Italian couple upset home favourites

Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio, of Italy, produced a rare surprise at the World Figure Skating Championships in Nice yesterday when they beat the home favourites Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat in the original dance section of the ice dance.

Fusar-Poli and Margaglio, European silver medallists behind the charismatic French duo last month in Vienna, impressed the judges and stunned the crowd with a high-energy routine performed to an infectious Latin beat. "I think we did more than 100 per cent today," Margaglio said. "We knew we needed a big original dance because we're fighting a very good couple in their own nation."

When their high marks, including 5.9s from eight of the nine judges for presentation, flashed on to the scoreboard, the French crowd appeared unworried, politely applauding in the belief that the performance was nothing their own skaters could not top.

The confidence, however, was misplaced. While Anissina and Peizerat had no problem convincing the partisan audience who was best, the judges' opinion differed, placing the French pair second and handing the Italians the advantage going into today's decisive free-skating programme.

"I can't say we skated very well today," Peizerat said. "But we have a very powerful performance for tomorrow. We really want to win the title we were robbed of last year."

Behind the leaders, Irina Lovacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russian remain in third place.