Russians Glide to Ice Title

AMHERST, Massachusetts -- Long ago, Russian couples began dominating pairs and ice dancing. They have shown why by leading their country to the World Team Figure Skating Championships.

Despite the perfection of Kristi Yamaguchi and the majesty of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean for other teams, the Russians won the $100,000 first prize in the inaugural team event Tuesday night.

Two-time Olympic gold medalists Yekaterina Gordeyeva and Sergei Grinkov were as smooth and precise as ever, and 1993 world ice-dance champions Maya Usova and Alexander Zhulin also performed magnificently.

They were aided by 1985 world champion Alexander Fadeyev, whose Faustian routine in the free skate was the night's most unusual program.

Those performances offset the struggling work of Anna Kondrashova and gave the Russians 116.70 points.

Yamaguchi, skated brilliantly once more -- as she has done throughout this season of almost-weekly professional events -- and led the United States to second place. She was supported by a terrific free skate from two-time U.S. pairs champions Calla Urbanski and Rocky Marval.

Paul Wylie, skating with a sore hip, and the dance couple Susan Wynne and Russ Witherby also represented the United States, which earned $80,000.

Torvill and Dean clearly were the most popular skaters with the crowd of 6,500, receiving a standing ovation even before they completed their 6 1/2-minute free-skate routine. In their only competition of the season, the ice dancers who transformed their sport 10 years ago were again mesmerizing.

The English couple helped Europe to third place with 115.95 points. Countryman Robin Cousins, the 1980 Olympic gold medalist, also skated wonderfully, showing the fluid style that made him a champion. But Katarina Witt, the 1984 and '88 Olympic winner, struggled, as did the German pair Annushchka Gl?ser and Axel Rauschenbach.

Canada was last, even though two-time Olympic bronze medalists Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler put in two rousing routines. In their free skate, Eisler portrayed the title character in Chris DeBurgh's "Patricia the Stripper," while Brasseur played her suitor.

The Russians, thanks to the marvelous performance of Usova and Zhulin, led after the technical program with 57.95 points. The Americans, behind the perfection of Yamaguchi, were second with 57.85, followed by Europe and Canada.

Torvill and Dean used their Lillehammer Games free-dance routine for the technical program. Their series of twists, lifts and spins, with a feisty conclusion, highlighted the early skating.