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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Partnership Pays For Russian Pairs King

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Russia's Artur Dmitriyev, a former world and Olympic champion, has become a European pairs champion again in Bulgaria with a new partner, Oksana Kazakova, at the European Figure Skating Championships.

Dmitriyev won his first of two European title in 1991 in Sofia with Natasha Mishkutiyenok. Now he has returned to Sofia with Kazakova and won again.

Defending champions Mandy W?tzel and Ingo Steuer of Germany, who led after the short program, were second Wednesday.

Third were the French pair, Sarah Abitol and Stephane Bernadis, the best French placement in that event since 1932.

Dmitriyev won the 1992 Olympic and 1991 and 1992 world titles with Mishkutiyenok. But she wanted to stop skating to marry another and raise a family.

Dmitriyev said he can't compare the titles between now and the last time he won at the 1992 worlds.

"It was such a long time ago," Dmitriyev said, "I just start feeling different in skating."

After some searching, Dmitriyev teamed with Kazakova early last year. The new pair had slowly been gaining confidence and experience and showed it Wednesday night.

"I am not replacing Natasha. I am just different than her," Kazakova said. "And I think that Artur has changed his style of skating by being with me."

Dmitriyev and Kazakova skated to music from Verdi's "La Traviata" with grace and unusual spins and spirals.

That gave them marks ranging up to 5.8s and 5.9s for artistic impression which was enough to upset the Germans. W?tzel fell on a throw triple toe loop which proved costly.

"We know we could have done much better tonight than we did," Steuer said.

Abitol and Bernadis from Paris had the third-best program of the night to music from the "Untouchables."

Only two-time Olympic champions Andree and Pierre Brunet ever won a medal for the French in pairs in the European championships when they won in 1932.

"We didn't expect to do so well," Bernadis said. "And I am hoping to repeat it in the world championships."

The world championships are scheduled to be held in Edmonton, Canada, March 17 to 24.

The French vaulted from fifth over two Russian couples to gain the medal.

Marina Yeltsova and Andrey Bushkov and Maria Petrova and Andton Sikhardlidze both faded near the end of their routines and were fourth and final overall.