Ice Skating: Struggling Cousins lands in trouble: British contender hits the boards as Petrenko bounces back in style

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THE first perfect scores of the European Championships arrived yesterday courtesy of a skater who, like Torvill and Dean, has returned from the professional ranks.

Victor Petrenko, the world and Olympic champion of 1992, gave the firmest possible indication that his powers have not waned in the intervening year to earn two marks of 6.0 for artistic impression in the technical programme. The 24-year-old from Odessa skated to Bizet's Carmen, and was suitably attired as a toreador. He can afford to feel bullish about today's concluding freestyle section.

The same, alas, cannot be said for Britain's leading protagonist, Stephen Cousins. Towards the end of his routine he slipped on landing as he attempted a triple flip, and floundered against the boards for a moment before continuing with the obligatory fixed grin.

'I think it looked worse than it was because I couldn't get my feet out of there for a minute,' Cousins said. 'I haven't got a clue why it happened. I had got high and clear. I've landed worse ones than that every day of the week.'

'This time more than anything else I am just angry,' he said. 'Because there was no reason for it.' And his plan of action as he approached today's free section from 13th place? 'Find a big wall and bang my head against it.'

Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergey Grinko came even closer to complete perfection later in the evening when they won the pairs title with a display which earned them four 6.0 marks from the nine judges for artistic merit.

Although how such marks could be awarded when Grinko clearly stumbled at one point is a matter for debate. The Russian pair were good; but not perfect.

Meanwhile, Britain's most realistic hopes of a gold medal were

acquainting themselves with the novelty of not leading. They go into

today's original dance - where they will perform the rumba - in joint second place, having finished behind the Russian world champions, Maya Usova and Alexandr Zhulin, in the compulsory dance.

Torvill and Dean's choreographer, Bobby Thompson, was inclined to look on the bright side yesterday.

'It seems to be doom and gloom everywhere,' he said. 'After 10 years of never doing compulsory dances, we have made the silver- medal position. We should be delighted with that.' Perhaps they should; but they are not. Today will be a critical test.

Charges follow Kerrigan

attack, page 16

Results, Sporting Digest, page 43