Russians keep hold on gold

Gutsy. Outstanding. Lovely. Dangerous.

From sublime skating to focused bravery and daring, figure skating fans saw a spectacular and elegant show last night at the Palavela arena.

The Russians won the Olympic pairs title again -- they have been golden every year since the discipline has been contested, beginning in 1964 -- after a technically sound and stylish free skate.

Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin, who haven't lost a competition all season, were joined on the podium by two Chinese teams.

"I have no words to express how great it is to be an Olympic champion," Marinin said.

In the night's most dramatic moment, silver medallist Dan Zhang of China slammed her knee against the ice when she fell on a throw quadruple salchow. It was an all-out attempt to overtake the Russians. Dan lost her edge and came down hard on her left knee.

After some discussion at the side with her coach and a tissue to the eye, she continued.

"I thought, 'This is the end,' " Dan said afterward.

Her partner, Hao Zhang, said Dan Zhang challenged "the extreme power of the human being" to go on.

But Marinin said attempting a throw quad, which has never been landed is international competition, is folly.

"It's extremely dangerous. I think (Dan's) lucky . . . it could have been worse."

The Chinese pair Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao won bronze, as they did in 2002.

Canadians Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison, in their first senior season, finished 10th with 159.71 points, one spot ahead of Canadian champs Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin.

"We attained all of our goals," said Davison, of Cambridge.

He and Dube, a native of Drummondville, Que., might have finished even higher, except for a flubbed lift.

"We never miss that lift," Davison said. "My hand just slid off her hip on the way up."

Marcoux and Buntin, who both now live in St.-Leonard, Que., made several mistakes during their program, including Marcoux's fall on the throw triple salchow. Judges gave them 158.21

Marcoux was in tears while talking to journalists. "I really don't know what happened."

The Russians had the best score this season with 204.48. Zhang and Zhang received 189.48 and Shen and Zhao were given 186.91.

Totmianina and Marinin skated to the theme from Romeo and Juliet -- and Totmianina had such awful pain in her stomach she might have felt like she had ingested poison. She's plagued with inflammation of the intestine, which she controls somewhat through diet.