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Unbeatable Russians take gold in ice dance

Pasha Grishuk and Yevgeny Platov soared above the storm of judging complaints and conspiracy claims, becoming the first couple ever to repeat as Olympic ice dance champions.

Naturally for this contentious, highly subjective sport, there were cries of injustice, particularly by the Canadians after Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz wound up fourth tonight."I always thought Torvill and Dean, they did so much for our sport," said Natalia Dubova, the Russian who coaches the Canadian couple. "I always ask myself what Grishuk and Platov have done. For me, they don't bring the sport up."

But they must do something right to have won 22 straight events, unimaginable even in ice dancing. They did so much right in the free dance, worth 50 percent of the total score, that the French and Italian judges awarded them 6.0s for presentation.

"It was our dream to win this gold and, of course, to make history, so we made it and it is fabulous," Grishuk said. "I don't know what could be better."

The winning pair's marks were deserved. Performing to "Memorial Requiem," their speed and power was unmatchable. Grishuk, wearing a huge silver cross on the front of her blue dress - along with purple skates and blue fingernails - covered her face at the end and cried as the couple took their bows.

In winning all three phases of the competition, Grishuk and Platov edged countrymen Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsyannikov, who settled for the silver medal. Third place went to France's Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat.

"I don't know what to say," Krylova said. "Oksana and Yevgeny were skating and we did not see them in action. The public liked us better. I think we had a better program overall."

The 1-2 finish for Russia gave that nation all three golds awarded at Nagano so far in figure skating, and five medals overall in the sport. Russia did the same thing in '94, with the most controversial decision placing Grishuk and Platov ahead of 1984 champions Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, the only non-Russians to win an Olympic ice dance.

Five-time American champions Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow were seventh, as they were throughout the compulsories and original dance. It was the United States' best Olympic showing in ice dancing since 1988.

The Americans' Argentine tango was torrid, punctuated by a series of innovative lifts, including several where he spun her around his back.

They hugged tightly when they were done and received a warm ovation from the normally uninvolved crowd.