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Ice skating: Russians just a waltz from win

ANJELIKA KRYLOVA and Oleg Ovsiannikov took the lead in the ice dance and were helped in their quest to retain the world title by an intense tussle for second place yesterday.

The Russian couple were winners of both the paso doble and the tango romantica compulsory dances on the cards of all seven judges while their French and Canadian rivals were tied in second place.

That stalemate assisted the Russian pair. If they win tomorrow's original dance, the waltz, they would have to finish an unlikely third in the free dance on Friday to surrender their title.

The second-place tie developed after Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz, of Canada, beat Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat in the first dance only to lose to the French couple in the second. Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh, the European bronze medallists, were lying fourth. Krylova and Ovsiannikov have 0.4 placements to 1.0 for the second-placed skaters.

Bourne, skating with a knee injury that will require surgery after this week, said: "We can't wait to get out there for the original and free dances."

Krylova and Ovsiannikov beat the French, thanks to the marking of just one judge, at the European Championships in January and then again at the Grand Prix finals last month. Both the chasing couples will have a chance to catch the Russians in the waltz, worth 30 per cent of the marks. The compulsories were worth 20 per cent and the final accounts for the remaining 50 per cent.

Age is no barrier in figure skating, according to Tatiana Malinina, the Russian-born skater who competes for Uzbekistan and is expected to be one of the long-shot challengers to Michelle Kwan. Malinina bridles when asked how she has become so good at the relatively advanced age of 26.

"Age has no meaning whatsoever," she said. "There is no [upper] age limit for competitions. I can skate until I'm 40 if I want to. I don't have problems with my jumps and I'm winning against the younger competitors, and, of course, I have more experience."

Malinina won the Four Continents and Grand Prix final in the last month, beating the twice European champion, Maria Butyrskaya, in St Petersburg, Russia.