BUDAPEST - Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte won ice dancing gold in a dramatic finale at the European figure skating championships in Budapest on Thursday. The pair held their lead from the short dance to take their first major title after the free dance final by just 1.10 points ahead of Russia's Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, who were deducted one point for a fall.
"It doesn't get any better than this," said Cappellini, 26, competing in a seventh Europeans. "We just want to go to Sochi now and skate as well in our second Olympics." Britain's Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland took bronze. Ilinykh fell towards the end of their Swan Lake dance, allowing the Italians, who had led by just 0.04 points after the short dance, to take gold for their skate to Rossini's Barber of Seville.
"The fall was unexpected for me, but I tried not to think about it because we had two more elements, I tried to keep it together and we succeeded as best as possible," said Ilinykh. "The Olympics will be held in our own country so it will be a big motivation for us," she added. "It was good that we came here and were able to skate our programmes." Bronze medallists last year, the winners become the second Italian ice dancers to claim the European title after Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio in 2001.
They scored 171.61 points overall with the Russians, who won silver in Zagreb last year, achieving 170.51 and the British 158.69 for their crowd-pleasing Michael Jackson compilation. "We love Michael Jackson and wanted to go to Sochi with something we knew the audience would like," explained Buckland. "We knew that a lot of teams would be going for classical music to connect with the Russian audience, but most people like Michael Jackson too."
It was the first medal for the British who were just 16th at Europeans four years ago. "I feel very proud to be sitting here with a bronze medal, very pleased to have come all this way," said Buckland. Defending champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Russia skipped the event along with two-time winners Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France. Earlier, Spaniard Javier Fernandez scored a personal best in the short programme to keep his men's title defence on track.
The 22-year-old outshone his rivals to open up a 6.05-point lead on Russian Sergei Voronov with Czech Tomas Verner in third going into Saturday's free skating final. Russian teenagers Adelina Sotnikova and Julia Lipnitskaia are 1-2 going into Friday's women's free skating final with five-time winner Carolina Kostner of Italy in third. In pairs, Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, four-time world champions and Olympic bronze medallists, will continue their duel with reigning world and European champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia starting on Friday.