Savchenko, Szolkowy win Euro pairs title
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy won the pairs title at the European figure skating championships Thursday in Bern, Switzerland, ending their two-year wait for another gold medal.
The Olympic bronze medallists from Germany scored a total of 206.20 points after a free skate routine to the Pink Panther theme, during which Savchenko came out early from a spin move.
Defending champions Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia scored well with a more subtle program set to piano music by Debussy, but were edged by less than three points.
"It's been the longest five minutes of my life," Szolkowy said, after watching Kavaguti and Smirnov fall just short in an impressive display.
Another Russian pair, Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov, earned bronze for their first major medal.
Savchenko and Szolkowy swept the world and European titles in 2008 and '09 but went through the Olympic season without taking gold at a major championship. They led after the short program on Wednesday.
Savchenko said she was surprised at her big mistake halfway through the routine.
"You have two minutes more to go and you have to concentrate," she said in a rinkside interview before the medal ceremony.
Amodio leads men's event
Earlier, Florent Amodio shone on his Europeans debut to lead after the men's short program.
The Frenchman scored 78.11 points for an artistic routine set to music from the film Once Upon a Time in Mexico.
"I'm very satisfied with my performance. But I won't get carried away and I need to stay focused," said Amodio, who landed a clean triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination.
Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic was second on 76.13 after missing the Grand Prix season to recover from abdominal surgery.
"I really just want to show that I got back into the mood I was in last year," Brezina said.
Russian teenager Artur Gachinski sat third on 73.76. He landed a quad toe loop-double toe loop early in a routine set to music from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album.
Gachinski showed glimpses of why he's seen by many, at 17, as an eventual successor to 2006 Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko. Both are coached in St. Petersburg by Alexei Mishin.
The three leaders represent a potential youthful takeover of the podium.
Amodio said he anticipated a "good battle" on Saturday with more experienced rivals such as Kevin van der Perren of Belgium, who was fourth, and 2008 European champion Tomas Verner in fifth.
Three-time champion Brian Joubert of France placed seventh, and has eight points to make up in Saturday's free skate.
Joubert, seeking a European medal for the 10th straight year, bloodied his left palm on the ice when failing to land a triple Lutz. He skated to the same music as Amodio, his hotel roommate this week.
The championships continue on Friday with the women's opening short program and the ice dancers' free dance to decide the medals.