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Volosozhar and Trankov retain pairs title at European championships, lead Russian podium sweep

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BUDAPEST, Hungary - Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov retained their title in the pairs event despite a series of errors as the European figure skating championships concluded on Sunday.

Volosozhar and Trankov, skating to music from "Jesus Christ Superstar," led Russia's podium sweep and won despite a performance that saw both of them fall. The Russian duo had built a large lead ahead of Sunday's finale, following a season-best score in Friday's short program. Volosozhar apologized, promising that "Next time we will try to do better."

The next time will be at February's Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Trankov agreed with his partner. "I hope at the Olympics we will skate like we did at the beginning of the season," Trankov said.

Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov skated without mistakes and surged from fourth after the short program to claim silver ahead of Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov.

The respective point totals for the three medallists were 220.38, 207.98 and 201.61.

Volosozhar and Trankov had only the second-highest score behind Stolbova and Klimov in the free skate but were awarded top marks for elements including lifts, spins and steps and got the gold despite the falls and under-rotated jumps.

"In our team nobody understands what has happened. We skated amazing in the practices and in the short program," said Trankov, who fell twice. "We were not able to cope with our program today and I didn't do my job. All the mistakes were my mistakes.

"It is a question for our coaches how we will prepare during the next three weeks before the Olympics," Trankov concluded.

Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, the four-time world champions who were second after the short program, withdrew as Savchenko aggravated a respiratory tract infection she brought with her to the event.

"Our team doctor said if she is pushing through she might be sick for 10 days," coach Ingo Steuer said. "The second half of the free skating is tough and the risk of injury too high."

In the other events at the championships, Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia became the youngest winner of the ladies' event with a poignant performance to John Williams' score to "Schindler's List" in her free skate. Just 15 years old, she was spectacular on her jumps and spins. Another Russian, Adelina Sotnikova, was second, repeating her 2013 result. Italian Carolina Kostner, the defending champion, finished third.

Javier Fernandez of Spain successfully retained his title in the men's event and boosted his chances for a medal at Sochi. Though his program was not flawless, the mistakes, mainly on jumps, did not break the flow of his routine.

Still, the biggest talking point in the men's field was which Russian skater will be named to the only men's slot available in Sochi for the host country.

Two Russians flanked Fernandez on the podium — Sergei Voronov was second and Konstantin Menshov third.

Current Russian national champion Maxim Kovtun was fifth, another disappointing skate at an international event after placing 17th at the last world championships.

Evgeny Plushenko, the 2006 Olympic champ, skipped the Europeans and is scheduled to audition at a closed-door session for Russian skating officials on Tuesday. The federation's choice for Sochi is set to be announced Thursday.

In another twist, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko lauded Voronov while also suggesting Plushenko was still in the running.

"The production Voronov has performed on the ice here was absolutely amazing, it might be decisive in the composition of the Olympic squad," Mutko said late Saturday at the championships. "According to the guidelines of the figure skating federation, for a nomination at the Olympics it is not required either to participate at the preceding Europeans, or to have a result from it."

The ice dance was won by Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, who edged Russians Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov.

The team event opens the figure skating at Sochi on Feb. 6, one day before the opening ceremony.

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