Virtue and Moir shine as Russians slip
Ice that "cracked like glass" led to a Russian meltdown in the pairs short programme and Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the battle of the North American ice dance couples at the world championships.
If there was a TV show featuring just figure skating bloopers, the editors would have been spoilt for choice on Wednesday as all three Russian medal hopefuls in the pairs were left red faced after producing a string of comical falls.
Maxim Trankov, Yuri Larionov and Alexander Smirnov's tumbles all ended up on their bottoms or in a tangled heap on the ice.
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, targeting a fourth title in five years, avoided the wreck but were not flawless and earned 68.63.
Savchenko landed a rare throw triple Axel on two feet while Szolkowy over-rotated a couple of times following a triple toeloop.
Their coach Ingo Steuer, however, was more spooked by the Russian 'fall-a-thon'.
"It was very slippy ice today. I never saw so many falls from major couples," the former skater told Reuters.
The competition brought back memories of the 2006 Olympics when the original dance was more memorable for the farcical slips and spills on display rather than any intricate footwork.
Six years after Italy's Barbara Fusar-Poli gave Maurizio Margaglio a withering glare after her partner lost his balance and dragged them both down on the Turin ice, that stone-cold stare was again on show in Nice.
Vera Bazarova looked highly unimpressed after Larionov landed on his bottom as he tried to complete his final pose in the 2-1/2 minute routine by standing straight with his arms outstretched.
The crowd's roaring laughter would have done little to ease Larionov's embarrassment as the Russian stared at the ice for what seemed an eternity.
While their score of 65.02 placed them fourth and kept them in the mix for the medals, there was no such respite for their compatriots.
"It's not a good day for the Russians. All the couples had stupid mistakes," 2011 world silver medallist Trankov told Reuters after he and Tatiana Volosozhar finished eighth, more than eight points behind the Germans.
"If I fell from the jump, it's okay as everybody can fall from a jump. But the death spiral is so easy," he added referring to the move in which the male holds his partner's outstretched hand while she circles him with her body almost parallel to the ice.
"If it hadn't happened to me, it would have been so funny."
Smirnov also had the smile wiped off his face after dropping Yuko Kavaguti on top of his stomach. He lost his footing during a dismount from a lift, the error earning the 2010 European gold medallists a two-point deduction and a score of 59.59 for 11th spot.
"I fell because my skate cracked the ice. The ice is all new and very fresh...it cracks under your feet like glass," said Smirnov.
The Russians' misfortune allowed twice former world champions Pang Qing and Tong Jian to finish second with 67.10. Japan's Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran were third.
The ice dancers avoided such drama as Canada's Virtue and Moir trumped their good friends and training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White with their sultry Samba and Rhumba number.
Despite drawing a score of 72.31, Moir said the duo would were a "little frustrated because we didn't get the level fours we expected in a couple of our elements".
World champions Davis and White (70.98) will be on unfamiliar ground on Thursday as it will be the first time this season they go into the free dance without being top of the pile.
Brits Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland are on course for their best-ever finish.
They may be well off Olympic champions Virtue and Moir but placing 12th with 54.35 after the short dance will give them confidence they can improve on last year’s overall ranking of 16th.