Originally created 02/12/02

Russian pairs streak continues



SALT LAKE CITY -- Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze extended Russia's dominance of Olympic pairs figure skating Monday night by the slimmest of margins - one judge's score - over Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

Sikharulidze and Sale collided during warmups, sending her sprawling to the ice on her hands and knees, but each team shook off the mishap to win the top two spots.

The Russians collected seven 5.9s for artistry, just enough to give their nation its 11th straight gold medal, dating to 1964.

With the crowd chanting "Six, Six" when the Canadian world champions finished their routine, Pelletier fell to his knees and kissed the ice.

But he was waving his hand in disgust moments later when they lost to the Russians by a one-judge margin, 5-4.

China's Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo won the bronze medal.

American champions Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman finished fifth but said the performance was "the greatest thing we've ever done."

The winners made one error when Sikharulidze stepped out of a double axel. But their unison and the passion of their program, to "Meditation," won over enough judges - if not the crowd.

The fans clearly were behind the Canadians, who had won their last nine competitions. And Sale-Pelletier responded with a spectacular, mistake-free performance to "Love Story" that included two huge throw jumps.

They didn't, however, get any 6.0s, and only four 5.9s for artistry, leaving them in second.

For Ina and Zimmerman, the three-time U.S. champions, it was a magical night, even though they didn't win a medal.

Ina, who was ninth in the 1994 Games and fourth in '98 partnered with Jason Dungjen, leaped like a schoolgirl with straight A's on her report card when she saw the couple's marks. She and Zimmerman, who became her partner in 1998, flashed smiles with 30 seconds left in their routine. -

And Ina pumped her fist in the air as they entered their final spin.

But the highlight of their performance was their candle lift, in which Zimmerman carries Ina around more than one-third of the rink while she is upside down, her head resting on his shoulder.

"It was so much fun, in one way I wish it could last another four minutes," Ina said. "But I'm glad it ended where it did, because I don't think I could've contained my excitement anymore."

The other Americans, Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn, finished 13th.

"The experience was incredible," Dulebohn said. "I just wish we could have skated better. You live and you learn and definitely we are going to take home a lot of experience from this and put it to use in the future."