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Several firsts earned at Russian nationals

Khokhlova/Novitski, Kawaguchi/Smirnov and Voronov reach the top

Sergei Voronov decisively won his first senior men's  Russian title.
Sergei Voronov decisively won his first senior men's Russian title. (Getty Images)

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By Tatiana Flade, special to icenetwork.com
(01/06/2008) - Ice dancers Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, pairs Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov, and Sergei Voronov each won their respective divisions to earn their first national title on Saturday on the third day of the 2008 Russian National Championships in St. Petersburg.

Ice dancing

Khokhlova and Novitski, who were the event favorites after the withdrawal of Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, lived up to the hype this week. They showed a dynamic performance of their powerful free dance to "Night on Bald Mountain" and "In the Hall of the Mountain King," portraying a witch and a demon. They made no major errors and were awarded 106.04 points, giving them a 212.82-point total to claim their first national title.

Khokhlova and Novitski were awarded a level four for all their elements. "We had just some minor inaccuracies that probably only we felt ourselves", Novitski commented. "For Europeans, we'll work most of all on the Yankee Polka compulsory, as we only skated it once this season in competition, here, and it's not at a 100 percent yet."

Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer danced to the silver medal with a solid performance of "Prayer in the Night." They scored 91.21 points for the free dance and 183.75 overall. The new national silver medalists earned a level four for five of their eight elements and a level three for the two step sequences and the serpentine lift.

"We fulfilled our goals that we set for ourselves. After the Grand Prix, we worked on the mistakes that we made and improved our programs", Rubleva said.

In their first senior nationals, 2007 world junior champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev took the bronze medal. They delivered a technically strong dance to "Toccata and Fugue," posting a score of 90.33 and accumulated 178.35 points overall. Seven of their elements were graded a level four.

Natalia Mikhailova and Andrei Maximishin finished fourth at 167.03 points. Anastasia Platonova and Alexander Grachev beat them in the free dance but remained in fifth overall with 166.58 points.

Pairs

Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov skated to their first national title ahead of defending champions Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov. Arina Ushakova and Sergei Karev earned the bronze.

Kawaguchi and Smirnov overcame a hard fall on their throw quadruple Salchow in the first seconds of their "Love Story" program, and then Smirnov stopped when he realized that his partner had hurt her shoulder. After Kawaguchi reassured him and coach Tamara Moskvina that she was fine, the team continued without any major mistakes, landing a triple toe-triple toe sequence, a throw triple loop, a triple twist and a double Axel. They scored 190.60 points.

"I stopped because I saw that Yuko hurt her shoulder, couldn't lift her arm, and I wanted to make sure she was OK, although she wanted to continue", Smirnov said. "There were the triple jumps still to come, and there is no way she can do them without moving her arm."

Kawaguchi explained that her shoulder is hurting, but she was thrilled to win their first national title.

Mukhortova and Trankov also skated well with a triple toe-double toe combination, a throw triple loop and Salchow and a triple twist. They also included difficult lifts into their program to "Prelude in D minor" by Sergei Rachmaninov. However, Trankov crashed on the side-by-side triple Salchow, while she doubled it.

Ushakova and Karev delivered a solid performance that featured a triple twist, a triple toe-double loop sequence, and a throw triple loop and Salchow to move up from sixth to third at 163.21 points overall.

Men

Sergei Voronov emerged victorious from an exciting battle in the men's event, winning his first senior medal at nationals and beating Andrei Lutai and defending champion Andrei Griazev.

Skating to a Tango medley, the 20-year-old Voronov hit a beautiful quad toe, two triple Axels and three more triples, but he still doesn't include a triple flip or Lutz in his program after an ankle injury earlier this season. He accumulated 231.07 points.

"I didn't realize yet that I'm Russian champion, I'm just very tired," Voronov said. "I'm doing the Lutz and flip in practice, but they are not yet consistent enough to do them in the program. Hopefully, I'll have them by the time Europeans come around", he added.

Lutai nailed a quad toe and had two triple Axels as well. His only mistake was a double flip. The 21-year-old picked up 208.79 points on his way to his second silver medal at nationals.

"After being second last year, I obviously wanted to win this year, but I am still pleased to have defended my position", Lutai commented.

Griazev was fighting and pulled off six clean triples, but he doubled the first quad toe attempt and fell on a desperate, under rotated second attempt late in the program. He remained in third at 195.12 points.

Konstantin Menschov landed a quad-double toe to move up from sixth to fourth (181.59) and overtook Alexander Uspenski, who finished fifth. Uspenski fell on a quad toe and a triple loop (180.95).