Ice Skating: Gorbenko under pressure

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NATALYA GORBENKO, born in Kiev but now living in Greenwich, London, snatched an immediate lead when the women's contest opened with the technical programme at the National Championships in Basingstoke last night, writes Michael Coleman.

Flawless and with a finesse expected from a former Soviet world junior champion, Gorbenko, first of the 10 to skate, radiated a smooth confidence and seemed unbeatable.

But eight skaters later, the title-holder, Charlene von Saher, from Greenwich, Connecticut, but born in London, took the ice. The double axel was more flowing and although her choice of triple jump in the combination, a salchow, was not as daring as Gorbenko's flip, she had a more elegant line and the seven judges were not in dispute. If Gorbenko, 23, wants to win selection for Britain she must risk all in tonight's free programme.

Steven Cousins, going for his fifth men's title, won the technical despite a low-key double lutz in his combination and in the pairs Jackie Soames and John Jenkins of London aand Jason Briggs and his American partner Dana Mednick.