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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Slutskaya Leaps Past Kwan to Take Title




LYON, France -- Irina Slutskaya and Yevgeny Plushchenko have given warning that Russia will again be hard to beat in the world championships after outclassing their North American rivals at the figure skating Grand Prix final.


Russian champion Plushchenko was awarded five marks of 6.0 for his flawless performance in his head-to-head "super final" against a resurrected Elvis Stojko on Saturday.


Some fans were not convinced by the judges' unanimous decision to declare Plushchenko the winner, hoping for the veteran Canadian to make a brilliant return to form after injuries forced him off the world championship podium last year.


But in the absence of double world champion Alexei Yagudin with a slight Achilles tendon injury, Plushchenko did not miss his chance.


In the women's event, Slutskaya risked all in a bold head-to-head with American Michelle Kwan.


The 1998 European champion, who had considered retiring after a disastrous 1999 season, obtained a perfect mark of 6.0 following a triple lutz and triple loop combination, a first in women's figure skating.


"I never thought I could get a 6.0 mark. And I had two successful triple combinations. It's extraordinary," she said.


The Russian was trailing Kwan after the short program but gave it all she had in the afternoon's "super final."


The first Russian to become women's European champion in 1996, she had struggled for most last season, in which she saw compatriot Maria Butyrskaya win the world championship.


"I was dropped from the Russian team, and as soon as I spent five minutes on the ice, I would cry," she said.


Kwan, in the lead after the short program, had another immaculate performance in the afternoon, but she was not as bold as her rival and was perhaps a little tired from her morning efforts.


For the first time this season, the Grand Prix final ends on a series of "super finals," head-to-heads between the first and second-placed skaters or couples after the short program.


"It's hard to have to perform a short program and a free program on the same day," Kwan said.


"I was fine, but I'm very impressed by Slutskaya's performance. Usually, I don't watch other skaters but this time I did, and what she did was unbelievable," she said.


Slutskaya also achieved a triple salchow and triple loop combination in her second program.


She has conquered the hearts of the French crowds, giving her a boost for the world championships, which take place in Nice, France, in March.


But the real stars of the world championships should be Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, who won the ice dance in front of their home crowd.


The French pair will again be favorites in Nice in the absence of Russians Anjelika Krilova and Oleg Ovisanikhov, who will miss the whole season as Krilova is to have a back operation shortly.