21.02.2006 | NEWS

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Plushenko wins fifth title

Slutskaya takes women's event

Evgeni Plushenko, representing Russia, performs during the Mens Free Skating program at the European Figure Skating Championships at the Palais des Sports ice rink in Lyon, central France, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

LYON, France (AP) - Evgeni Plushenko, weakened by a flu, won a fifth title Saturday to seal another Russian sweep of gold medals at the European figure skating championships.

Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland, who won the 2005 world title after Plushenko withdrew on the day of the free skating because of a groin injury, finished second, and Brian Joubert of France was third.

Russians produced six of the 12 medal-winning performances during the meet, and it was the third time in the last four years they won all the titles. They'll go to Turin as Olympic favourites in all four disciplines.

Plushenko opened with a quadruple jump and added seven triples in his routine to The Godfather. The three-time world champion doubled on a Slachow but little else was missing. He tired near the end of his routine, showing the effects of flu, but scored 245.33 points. Lambiel had 228.87 and Joubert had 222.95.

"It was very hard for me to skate," Plushenko said. "I am not yet completely healthy.

"I have a bad cough and I couldn't breathe at all after the third minute. It was so hard that I thought I couldn't go on, that I'll stop after the circular footwork. I'm happy that I pulled through."

He briefly laid on the ice in exhaustion upon completing his 4 1-2 minutes.

"I was tired," he said afterwards. "I had a lot of emotions, a lot of nervousness.

"Everybody was blowing horns, clapping for the French skaters and the Swiss skater. I'm happy they didn't forget about me and that the audience was with me, too. I think this was my hardest European championship."

Lambiel paid tribute to the winner.

"Plushenko was the best," said Lambiel. "Against him, I can't make any errors."

Lambiel, in a routine to Vivaldi's Four Seasons had to step out of a triple jump and put a hand down on a second quad. He also stumbled twice in his straight-line footwork.

Joubert landed a quad but slipped right after it. He landed his triple Axel, which he's had difficulties with in the past.

"I did a stupid mistake on the quad," said Joubert, adding he'll have two quads in his long program at Turin.

Frederic Dambier of France finished fourth and Ilia Klimkin of Russia was fifth.

Irina Slutskaya won the women's title for a seventh time to better the record of six she shared with Sonja Henie and Katarina Witt. Elena Sokolova was second.

Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov won the ice dance. Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin took the pairs title for the fifth straight year. Russians Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov won the bronze.

Skater dancing way into contention for Olympic berth

The ice dancing competition at Smart Ones Skate America concluded Saturday afternoon at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto captured their third consecutive Skate America title with their flamenco free dance. The couple scored 95.35 in this portion and 190.45 overall. In second were Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France with 92.27 in the free (184.47). Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin were third with 85.32 for their waltz (169.23). The other American teams, Jamie Silverstein & Ryan O'Meara were fifth (78.79/155.51) and Tiffany Stiegler & Sergey Magerovskiy were seventh (75.71/142.94).