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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Germans Take Gold As Rivals Fall Away

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Men's short program preceded pairs free skate competition at the World Figure Skating Championships, which meant Todd Eldredge, Elvis Stojko and Alexei Urmanov went before the fall ... and the fall ... and the fall ... and, well, did anybody inside the Malley Sports Center have the stomach to keep count?


The German pair of Mandy Wotzel and Ingo Steuer fell once and won the gold medal.


The Russian pair of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze skated last with a chance to win everything and fell four times in three minutes, cannon-balling to ninth place.


Only one of the last four pairs stayed on its feet for the full four minutes, but Jenni Meno and Todd Sand did so many other things wrong that they finished out of the medals for the first time in three years, settling for fifth.


Meno and Sand lost the bronze -- and fourth place to American rivals Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen -- when they both singled a side-by-side double axel.


The door for a silver medal or better was open for Meno and Sand, but as their coach, John Nicks, put it, "We didn't make the adjustments we needed to take advantage of the other competitors' performances."


So Wotzel and Steuer wobbled their way to the gold medal, Marina Eltsova and Andrei Bushkov of Russia (one fall) took silver and another Russian team, Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitriev catapulted from sixth to third by staying upright for a full routine.


"I don't know what happened," Ina said. "Maybe everyone was tired. It was a long day. Who knows?"


Coming on the heels of a sterling afternoon performance by Eldredge, Stojko and Co., the pairs' flop-a-thon was like cleansing the palate with liver and onions.


The men's short program was an exercise in one-upmanship, with Eldredge skating what his coach called "the best performance I've ever seen him give'' and daring anyone to beat it.


Several came close, but only Urmanov succeeded. Urmanov, the 1994 Olympic gold medalist, and Eldredge, the reigning world champion, begin Thursday night's long program ranked 1-2, followed closely by Ilia Kulik of Russia and Stojko.


Eldredge might have been the best, flawed only by his early starting time. Eldredge skated third, out of 31 competitors, and the judges artificially blunted his scores, wanting to save room on the scoreboard for potential superlative performances that might come later in the day.


It's a lousy way to do business, but that's figure skating.