Duo Follow in the Footsteps of Legends

APMarinin, left, and Totmyanina brushing up closely on Monday during their Turin routine that perpetuated Russian domination of the pairs event since 1964.
TURIN, Italy -- Tot and Max's Russian rout made the judges' jobs easy.

Tatiana Totmyanina and Maxim Marinin eliminated any chance for controversy and kept their nation's domination of Olympic pairs going Monday night with a balletic free skate reminiscent of the greatest Russian couples.

Tot didn't try to hold back the tears on the medals podium, while Marinin smiled widely. Not a bad way to finish off a career that also includes two world titles.

Their huge margin, 14.75 points over China's Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao, avoided any suspicions of judging improprieties in the first Olympic pairs event since the 2002 Salt Lake City scandal that led to the new points system.

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China won their second straight bronze medal.

A Russian or Soviet pair has won the gold medal every year since 1964, and this one was as good as any. Go ahead, add Totmyanina and Marinin to Gordeyeva and Grinkov and the Protopopovs as the top of perhaps the greatest dynasty in Olympic sports.

"I can't even explain the emotions because they are very, very high," she said. "It was a long, long way and it wasn't the easiest way. I'm just thrilled with everything. We've done so well, our personal best at the Olympic Games."

While the Russians were untouchable, Zhang and Zhang showed incredible courage and stamina.

Skating last, Zhang Dan fell in a split while attempting an unprecedented throw quad salchow and doubled over in pain. They stopped skating as Zhang Hao struggled to help her off the ice.

After a few minutes talking with coaches, she asked to continue. With the fans clapping in support, the event referee allowed it.

"We didn't say any words of giving up," he said. "We said we could go on."

Somehow, they nailed every element in the next four minutes.

She again doubled over when they finished and Zhang Hao cried. They had nothing to cry about when they saw the marks that kept them in second place with a personal best.

"I think it's a very valuable experience for competition," she said of returning to the ice. "It's so important for myself because I made a mistake on the first element, but I think I can do all the other elements, so why not keep going?"

But they were far behind Tot and Max's personal best of 204.48, and Marinin picked up his longtime partner and cradled her in his arms when the final scores were posted.

No one raised a voice against the scoring this time, unlike the boos that echoed throughout the arena at Salt Lake City, touching off the biggest scandal in Winter Games history.

Back then, a French judge admitted after the pairs competition that she'd been "pressured" to score Russia's Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze higher than Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. The scandal so rocked the Olympics that the International Olympic Committee took the rare step of awarding duplicate golds to Sale and Pelletier.

The International Skating Union then decided to scrap its 6.0 scale for a more objective points-based system.

With their fans chanting, waving Chinese flags and shaking colorful rattles, Shen and Zhao capped their first competition of the season with a spectacular performance. The two-time world champions missed the entire season as he recovered from an Achilles' tendon tear that occurred in August. He hurried back from the injury and showed no sign of any physical problems.

On both of their throws, a triple salchow and a triple loop, she soared higher than the boards. Their flying triple twist was immense and they moved as one in their circular steps, making "Madame Butterfly" come to life.

"Today was very difficult, especially after these two months where I got injured," he said. "We got a good result. I am very happy about that."