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Khokhlova-Novitski win maiden crown

RUSSIANS Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski clinched their maiden international title by winning the European championship ice dance in Helsinki, Finland, on Friday.

The pair, the last act in the free skate section, produced a technically daring performance to Niccolo Paganini's "Caprice 24" to score 97.31 points for a total of 196.91.

That was more than 10 points ahead of Italians Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali (186.17).

"We put all our emotions out there on the ice," Khokhlova told reporters. "It was just amazing to perform today in front of this supportive audience.

"This gold medal is only the beginning...but it was a big step for us."

Khokhlova and Novitski dominated the competition in the absence of world champions Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France and last year's European champions Oxana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia.

Khokhlova and Novitski, bronze medalists last year in the European and world championships, top-scored in all three dances during the event.

"We haven't skated last that often, usually we skate first, so it was an experience for us," said Novitski. "It was hard to wait until all our main rivals had skated...but I think we dealt with it well."

Siblings Sinead and John Kerr (185.20 points) grabbed the bronze to win Britain's first figure skating medal in 15 years, since Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won the 1994 Euros.

Earlier, double champion Carolina Kostner put in a below-par performance in the women's short program, scoring 51.36 points to claim third place after a routine containing several errors.

The Italian trails Finnish duo Laura Lepisto (56.62) and Susanna Poykio (56.06) going into yesterday's free skate.

Kostner was favored to make it three Euro titles in a row, something that hasn't been done since France's Surya Bonaly won five straight from 1991-95. Not only has she had a strong season but main rival Sarah Meier wasn't here.


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