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Figure skater Robin Szolkowy feels like the ultimate loser

By Pritha Sarkar

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Robin Szolkowy had spun high into the air thousands of times as he performed the double axel to perfection in training and at numerous competitions. On Monday, that jump cost him the Olympic gold medal.

They piled up the marks when Savchecko next nailed the throw triple flip.

Then as the duo launched into the double axels, Savchenko landed the jump beautifully but could only watch in horror as her partner sprawled on the ice after slipping over on his blades.

With that, the 30-year-old knew his golden dreams had vanished. China's Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, and Pang Qing and Tong Jian won the top two medals.

"We are a little bit disappointed as the performance wasn't the one we wanted to show," a dejected Szolkowy, who could barely look at his bronze medal as it was placed around his neck, told reporters.

"The pressure built up maybe in your mind. It's one long program in four years. You have to skate clean if you want gold. We had one chance to perform the double axel and felt in the air that there was something wrong ... and it went wrong."

DUPLICATE GOLD

Canadian Jamie Sale, who won a silver in the pairs with David Pelletier at the 2002 Olympics before being awarded a duplicate gold medal with the Russian champions following a judging scandal, knew the pain the Germans were going through.

"You're the first and second loser when you win silver and bronze. If you're not expected to win a medal and get a silver or bronze, then that's fantastic," Sale told Reuters.

"But when you're going for gold and you're second or third ... it's not a good feeling."

Szolkowy certainly felt a loser on Monday but finally cracked a smile when offered advice by 36-year-old Zhao who struck gold at his fourth Olympics.

"My advice is don't wait till you're 37 to get gold," he jokingly told the crestfallen German.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)