Marinin and Totmianina did it again: win European pairs

Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin did it again. For the second season in a row, Totmianina came out of hospital to join Marinin and win the European pairs. The pair had to miss the Russian championships last month when Totmianina developed intestinal problems and had to take a number of tests, as well as go on a special diet. "I am losing weight, but I have energy to skate and that is good enough," she said.

Totmianina always knew they would be in Lyon. "There was a chance I wouldn't be here," she said. "But I could be almost dying and we would still be here and still be fighting for the gold medal." And fight they did, winning their fifth straight pairs title with a virtually flawless program Wednesday night. On Thursday, Irina Slutskaya enters the women's free skating final looking for a record seventh title. She led after Wednesday's short program.

If Slutskaya wins, she will break the European record she shares with Katarina Witt and Sonia Henie, two of figure skating's greatest names. The ice dance original program is also Thursday, with the free portion of that event is on Friday.

The Russians are looking to sweep the titles again for the second successive year, and Totmianina and Marinin started them on the right path. But it wasn't easy for the pair, especially after an eerie reminder of another stay in the hospital for Totmianina.

In October 2004, she crashed heavily to the ice in a fall at Skate America and was knocked unconscious. Ironically another pair in the final had a similar fall about an hour before the Russians were to compete. Czechs pair Olga Prokuronova and Karel Stefl were on the ice when Stefl lost his balance and Prokuronova crashed heavily, face first.

Although the fall looked ugly, Prokuronova was able to get up with some help, make her way to the rink barrier and discuss what to do next with her coach and the referee. They eventually withdrew and she waved to the crowd. Prokuronova was taken to hospital for precautionary X-rays. Aside from being shaken up, she had no injury, according to International Skating Union medical advisory Dr. Ruben Ambartsumov.

But it caused some nervous feelings for Marinin. "At that moment I saw it in the skating lounge. I just heard the audience scream and I saw the people laying on the ice," Marinin said. "I just tried to stay far away from that emotionally and not get involved inside," he added. "I know how hard in fact to be in that situation. I just told myself it was out of my responsibility."

Marinin and Totmianina handed Russia its 11th consecutive title, while Russians took three of the top four places. Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany broke up a Russian sweep coming in second. Savchenko represented Ukraine at the 2002 Olympics but recently became a German citizen, reports the AP. N.U.