Ice Skating: Torvill and Dean in lead: British pair take the upper hand with a pair of perfect sixes in European Championships

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The Independent Online
THE champagne is back on ice. Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean retrieved their position at the European Championships here yesterday as they rose from joint second place to the joint leadership in the ice dance with a rumba that was smoothness and assurance itself.

The doubts that assailed the British pair after they finished behind the world champions, Maya Usova and Alexandr Zhulin, in Tuesday's compulsory dance section were calmed by a performance which earned them two perfect sixes - the first in the event here - and a 7-2 verdict over the Russians.

They thus go into today's decisive free programme level on points and knowing that their victory in the original dance programme counts for more than Usova and Zhulin's earlier achievement. The grand plan - to enter next month's Winter Olympics as European champions and favourites after 10 years out of the sport - is still intact.

'It was brilliant,' the British couple's coach, Betty Callaway, said. 'Everything a rumba should be - sensuous; romantic. Better than Sheffield.'

Callaway, as it happened, thought Torvill and Dean's compulsory dance on Tuesday was pretty good, too. But this time, to general relief in the British camp, the nine men and women adjudicating on the original dance section agreed with her.

There had been a feeling that Torvill and Dean had leaned too far to conservatism in their compulsory section. But they had the confidence to remain true to the rumba which they unveiled in winning the National Championships earlier this month - languorous rather than passionate.

Not that the protagonists felt it lacked for emotion. 'It is a dance of love,' Dean said, a little sheepishly.

Torvill went further. 'We take a role when we perform the rumba,' she said. 'We were in love for the two minutes in which we were dancing.'

At the back of the room, Jill Trenary, the former world champion who is now Dean's partner off the ice, giggled. Phil Christiansen, the American whom Torvill married in 1990, turned a shade of pink.

So to today, when the British will rely upon their piece de resistance adapted from the Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire film, Follow The Fleet - 'Let's Face The Music And Dance'. The title could not be more apt. 'We feel confident in our routine and what it's about,' Dean said. 'But the other couples will feel the same. So really it's down to the judges.'

Victor Petrenko took the men's title, even though two mistakes in his free programme ruled out any possibility of repeating the perfect 6.0 marks which the Ukrainian earned for his technical programme on Wednesday night.

Positions, Sporting Digest, page 35

(Photograph omitted)