TURIN, Italy -- Irina Slutskaya performed a lackluster free program Saturday but held her lead to win her sixth European title, matching the records
of figure skating greats Katarina Witt and Sonja Henie.
The Russian did only three triples, fell once and looked slow and uneasy. Yet her gold medal gave Russia a sweep in all four events at the arena that
will host Olympic skating next year.
Slutskaya said she could not understand what happened since she had skated so well in a season in which she has gone unbeaten. Her victories include
one over nine-time U.S. champion Michelle Kwan.
"You know, that's sport," Slutskaya said. "I'm not a robot."
After a stunning, nearly flawless short program the day earlier, Slutskaya had built a huge lead. She ended with 168.71 points.
Susanna Poykio of Finland was second with a good routine that included five triples and left her with 158.93 points. Elena Liashenko of Ukraine was
third with 158.02. Defending champion Julia Sebestyen of Hungary had a chance to win but dropped to fourth.
Slutskaya also won in 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2003. Last year, she missed the championships because of an inflamed heart lining and other
Now she is in elite company with Henie of Norway, who won six European titles from 1931-36, and Witt of East Germany, who won from 1983-88.
On Saturday, skating in a pants suit instead of the conventional dress, Slutskaya easily led the short program under the new scoring system used for
the first time at the European championships.
Russia made its fifth sweep of the Europeans, after taking all four titles in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2003. This time, the other Russian victories were
by Evgeni Plushenko (men), Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin (pairs) and Tataiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov (ice dance).