Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov won their third straight European pairs figure skating title, but their performance was far from golden.
Both Russians fell during their “Jesus Christ Superstar” program (video here) in Budapest, Hungary, on Sunday. They totaled 220.38 points to win by 12.4 over Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov in a Russia medal sweep.
But Volosozhar and Trankov, the world champions, were outscored in the free skate by Stolbova and Klimov and benefited from the withdrawal of their biggest competition come Sochi.
Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy pulled out before the free skate, reportedly due to Savchenko’s illness on her 30th birthday.
Savchenko and Szolkowy are the only pair to have beaten Volosozhar and Trankov in top-flight competition. They last did so at the Grand Prix Final in December, handing the Russians their first loss in more than one year.
They would have done so again in Budapest had they skated Sunday and came within four points of their Grand Prix Final free skate score.
Trankov stepped out of a side-by-side triple Salchow and fell on a triple jump. Volosozhar hit the ice on a throw triple Salchow.
Volosozhar and Trankov broke short- and long-program score records at the beginning of the season but are no longer an iron-clad gold-medal favorite.
They’re hoping to restore Russia’s pairs dominance in Sochi. The Soviet Union, Unified Team and Russia won Olympic pairs gold at every Games from 1964 through 2006. No Russian pair made the podium in 2010.