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2 Jan, 2010 13:08

Russian pairs gear up for Olympic ice skating competition

A lot is expected from Russian ice skaters at the upcoming Winter Olympics, both in pairs skating and ice dancing. RT takes a closer look at the country's hopefuls – Domnina-Shabalin and Kavaguti-Smirnov duos.

Oksana Domnina and Maksim Shabalin are the current World Champions, last season's European Champions and 2007 Grand Prix Final champions.

Their latest Russian gold may seem like a modest addition to their already abundant trophy cabinet. But it is another step en route to the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

This road has often been rocky, as Maksim Shabalin struggled with a recurring knee injury. At times it got so frustrating that the pair refused to comment on his condition to the press.

Perhaps this was the reason for a hint of rustiness in their program, which did not prevent them from winning their third Russian Championship.

“We are pleased with the way we performed. We did what we set out to do. Unfortunately we made some minor mistakes in our free dance. But we did show our new program and our character. We’re optimistic and now we’ll begin analyzing our performance,” Maksim Shabalin said.

Up next for the Russian ice dancing pair is the European Championship in Estonia. Tallinn will welcome the continent's top figure skaters from the 18th until the 24th of January.

Maksim Shabalin and Oksana Domnina admit that they still have a lot to work on, and their execution needs sharpening.

But their programs are already set and the duet should present an optimized performance before a much tougher competition.

While coach Aleksey Mishin is busy with his star athlete, Evgeny Pluschenko, his former pairs skating partner Tamara Moskvina has her hands full with an unusual duo of her own.

And here they are – Yuko Kavaguti and Aleksey Smirnov, who have been unrivaled in Russia for the last three years and impressed the world circuit as well.

However, an Olympic gold remains the ultimate target for both skaters and it looks to be approaching fast, although not without sacrifices.

Yuko Kavaguti who now holds a Russian passport had to give up her Japanese citizenship in order to achieve her dream.

And she thought it would only be possible under the guidance of famed Russian coach Tamara Moskvina.

Her passion for the sport and undying Olympic spirit are unquestionable. All that is left now is to wow the judges in Vancouver.