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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Pair Excels In Spectacular Field

HAMAR, Norway -- Pairs figure skating might never have been performed at a higher level in the Winter Olympics than it was in the Olympic Amphitheater, which was one reason it was so hard to decide who deserved to win.

In the first meeting in the Olympics between past champions, eight of the nine judges voted for Yekaterina Gordeyeva and Sergei Grinkov, the 1988 gold medalists, in the freestyle program, while the crowd preferred Natalia Mishkutenok and Artur Dmitriyev, the 1992 gold medalists, rewarding them with a standing ovation.

Because the judges determine the winners, Gordeyeva and Grinkov will take gold medals home to Moscow, or perhaps to Tampa, Florida, where they live when touring in the United States.

It was a superb night for other pairs, especially bronze medalists Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler of Canada, fourth-placed Yevgeniya Shishkova and Vadim Naumov of Russia and fifth-placed Jenni Meno and Todd Sand of the United States.

But they were amateurs compared to the first two Russian pairs -- literally, because Gordeyeva and Grinkov and Mishkutenok and Dmitriyev embarked upon lucrative professional careers after winning their gold medals and before returning to the Olympics to challenge one another.

However, the way Eisler sees it, he and Brasseur won the gold.

"Tonight we are gold medal winners," said Eisler, who with Brasseur won the world title in Prague last year. "If the pros weren't here we were Olympic champions. We've been saying all along that we don't agree with that."

Tamara Moskvina, the rambunctious coach who handles Mishkutenok and Dmitriyev, predicted the outcome after a practice Tuesday.

"I'm friendly with the judges, but I don't think their inclination is toward my couple," she said. "Some pairs get the marks, others get the renown."

With little argument from the rest of the world, Russians usually get both. They dominated pairs skating in the Soviet Union when that country dominated the event, winning eight consecutive Winter Olympic championships between 1964 and 1992.

To find real competition, the Russians have had to look within, splitting into the Moscow and St. Petersburg schools. When Moscow took a 5-4 lead in Olympic gold medals Tuesday night, Moskvina feigned indifference.

"We are from St. Petersburg, the capital of intelligence," she said.

She is smart enough to figure out this could be the end of pairs dominance for the Russians, whose best figure skaters, now that they are freer to choose their disciplines, are deciding -- like the Americans -- to go into higher-profile individual competitions.

Six years, and one infant daughter after they won in 1988 at Calgary, Alberta, Gordeyeva, 22, and Grinkov, 27, have seen the future and decided they are not part of it.

Gordeyeva said the Russians will always be strong, but she added that they will have to look over their shoulders at the Canadians and the Americans. She could be right in the case of Meno and Sand, whose coach, John Nicks, said: "I think this is a pair on the upward rise. They haven't been together that long."

Nicks prefers Gordeyeva and Grinkov, but he believed that the perfect score of 6.0 that the Russian judge gave them for artistic impression was overdoing it. Nicks, however, would not have argued if Mishkutenok and Dmitriyev had won.