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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Figure Skating Tryouts to Start

The national title and a place on the Olympic team will be up for grabs when the Russian figure skating championship starts Thursday at Sokolniki Ice Palace.

The importance of the competition, which is also an Olympic qualifier, will guarantee a tight battle as the country's top skaters battle to represent Russia in Nagano.

One exception was made for world and Olympic ice dancing champions Oksana Grishchyuk and Yevgeny Platov. The couple, who live and train near the University of Delaware in the United States, have won every competition since 1994 and are guaranteed a spot on Russia's Olympic team.

Olympic gold medalist Alexei Urmanov was not so lucky. The St. Petersburg native, who has missed most of the year with a groin injury, will compete for the first time this season and is expected to face a tough challenge from several of his countrymen, including Russian men's champion Ilya Kulik.

In the womens competition, reigning European champion Irina Slutskaya is a heavy favorite to walk away with yet another title, while in the pairs competition there are four and maybe more couples competing for the gold.