Road To The Olympic Games

Kostner wins 3rd European crown in 4 years

Carolina Kostner of Italy won gold at the European Figure Skating Championships for the third time on Saturday.

Carolina Kostner of Italy won gold at the European Figure Skating Championships for the third time on Saturday, a much-needed turnaround after a string of mediocre results this season.

"This competition felt like a liberation for me," said the Italian, who has suffered through a disappointing Grand Prix season and a disheartening second-place finish at her country's national championships. "Now I know I am on the right way and that gives me a lot of confidence.

"I think I have nothing to fear from Vancouver."

Last year's champion Laura Lepisto of Finland took silver, with Georgia's Elene Gedevanishvili ending up with bronze for her first appearance on the podium at the European championships.

Kostner started well with a triple flip-triple toe loop and then a well-landed triple Lutz — a jump that had been largely eluding her this year. But then came a single flip instead of a triple, a fall on a triple loop and the sense that her lead was slipping away before she recovered. The program to the music of Bach and Vivaldi ended with her characteristically lithe and elegant spins and steps.

Gedevanishvili, who had started the day in fourth, slightly outscored Kostner on technical marks, but was five points behind on components. Skating to some of the most tuneful segments of Carmen, she landed a pair of double axel-double toe loops along with an early triple-triple-double toe loop cascade and seemed unfazed by errors that included stepping out of her opening triple Lutz.

"Oh my god, this is totally unexpected. It means a lot to me," she said.

Lepisto opened with a high triple toe-triple toe, but then doubled a triple Lutz. Despite some other flaws, including a hand down on one jump, she ended the day with a sense of equanimity.

"I didn't feel a lot of pressure. My main goal was to get a spot for the Olympic Games and I'm very happy about that," said Lepisto, who was having boot problems.

Kostner won silver last year at the event after taking gold the preceding two years. She will now try to shed her reputation for shaky performances on the world stage at the Vancouver Olympics next month. In the last three years at the world championships she's finished second, sixth and 12th.

Kiira Korpi of Finland, who started the day in second, ended in fourth, while the other Finnish skater, Susanna Poykio, withdrew before the free skate with back pains.

The Russian women, who once dominated the discipline, continued their underwhelming showing of recent years. Alena Leonova was slow and error-ridden and dropped from fifth to seventh. Russian national champion Ksenia Makarova placed ninth.

But Russians took all the other golds in Tallinn: Evgeni Plushenko in men's, Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov in pairs and ice dancers Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin.