Ice Skating: High-flying Witt struggles to find glide path to perfection: Germany's finest comes down to earth as opening shot in quest for European title fails to go to plan

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The Independent Online
VIKTOR Petrenko flopped on Sunday. Yesterday it was Katarina Witt's turn when the 36 women went through their qualifying round at the European Championships here to sort out the 24 who will compete on Friday.

Witt finished third out of the 12 qualifiers in her group. She was beaten by Oksana Baiul, of the Ukraine, with Olga Markova, a Russian not yet chosen for the Winter Olympics, a good second. But for the mediocre performances of the rest, Witt would have been lower still.

Petrenko fell foul of the dashing Frenchman, Philippe Candeloro, to become the first of the reinstated professionals to bite the ice chips. In a sport heavily dependent on persona, Witt and Petrenko might be feeling some anxiety about their sponsors.

Unlike Petrenko, Witt did not fall but was only clean on one of her triple jumps, the opening toe-loop in combination. She doubled the salchow, the easiest of them all, was clumsy with it later in an attempted link with a double flip, and then stepped forward out of a planned triple toe- loop. To make matters worse, she could offer only a single axel at the close.

The Finnish judge had the pluck to mark Witt 4.9 and 5.3, while her colleagues probably gave the second line of marks for artistic reputation rather than artistic impression.

The one relief for Witt was that the German champion, Tanja Szewczenko, who snatched the national title from her grasp in December, skated miserably.

Stephanie Main, the British champion from Edinburgh, scraped through by finishing 12th in the Witt group, although she was lucky, having fallen three times.

Photograph, Torvill and Dean, page 33