Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany won their fourth pairs world title in five years Friday at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Nice, France, despite a soaring performance by Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia.

Savchenko and Szolkowy skated smoothly in the free skate to protect their lead from Wednesday's short program. They again defeated their Russian rivals, winning 201.49 to 201.38 as Volosozhar and Trankov surged from eighth place in the short program to finish with a silver medal. 

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"They skated really well, but we did enough," Szolkowy said. "As they showed, it's never over. Even if you think it's finished you can still make up a lot if you put together a strong fighting program. Today we were lucky."

Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran of Japan took the bronze at 189.69. Tran hails from Regina, and the team trains in Quebec.

Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford finished fifth, and Canadians Jessica Dube and Sebastien Wolfe were 12th.

Duhamel, from Lively, Ont., and Radford, from Balmertown, scored 185.41, their only major mishap coming when Duhamel singled a jump in their combination.

Dube, from St-Cyrille-de-Wendover, Que., fell on two throws and stumbled on a triple Salchow. She and Wolfe, from Terrebonne, Que., scored 156.36.

Savchenko and Szolkowy have been working on a throw triple axel, but left it out of their program again, just as they did at the Grand Prix final in December when they beat the Russians by 0.18 points.

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After Savchenko nailed her landing on the throw triple flip, their confidence grew and the crowd at the Palais des Expositions clapped along. The last throw, a triple salchow, was impeccable. As Savchenko afforded herself a smile, Szolkowy punched the air. 

The Russians had earlier appiled the pressure with a dynamic, inventive show. They made no errors, with Trankov's boundless energy driving the routine. They could not contain their joy at the end, knowing they had proved a point after a disastrous short. Trankov clenched his fist, then raised his finger to make a No. 1 sign before the grinning pair hugged several times. 

Takahashi, meanwhile, jumped up and down when the scores confirmed a bronze medal, and then flew into the arms of her coach.

Two-time former world champions Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China had been second after the short but Tong fell on the first segment on a triple toeloop and Pang almost fell on the throw triple loop. Bronze medalists last year, they finished fourth this time.

Chan, meanwhile, stayed on his feet and on course to keep his title even though he almost tumbled backward onto the ice. He had successfully completed his four jumps when he was suddenly betrayed by his usually sure footwork coming out of a camel spin, twice swaying back before regaining his balance in time.

"I was kind of upset at myself for not keeping it together," Chan said. "The expression on my face was priceless."

But he had done enough with cleanly executed jumps to secure a season's best score of 89.41 points heading into Saturday's free skate.

With files from