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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 04:26 GMT

Glory for French pair

By BBC Sport Online's James Cowling

Skating first in the final group of skaters, Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France captured the gold medal by winning the free dance in a 5-4 decision over Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia.

The French team displaced their usual dramatic flair in their free dance based on the Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech.

They were very confident and smooth in their performance with each move flowing into the next.

Their programme included their crowd pleasing trademark reverse lift where Anissina lifts him off the ice.

They received 5.7s and 5.8s right across the board for technical merit and 5.8s and six 5.9s for presentation.

The Russians rose to the challenge by skating an equally dramatic routine, but they had to settle for the silver medal.

Their routine included dynamic lifts and two huge single axel jumps performed by Averbukh.

World champions Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio of Italy held off the Canadian team of Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz to win the bronze medal despite a fall.

Margaglio tripped on the required straight line footwork sequence which is an automatic deduction of at least two-tenths of a point.

The Canadians also had a fall right at the end of their performance which saw a medal slide through their fingertips.

Vast improvement

Marika Humphreys and Vitaliy Baranov of Britain had a slight bobble during a twizzle in their free dance, but their strong and original lifts brought cheers from the crowd.

The couple from Deeside, Wales, moved up one place to finish 15th overall.

Despite the continuing judging controversy that has surrounded these Olympics, the quality of skating of all the top couples has dramatically improved over the last few years.

Many of the ice dancers performed their free dances without a visible error.

With three of the figure skating competitions over, the premier event, the ladies, starts on Tuesday night with the short programme.

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