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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Malinina Pulls Upset on St. Pete Ice




ST. PETERSBURG -- Tatyana Malinina scored a surprise win in the ISU Grand Prix Finals but played down her chances of beating title holder Michelle Kwan for the World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki later this month.


Uzbekistan's Malinina, a late developer at 26, upset the form-book by beating Russians Maria Butyrskaya and Irina Slutskaya, current and past European champions, over the weekend.


It was her third win in a row after victories in the inaugural Four Continents competition in Canada and the Winter Asian Games in South Korea.


But the U.S.-based Malinina herself does not think she is ready to challenge American Kwan.


"I can almost match her on technical merit but not artistically, not yet anyway," said Malinina, an ethnic Russian born in Siberia.


The Grand Prix Finals, the last major test before the World championships, did not turn the way the hosts had hoped.


The powerful Russians, who swept all four titles at the European championships in Prague in January, were expected to dominate on home ice. But they came away with only two victories, one on a split decision.


In ice dancing, World and European champions Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsyannikov of Russia only just beat World and European silver medalists Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France by a 4-3 margin.


Krylova and Ovsyannikov have not been beaten since they finished second at the 1998 Nagano Olympics behind Pasha Grishuk and Yevgeny Platov, who have since left the amateur ranks, but they are feeling the pressure from the French couple.


In the pairs, once-dominant World champions Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze were beaten by Xue Shen and Zhao Hongbo of China.


The Russians were forced to withdraw from the European championships after leading the short program because Berezhnaya was suffering from bronchitis and high fever.


St. Petersburg was a nightmare for Berezhnaya. She missed three required elements in Friday's short program and fell twice Saturday.


But Russia can still count on its men.


Reigning World and European champion Alexei Yagudin, competing in his hometown, established himself as clear the favorite for Helsinki with a near flawless performance in front of a capacity crowd of 12,000.


Yagudin, 19, landed seven triple jumps and one quad to beat fellow Russians Alexei Urmanov, the 1994 Olympic champion, and Yevgeny Plushenko, who faltered in his free skating program, into second and third places.