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    In Leningrad, four years after the Moscow championship, the strongest figure-skaters of Europe gathered for their competition in the Soviet Union again--110 men and girls from 15 countries.

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    Background: In Leningrad, four years after the Moscow championship, the strongest figure-skaters of Europe gathered for their competition in the Soviet Union again--110 men and girls from 15 countries. The championship was held at the "Yubileiny" Sports Palace, launched during the half-centenary celebrations of Soviet government in 1967. Flags of the competing nations fly near the dome of the palace, while athletes of these countries are lined up on the ice field.

    The European championship was opened by the Chairman of the Steering Committee, Mr. Sizov, the Mayor of Leningrad. The participants were then greeted by the president of the International Figure-skating Union, M. Favar. The opening day was rounded off with performances of sports figure-skating pairs.

    Five years ago at the European Figure-Skating Championship in Moscow, the leaders in pairs were changed, as the now famous Belousova and Protopopov of Leningrad had emerged the winners for the first time a year before at the Olympic Games in Innsbruck. The pair held the European title up to last year. The gold medals went in 1969 to another Soviet pair, Rodnina and Ulanov, of Moscow, At this championship they immediately joined the leaders.

    The silver-medallists of the 1970 USSR championships. Liudmila Smirnova and Andrei Suraikin, were also second at the European competition. This is a fine success for the young and promising pair. They were greatly helped in their progress by the Olympic champions Liudmila belousova and Oleg Protopopov. The Smirnov-Suraikin program features many elements typical of the famous Leningrad duo. The bronze medals went to the reigning GDR champions Heidemaria Walter-steiner and Hans-Ulrich Walter, who were faultless and precise in their complex program.

    Flowing under the cupola of the Leningrad Sports palace are the music from the ballets Giselle and Sleeping beauty and Russian folk tunes. On the ice are the world and European champions of 1969, Irina Rodnina and Alexei Ulanov, of Moscow.

    They are famous for excellent technique, a fine sense of the rhythm, easiness of movement and fast speed as well as extreme perfection of movement, which all make their performance an unforgettable sight. The Soviet pair was again first in Europe. Their style is unique, they do not imitate anyone. Each part of their boisterous program is full of strength, fire and sheer enthusiasm. AT this championship Rodnina and Ulanov seemed to lay down new traditions in paired skating. Well, they are worthy of emulation. The fusion of Athletism, temperament and plasticity are the hallmark of the standing world and now twice-European champions.

    After the close struggle for the pairs titles, which abounded in tense situations, the concluding heats in the free-skating program seemed too leisurely as the leaders were far ahead of the rest. And yet the spectators who filled the Leningrad Yubileiny Sports Palace that night were hugely rewarded. The performances were beautiful and graceful. The audience fell silent when the announcer called out Gabriel Zeifert. Only the clicking and whirring of cameras could be heard. The spectators were watching carefully every move of the famous girl. After the compulsory program Gabi Zeifert was behind Astria's Beatrice Schuba by 28 points, yet her free program was beyond expectations. Gabi displayed a fireworks of complex jumps, with great ease and grace One was not certain she was doing the complicated exercises on slippery ice, not on a smooth dance floor. The referees were unanimous in high scores for the now 1970 European champion, who held the title two previous years as well. The runners-up were easily Beatrice Schuba of Austria and Juji Almashi of Hungary, with 2,705 and 2,686, 2 points respectively.

    The last set of medals at the European figure-skating championship was contested by men. Austrian, French and Czechoslovak boys were favourites for years. The Austrian positions worsened though in 1968 after Dantser and Swarts turned professionals. It became clear last season that the French and Czechoslovak boys were in the lead. Close on their heels were sportsmen of the German Democratic Republic, the Soviet Union and Britain. The many-times silver-medallist of European championships, Patrick Perat of France, came to Leningrad sure of a gold medal. But the two points he lost to Nepelau of Czechoslovakia in the compulsory program left the winners in their former order this year. The 6 time GDR national champion Gunter Zoller, with a predominantly athletic style, proved forcefully a close third with his speed and powerful jumps. After the compulsory figures he was ahead of the Soviet national champion Sergei Chetverukhin. When the two clashed in the free skating, they scored almost the same number of points. But in the combined score Zoller had a slight edge, to win the bronze medal. The 19-year-old Czechoslovak athlete Ondrer Nepela won the gold due to his fine shape in the compulsory event and an actually impeccable show in the free one. His score was 2,795.1.

    Ice dancing is the youngest of the figure-skating events, just 16 years old. The event was officially registered as a sport in 1954 at the first European championship in the field. Britain has dominated it ever since. But this year a revolution has been performed.

    It pairs were contesting the title to strains of music under the cupola of the Yubileiny Sports Palace in Leningrad. This is the third final day of the competition. The three Soviet pairs did very well. Tatiana Voltluk and Vyacheslav Zhigalin made a tremendous effort to reach the third place, considering they were the 11th last year. Angelica and Erich Huk were in the second place in 1969, and so there was a keen interest in their showing. Though the Federal German pair stuck close to their former version, their fine technique and overall performance brought that the silver medals again.

    As the charming sounds of Grieg filled the hall, an ovation broke out for the leaders of the championship, Liudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov. They never stopped for a second in their whirlwind performance, displaying a special element in each musical phrase. Even before they completed the exercise, they were certain of the top award. They won 5.9 points for their technical performance from 8 of the 9 referees and even two 6es for the artistic impression. This is the first Soviet ice dancing pair to win the European title.

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