the Europeans in Tallinn, Estonia was highly questionable. Savchenko and Szolkowy are the three-time and reigning European pairs champions.

The last event the German stars contested was the 2009-10 Grand Prix Final. They claimed the bronze medal.

When asked about Savchenko’s condition, the couple’s coach, Ingo Steuer, declined to comment.

The illness could not come at a worse time as the 2010 Olympic Winter Games are just six weeks away. Savchenko and Szolkowy placed sixth at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy. Savchenko is of Ukrainian descent. She obtained German citizenship in January 2006, which cleared the way for the team to compete at the 2009 Games in Italy.

Savchenko and Szolkowy are one of the most successful German pairs teams of all times. They had only been skating together for just a few months when they won the 2004 German title. At the 2007 European Championships, Savchenko are Szolkowy became the first German pairs skaters to be crowned champions in 12 years. In 2008, they became the first German pairs team in 11 years to win the World Championships.

Their coach, Steuer, won Europeans with partner Mandy Wötzel in 1995 and Worlds in 1997.

See our update. — Paul Peret contributed to this report.