By Steve Keating
LONDON, Ontario (Reuters) - Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov took the pairs gold at the world figure skating championships on Friday, putting Russia back on top of an event they once dominated.
The timing of their triumph could not have been better as Volosozhar and Trankov signaled they will be contenders on home ice at next year's Sochi Olympics with an elegant and daring free skate that earned them a runaway 20-point victory with a world record total of 225.71 that restored Russian honor.
"It means we can fight for the gold in Sochi and give back to Russia Olympic gold," said Trankov, when asked what the win meant. "For sure it is very important to win the year before the Olympic Games and we are absolutely happy to get this gold."
Russians won 12 consecutive Olympic pairs golds from 1964 through 2006 but were shut out of the medals at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
They also dominated the world championships from 1965 to 1990, failing to win gold only three times but have not seen a Russian pair on top of the podium since Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin in 2005.
"For me this is important because I love to be a pairs skater," said Trankov, after claiming Russia's first gold medal in the event in eight years.
"I am old school Russian figure skating and for me it is most important to give it back because I love to watch traditional pairs skating."
Volosozhar and Trankov ended the two-year world championship reign of Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, who sat third after Wednesday's short skate and moved up to claim the silver on 205.56.
Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford gave the home crowd a reason to cheer by securing their first world championship medal, taking bronze with 204.56 ahead of team mates Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch.
There was shock among the partisan Canadian crowd that the Germans were even on the podium after a sloppy free skate that seemed to have dropped them from medal contention.
The four-time world champions performing to a saucy Flamenco "Bolero" were often out of synch, Szolkowy hitting the ice on a missed triple Salchow and Savchenko doubling both jumps in their combination.
When the Germans' marks flashed onto the scoreboard putting them ahead of the Canadian pair, the crowd broke into loud jeers although Duhamel and Radford said they were satisfied with their bronze.
"This bronze medal is golden to us, I don't think we feel anything but joy and for Canada to finish third and fourth it means we have qualified a third team to compete next year at the Olympics and that is very important," said Duhamel.
There was no questioning the quality of the superb free skate delivered by Volosozhar and Trankov that also earned them a record mark of 149.87.
The Russian couple wowed the crowd with their daring lifts and massive throws all elegantly executed to the haunting background music of Ikuko Kawai's "Violin Muse".
"We just won this competition but next year there will be other competitions, another Europeans, another Grand Prix and it will be another situation," said Trankov. "They (Savchenko and Szolkowy) are four-time world champions, they know how to fight."
(Editing by Frank Pingue and Larry Fine)