Russian Couple Breeze to Title In World Skating Competition

MINNEAPOLIS -- Olympic silver medalists Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze swept the judges with a slow but solid routine to win the pairs competition at the World Figure Skating Championships.

In their final appearance before turning professional Wednesday, Americans Jenni Meno and Todd Sand turned around one of the most disappointing years of their careers and finished second to the Russian pair. The three-time U.S. pairs champions came to Minneapolis as long shots and left with their best international finish.

"This was better than the Olympics for us, and it was a great way to end our eligible career," Meno said.

Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze outskated a field missing the Olympic gold and bronze medalists, plus two-time U.S. champions, Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen, all absent due to illness or injury.

"It was hard because it was the end of a very long season," said Berezhnaya, noting that she and Sikharulidze skated in seven internationals, winning three this season.

In a normal year, without the Olympics and with all the top couples on hand, Meno and Sand might have remained also-rans, as they have been for nearly three years.

But they are silver medalists just a month after a weak eighth-place showing in the Nagano Games and two months after dropping out of the nationals when Meno hurt her ankle.

The husband-and-wife team can head into the pro ranks or into parenthood knowing that even if their Olympics weren't memorable, their swan song to the eligible ranks was.

"It's been a nice long career for Jenni and I," Sand said. "We had a lot of ups and downs, especially over the last 18 months. Some things really didn't go the way we planned. We are really happy we came here, and we skated from our heart and went out on a high note."