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Saturday, 24 March, 2001, 03:51 GMT
Italians win first skating gold
Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio of Italy in action
The Italians beat off their French rivals
BBC Sport's James Cowling reports from the World Figure Skating Championships in Vancouver.

Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio of Italy captured the gold medal in the ice dance competition on Friday.

It's the first gold medal ever for Italy at the World Championships in any discipline.

A delighted Fusar-Poli said: "It's like a dream. We are the world champions."

Her comments were reiterated by Margaglio, who said: "We did the best job all year long."

They beat their closest rivals and the defending champions Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France.

The Italians have now gone undefeated since last year's Worlds.

They skated to a fast moving programme to music from the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack and were awarded marks up to 5.9 for both technique and presentation.

Anissina and Peizerat came in second place, redeeming themselves from a fall they had at the end of their free dance at the European Championships in January.

Marika Humphreys and Vitaliy Baranov of Great Briain
Marika Humphreys and Vitaliy Baranov did well
Rounding out the top three were Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia.

Britain's Marika Humphreys and Vitaliy Baranov finished an impressive 16th in their first showing at a World Championship.

While they earned the country a berth at the Olympics next year in Salt Lake City by International Skating Union rules, they missed the British Olympic Association's criteria by one place.

They lost to the Hugentobler's of Switzerland by the slimmest of margins in a five to four decision by the judges.

However, the door is still open for them if they beat higher-ranking couples in competitions at the beginning of next season.

Once again though, the judging of the entire event will come under scrutiny as the top eighteen couples did not change position after the original dance.

Ice dancing is always criticised for its predictability and this result will no doubt add fuel to the fire.

Earlier, the ladies took to the ice for the short program me - and they were awesome.

It was one of the best ladies' short programmes in recent memory.

There were no falls and only a couple of minor errors in the top twelve skaters - usually a rarity in the ladies event.

Irina Slutskaya of Russia continued her domination of the sport this season by taking victory.

But before winning, she had to endure the music stopping at the beginning of her programme.

I was a little off on one jump, but I was able to keep my nerves down and stay solid
  Michelle Kwan

The 22-year-old from Moscow said: "When the music suddenly stopped, I was shocked of course. This happened the first time to me."

The referee allowed her to restart and she went on to open with the most difficult jump combinations of the event, a triple lutz, double loop.

The two-times world silver medallist also landed a triple flip jump and the required double axel in her two-and-a-half minute programme.

The judges award her marks all the way up to 5.9 out of a possible 6.0.

Defending champion Michelle Kwan also put in a strong showing landing a triple lutz, double toe combination as well as a triple flip and a double axel.

The American said: "I was a little off on one jump, but I was able to keep my nerves down and stay solid."

American Angelo Nikodinov ended up in third place.

Her music also stopped at the beginning of her programme and she also had to re-group but she said it did not bother her.

The ladies free takes place Saturday afternoon.

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