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Malinina wins women's title; Berezhnaya, Sikharulidze take pairs
Posted: Saturday December 05, 1998 03:30 PM
SAPPORO, Japan (AP) -- Tatyana Malinina of Uzbekistan took the women's title, her first international victory ever, at the NHK Trophy figure skating competition Saturday.
Also sharing victories were world champions Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia, who won the pairs event, and ice dancing winners Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France.
The men's singles competition ends with Sunday's free skating. NHK Trophy is the sixth and last event in the International Skating Union's Grand Prix series. Under a points-scoring system, the series lead to the Grand Prix Final, this time in Russia in March, two weeks before the world championships in Finland.
"I didn't expect to win," said the 25-year-old Malinina, whose best finish in four previous tries at NHK Trophy was seventh place last year.
"I thought my performance today was perfect, but I wouldn't rate it 100 percent because I'm hoping to do better and better," said a jubilant Malinina. "I haven't done anything different this year."
She placed a distant eighth in the Olympics in February but it gave her confidence and motivation to continue skating, she added.
Malinina took the advantage of error-prone skating in the more important free program by overnight leader Elena Liashenko of Ukraine and Russian Irina Slutskaya, and vaulted ahead into the lead and the victory.
Slutskaya, who was second overnight, won the silver medal, while Fumie Sugiri of Japan edged Liasenko for the bronze.
Malinina, skating right after Slutskaya and Liashenko, started with a beautiful combination of jumps and went on to do more jumps, spins and spirals cleanly and with sureness.
In the pairs event, Olympic silver medalists Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze held their lead to win the gold. After having already qualified for the Grand Prix Final with two previous Grand Prix victories, NHK Trophy was a non-points competition for them.
"As world champions, we're always under pressure to skate well and perform well each time we're competing. But we're done a good job," said Sikharulidze. Berezhnaya nodded in agreement.
Sikharulidze said he feels confident enough to win even if Olympic gold medalists Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitriev, also of Russia, would have competed in the world championships and again at the NHK Trophy.
"Yes, I'm sure we could have won anyway," he said.
Chinese pair Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo overcame a shaky landing on the throw jump at the start to place second. When they did another throw jump in a four-minute performance, Zhao made it look as easy as throwing a ball.
With the silver medal, the Chinese pair qualified for the Grand Prix Final.
Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, with an error-free performance, moved from fourth to third past the American sister and brother pair of Danielle and Steve Hartsell, the world junior champions in 1996.
In ice dancing, Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France - second in the world championships and Olympic bronze medalists - won the gold, receiving scores ranging from 5.6 and 5.8 of a possible 6.0 for technical merit and 5.8 and 5.9 for presentation.
Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia edged Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas of Lithuania for second place.
"We worked hard for better results and we also tried something new" to improve technical elements as well as artistic presentation, said Anisina, a former Russian who has skated in Paris for five years.
'Some people told us last year that our program was full of emotion but lacked techniques," said Peizerat.
"So, we changed a lot with the point in mind ... It's a lot faster now and has a lot more difficult moves. So I think we have a chance to win the world title."
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