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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Butyrskaya Upset at Nationals




Maria Butyrskaya's reign as Russia's figure skating queen has come to an end after the five-year champion put in a shaky performance at the Russian Figure Skating Championships over the weekend.


The reigning world and European champion was ousted by Irina Slutskaya just days following what Butyrskaya called an "unfortunate incident" in which her brand-new BMW 528 was destroyed in a fire bomb attack Thursday.


In the men's event Friday, Yevgeny Plyushchenko retained his Russian title over world and European champion Alexei Yagudin. The bombing of Butyrskaya's car took place just after Butyrskaya left an early evening practice session at Sokoloniki Sports Palace, where the nationals took place.


"I drove home from practice on Thursday evening, locked the car and went into my apartment," Reuters quoted Butyrskaya as saying Friday. "Neighbors told me they saw two men running away from the car and then they heard an explosion."


The assailants, who were described as between 16 and 18 years old, smashed the windows out of the car before tossing an incendiary device into the cabin of the vehicle, which was parked at the Izmailovo Hotel, where Butyrskaya resides. Within five minutes the car was almost completely destroyed, Itar-Tass quoted the world champion as saying.


The Associated Press reported that Butyrskaya believes the explosion, which is still under investigation, was a warning, "but I don't know as a warning of what."


Despite the loss of her car, and her rank as Russia's champion, Butyrskaya was upbeat Saturday.


"If they want to take me out of the competition, they shouldn't have bombed my car, but hit me on the head or legs," Itar-Tass quoted Butyrskaya as saying. "In the case that it was someone who hates me, the car was insured and with the money from the insurance money I will buy an even better model out of spite for the enemy."


Earlier Slutskaya, 20, had landed five triple jumps including a clean triple-double combination to take the title.


Butyrskaya, 27, placed second and was followed by Viktoria Volchkova in third.


Russia's talent pool in women's skating is so deep this year that Yulia Soldatova, the world championships' bronze medalist, only managed a fourth-place showing in the event.


Slutskaya tumbled once and Butyrskaya went down twice but Slutskaya prevailed to take the title just one year after failing to make the Russian world team.


"I've started from scratch this year. I'm a new person," said Slutskaya, whose marks were 5.8s and 5.9s for technique and presentation.


Saturday's result was a disappointment for Butyrskaya, who was in first place after Friday's short program.


"I can't be happy with my performance tonight, but it could be a blessing in disguise because I always do a much better job after a poor skate," she said.


That was the case last year, when she rebounded from a second-place finish to Uzbekistan's Tatiana Malinina at the Grand Prix Final in St. Petersburg to win the world championships less than a month later in Helsinki.


In ice dancing, European bronze medalists Irina Lobachyova and Ilya Averbukh won their first Russian title over their training partners Anna Semenovich and Roman Kostomarov while Oksana Potykova and Denis Petukhov finished third.


Double world champions Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsyannikov had to pull out of the competition due to Krylova's back injury.


The competition marked the season's first head-to-head battle between Yagudin and Plushchenko.


Plushchenko opened with a quad-triple-double combination and then went on to land six more triple jumps in the action-packed free program Friday


Yagudin, the next to skate, tried to match his former understudy with his own combination of difficult jumps but missed his first quad attempt and had to settle for second. European bronze medalist Alexander Abt came in a distant third.


"This wasn't my best performance this season but it was close," Plushchenko said.


Double world champions Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze rebounded from a poor showing Thursday to win the pairs competition with an inspired free program.


Reigning European champions Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov finished second while another St. Petersburg couple, Tatyana Totmyanina and Maxim Marinin, who were ahead after Thursday's short program, ended up third.