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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yagudin Again Skates Away With Gold

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- The scoreboard flashed the results showing he had won and Alexei Yagudin, standing just off the corner of the rink, showed little emotion.

He knew he had won the European men's figure skating title again. He had already showed his feelings on the ice - pumping his fists after he completed a quadruple jump and again when he finished his emotionally charged program.

In a winner-take-all free-skating portion, Yagudin was secure while his Russian teammates and rivals for his title crumbled. Yevgeny Plushenko, who beat him twice earlier this month, and Alexei Urmanov, making a comeback after an injury wiped out his chance to defend his 1997 European title, were second and third, marking another Russian sweep of the men's medals.

Yagudin's victory puts Russia halfway to winning all the titles for the third straight year.

Russia claimed the pairs event Wednesday night when Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov jumped from fifth to first. Three Russian women led the field going into the short program Friday. Maria Butyrskaya, Julia Soldatova and Viktoria Volchkova could make it another Russian 1-2-3 by Saturday.

The Russian ice dance pair, Angelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsyannikov, secured their lead over French couple Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat with an exuberant waltz to music from "La Traviata" sung by Luciano Pavarotti, earning one 6.0 for presentation.

Yagudin wasn't thinking about 6.0s after a disastrous qualifying round Monday. "The problem was inside my head," Yagudin said. "I skated bad and I was afraid to skate bad again."

He clearly felt the pressure of defending the European title. "This is my fourth visit to the Europeans. I was sixth and fifth. On my third time, last year I wanted to win but I was a nobody. And it was a little easier to skate," he said.

"This year, I came in as the 1998 European champion and I needed to keep the title."

He changed his attitude after Wednesday's short program, which vaulted him back into contention.

"After the short program, I felt ready to compete and I felt strong inside," Yagudin said. "After the short program something was growing up inside me."

When the music stopped on the "Lawrence of Arabia" program, and Yagudin had completed his seventh triple jump, there was little doubt that he had won.

"I felt like I was European champion for the second time," Yagudin said. As he left the ice he fell to his knees in tribute to his coach, Tatyana Tarasova, gliding toward her with his arms outstretched.

Plushenko stumbled going into a triple loop and went down on a triple axel. Urmanov faltered even worse, hitting the ice on one jump and cutting down a couple of late triple jumps to doubles when he needed them.

Knowing about Plushenko's error didn't make Yagudin play it safe with his quad. "But I said to myself, in the future I will need the quad, so I will try it," Yagudin said.