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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Couples Face Off on the Ice

HAMAR, Norway -- Forget Calgary and Albertville. The Olympic pairs champions from 1988 and 1992 are back, better than ever.

In a clash of Russian couples with gold medal pedigrees, 1988 winners Yekaterina Gordeyeva and Sergei Grinkov won the technical program Sunday, edging Natalya Mishkutienok and Artur Dmitriyev and soaring past a strong field.

Gordeyeva-Grinkov, back from the pro ranks and now married, lit up the ice with a Spanish-style program. With a flash of a smile and a provocative swish of her black petticoat, Gordeyeva showed how much confidence she'd gained since winning the gold, marrying and having a child.

Their performance earned them five marks of 5.9 out of 6.0 for artistic impression. The technical marks ranged from 5.6 to 5.8, placing them first with six of the nine judges.

The technical program counts for one-third of the total score.

Gordeyeva and her partner weren't perfect. Grinkov was out of synch on side-by-side camel spins. But their radiance made Gordeyeva-Grinkov, skating fifth, the pair to beat, both Sunday and in Tuesday's free skate.

"It's the epitome of what pairs skating should be," said coach John Nicks. "The ability of a 175-pound (78-kilogram) man to move over the ice without a sound, it's the ability to make difficult moves look easy."

Where Gordeyeva-Grinkov skated with easy grace, Mishkutienok-Dmitriyev did the tricks they had in 1992 with more precision and power.

The double axel that Mishkutienok struggled with in practice was solid, their spiral was exceptional and a lift with a backward flip was daring. Those elements, two of eight required in the program, drew first places from the Australian and German judges and applause from Gordeyeva, sitting with her husband.

In third place were world champions Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler of Canada. Skating to gypsy music, they earned one first-place -- from the Canadian judge -- through a strong split double twist and lift.

The 1992 bronze winners, who fell in the technical program at Albertville, were hopeful about this year.

However, Eisler was less than pleased with his draw in the free skate, kicking the wall and cursing. He and Brasseur skate first in the last group, so will not know what scores they will have to beat.