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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hard Climb Back to the Top

COPENHAGEN -- In the old days, it was never as tough as this for Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.

They would stroll into an ice-dancing championship, canter through every section and waltz away with the gold medal. That was the pattern every time from 1981 to 1984 as they compiled a record of one Olympic, four world and three European titles.

Last Friday night, the mold broke.

The British couple again won the European title, but only after a painstaking climb up the standings and, when all still seemed lost, the intervention of another couple -- and the computer.

"It was the hardest competition of our whole career. We had to come back and fight for it," Torvill said on Saturday.

"It was draining. Now we need a little space."

Torvill and Dean, on a comeback allowed by new International Skating Union, or ISU, rules after 10 years as professionals, entered Friday's free-skating final tied on 1.6 points with the reigning and world champions, Russians Maya Yusova and Alexander Zhulin.

The Britons, 36 and 35 respectively, seemed set for second place after they and Yusova and Zhulin, their main rivals, had finished their free dances. The Russians were judged first by five of the nine judges, the Britons by the other four. On that narrow vote, the decision seemed set. But it is not as easy as that in ice dancing.

Enter Oksana Gritschuk and Yevgeny Platov, the Russians lying third but with no chance of the overall title. Their Rock-and-Roll number was superb and with it they clearly won the free-dance portion of the competition.

At that point, the previous 5-4 result between the holders and the Britons became irrelevant. With Gritschuk and Platov winning the section, the number of second-place votes became crucial, with Yusova and Zhulin's two previous first-place votes now regarded as second places.

Torvill and Dean had six second place results to five for Yusova and Zhulin, making them second in the section to third for Yusova and Zhulin.

Factoring that result and adding it to the factored results of the previous compulsory and original dances gave Torvill and Dean the gold medal.

"You need algebra to figure this one out," gallant loser Zhulin said later.

The final score showed Torvill and Dean with 3.6 points, Gritschuk and Platov with 3.8 and Yusova and Zhulin with 4.6.

Yusova and Zhulin had performed a slick, compelling routine based on the Federico Fellini movie "La Strada." Their scores were good, 5.7s and 5.8s for technical merit and seven 5.9s for artistry.

Torvill and Dean countered with their "Let's Face the Music and Dance" number from the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers era. Full of clever moves that showed the full range of their technical virtuosity, the performance drew a rousing reception from the crowd. The scores were almost identical, Torvill and Dean also getting seven 5.9s for artistry.

But overall, the Russians were preferred technically.

Torvill and Dean confessed to disappointment over their technical marks for what Dean has always called a "back-to-the ballroom" approach.

"The noises from the ISU were that the free dance should be very much a dance, very technical bordering on conservatism," he said.

"We are disappointed at the technical marks. We feel a lot of integrity went into that program and the way it was constructed."There were no gimmicks, it was all based on technique."

Asked if they felt a little betrayed by the ISU, Dean replied, "No. But we will make some changes before next month's Olympics in Norway, maybe even a few tricks. The program is always evolving."