Russia frustrated in quest for clean sweep

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The Independent Online

Russia maintained their domination of the World Figure Skating Championships, winning half of the gold medals, but it was hardly business as usual in Nice yesterday.

The drama that unfolded on the ice - including the American Michelle Kwan's stunningvictory in the women's finale on Saturday - was eclipsed by events off the rink.

The championships were stained before the start by the sport's first positive drug test at senior level as the reigning pairs champions, Elena Berezhnaya and her Russian partner, Anton Sikharulidze, withdrew after Berezhnaya was found to have taken a banned stimulant at the European Championships.

Two days later French pairs skater Stéphane Bernadis was slashed on the arm by an razor-wielding attacker at the door of his hotel room. The next day Bernadis and his partner, Sarah Abitbol, won a bronze medal.

Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov took the pairs title and when Alexei Yagudin won an error-strewn men's free skate to lift his third consecutive world title, Russia appeared well on the way to a repeat of last year's gold medal sweep in Finland.

In the ice dance, however, the Russians failed to reach the podium for the first time in 32 years. Instead, Marina Anissina, Moscow-born but competing for France, and Gwendal Peizerat, gave the host nation the gold medal, winning with astirring free skate.