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Volosozhar and Trankov of Russia win pairs gold

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RACHEL COHEN | February 12, 2014 03:02 PM EST | AP

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov won the Olympic gold medal in pairs figure skating Wednesday as Russia took the top two spots and reclaimed its dominance of the sport.

Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov had a near-flawless free skate to move up from third after the short program and capture silver in front of the ecstatic home fans.

"I think tonight all of the country will celebrate this beautiful victory," Trankov said.

Volosozhar and Trankov scored 152.69 points to finish with 236.86, 18.18 ahead of their teammates.

Four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany had to settle for bronze for the second straight Olympics.

Russia or the Soviet Union had won gold in 12 straight Olympics in the event before the streak ended four years ago, when the Russians failed to take home any pairs medal from Vancouver. In the stands for both days of the event in Sochi was the pair who started it all: Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, the Olympic champions in 1964 and '68.

"That was our aim and purpose, to get first place for Russia, to have Russians atop the podium," Trankov said.

He and Volosozhar rose to the top of the sport at the perfect time, winning the 2013 world championship. Skating to "Jesus Christ Superstar," they had a few small bobbles Wednesday. But with a lead after a near-flawless short program and the difficulty of their elements, they knew when they finished without any big mistakes that gold was in their grasp.

As Russian flags waved across the stands, Trankov slid on his knees across the ice like a soccer player celebrating a goal, and Volosozhar buried her face in her hands, the tears flowing.

"To win it here is more special than anything," Trankov said. "But there was pressure. We were nervous, very nervous. It was huge for us to skate in front of this audience in our country, but it was hard, and to do this make us very happy now."

The two Russian pairs also won gold in the new team event. Trankov and Volosozhar become the first figure skaters to take home two golds from one Olympics.

Stolbova and Klimov handled the free skate for Russia on Saturday in the team event and looked sharp, declaring themselves medal contenders. They were even better Wednesday in their program to "The Addams Family."

The music is hauntingly beautiful, though it does include a brief snippet of that famous TV theme song. At the end of the program, when she must be exhausted, they do a throw triple salchow, which she landed effortlessly.

"Last year we were not at the world championships and we didn't believe or even hope that we would be at the Olympics," Klimov said through a translator. "We didn't ever think of medals."

The Germans finished nearly three points behind Stolbova and Klimov. Szolkowy fell on a jump in the free skate for the second straight Olympics. He tumbled to the ice on a triple toe loop on their first side-by-side sequence Wednesday.

Pang Qing and Tong Jian, the 2010 silver medalists, were fourth. Tong said this was probably their final competition.

Four years ago, the U.S. had its worst showing ever in pairs, with a 10th- and 13th-place finish. The performance in the standings was only slightly better this time: two-time national champions Marissa Castelli of Rhode Island and Simon Shnapir of Massachusetts took ninth, while Felicia Zhang of New Jersey and Nathan Bartholomay of Pennsylvania moved up to 12th from 14th after the short program.

But it was a much more encouraging showing this time, with both pairs skating four solid programs despite little experience in major international competitions.

Castelli and Shnapir also won a bronze medal in the team event. She landed upright on their throw quad salchow Wednesday, though she stepped out. That still earned them big points, and they set a personal best in international competition with 120.38.

"We got four season's bests out of four performances, four great programs," Shnapir said. "I don't think we can ask for anything more."