Dmitriev Leads Way to Gold




NAGANO, Japan -- With all the passion and power he could muster, Artur Dmitriev carried new partner Oksana Kazakova to Olympic gold Tuesday night in pairs figure skating.


Russians finished 1-2 as Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze took the silver, followed by Germans Mandy Woetzel and Ingo Steuer.


Dmitriev became the first man to win in the Olympics with different partners. He won gold in 1992 and silver in 1994 with Natalya Mishkutienok, whom he dumped a year later in favor of Kazakova.


Tuesday's victory extended the Russian domination of pairs. A Soviet or Russian couple has won every gold medal since 1964.


Dmitriev, perhaps the most majestic of all skaters, and Kazakova even received a perfect 6.0 for artistry from the Czech judge. Their precision was evident from the beginning of their 4 1/2-minute routine, when they nailed side-by-side triple toe loops and followed quickly with double axels.


Skating to Handel's "Passacaglia," their passion was clear throughout, particularly on their intricate combination spins, capped by the "Natasha spin" made famous by Mishkutienok.


When they finished a near-perfect program -- she cut a double axel to one revolution in their only error -- he chivalrously kissed her hand and they hugged tightly.


When introduced as the winners, he pounded his heart while waving to the crowd. Dmitriev warmly shook hands with the silver medalists, who are trained by the same coach, Tamara Moskvina.


There were several errors by Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze, the rising stars of pairs, who won the Champions Series and European championships heading into the games. She came up a half-twist short on a split triple twist and fell after their final lift, with her partner toppling as well.


But the judges were kind.


They also liked what they saw from Woetzel and Steuer, the defending world champions who went from the anguish of Lillehammer to the medals podium at Nagano.


Woetzel fell face-first into the ice in the free skate in 1994, and the team withdrew after he carried her from the ice.