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Soviet Duo Takes Early Lead in Skating

Associated Press

Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko emerged today from the four-year shadow of Soviet compatriots Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin to take the early lead in the ice dance competition at the European Figure Skating Championships.

Klimova and Ponomarenko never have won a major event after finishing runner-up in eight previous world, Olympic and European championship appearances. But the Soviet pair got off to a perfect start in their quest for gold as they led a Soviet sweep of the first three places in the compulsories.

Second were Maia Usova and Aleksandr Zhulin, with Natalia Annenko and Genrikh Sretenski third. Hungarians Klara Engi and Attila Toth placed fourth, ahead of the leading Western pair, Sharon Jones and Paul Ashkam of Britain.

Different Program

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The day’s skating was being completed later today with the new-style original program for pairs. But the event will be missing defending European and Olympic titlists Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, who are injured and are appearing here only as spectators.

“The first day is always hard,” Ponomarenko said after the married couple received top place from all nine judges in both rhythms, one the polka, the other to a rumba.

“We skated both compulsories well, especially the polka,” Ponomarenko, 28, said. “We didn’t make any mistakes.”

With the compulsories counting for only 20% of the total mark, Ponomarenko and Klimova still had a long way to go. The original set pattern takes place Thursday and the free dance Friday.

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Harmonious Effort

But they looked like a good bet for the top prize, gliding effortlessly around the ice at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Center.

Ponomarenko said they were in good positions, skating fourth of the 17 couples in the first compulsory and 13th the second time.

“That helped us because we did not have to rush off to change clothes,” Ponomarenko said.

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Ponomarenko’s only disappointment was that only in ice dancing will compulsories be held past July, 1990.

At these Birmingham championships, figure skating events were reduced from three to two in the men’s and women’s events as a step toward their elimination next summer.

The ice dancing competition will not be affected.

“I think compulsories help to get a feel for the ice,” Ponomarenko said. “They are important for the free dance later. I would like them to stay.”

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Usova and Zhulin, showy and sophisticated in all-green matching costumes, picked up marks at the end of their rumba routine with a cheeky disco-type hunch of the shoulders.

But they couldn’t match the technical expertise of Ponomarenko and Klimova.


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