Russian Pair Skates to Win at Euro Champs

APRussians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin performing their free dance.
ZAGREB, Croatia -- Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin were crowned European figure skating ice dance champions Friday after a perfect performance in the final of the event's three legs.

Saturday's competition saw Italian Carolina Kostner capture her second successive women's title, after Czech Tomas Verner had won the men's event with a flawless free skating performance Thursday.

In Friday's ice dancing finale, the 2007 silver medalists from Russia totaled 207.14 points to topple last year's winners Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France, who had led before the free dance and finished second on 205.92 points.

Russians Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski held on to third place to take the bronze medal with 197.06 points after narrowly missing out on a podium finish at last year's European championships in Warsaw.

Kostner followed up last year's triumph in Warsaw by winning the two-leg women's event with a total score of 171.28 points after a confident free-skating performance Saturday.

Last year's runner-up Sarah Meier of Switzerland took silver again with a superb display that lifted her into second position after she had started the second leg in fourth.

Meier, who achieved the best free-skating score, totaled 169.44 points while Finland's Laura Lepisto held on to third place after finishing on 165.65 points.

Hungarian Julia Sebestyen moved up one place to fourth while last year's Finnish bronze medalist Kiira Korpi, second after Friday's short programme, dropped to fifth after an unconvincing performance riddled with technical errors.

Men's winner Verner, who had been in charge after Wednesday's short programme, built on his lead to complete the two-leg event with a total of 232.67 points, ahead of Stephane Lambiel of Swizterland and 2007 winner Brian Joubert of France.

The Czech, who drew wild cheers from the crowd, was almost at a loss for words after his triumph.

"I don't know what to say. This is my first gold medal and I just kept going till the end hoping for the best," he said before the medal ceremony.

Lambiel, a double former world champion who missed last years Euros in Warsaw through injury, totaled 219.63 points to snatch the silver medal from Joubert's grasp.

Joubert started the free skating with a couple of delightful triple axles but then made a series of costly errors that confined him to a third-place finish on 219.45 points.

The week-long championships end with a gala on Sunday.