Russians dance with passion to win gold

By Sonia Oxley

TALLINN (Reuters) - Russia's Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin pushed aside earlier controversy and showed their passionate side to win the ice dance gold at the European figure skating championships on Friday.

The world champions, who angered Australian Aboriginal elders on Thursday with their original dance, scored a total of 199.25 points in their three dances this week, although Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali scored higher in two dances.

The Italians took the silver, having been deemed better in the original and free dances, but because the Russians had built a five-point lead in the compulsory dance they could not catch the leaders up and ended with 195.86 points.

LOVE AND HATE

"This is a story about us, about our memories and about love," Shabalin told a news conference.

"We try to express the mood of people, sometimes they are happy, sometimes they hate each other, sometimes they fight.

"...we are happy with our gold today but the technical points could have been better of course, now we have time to work on that ... I hope we will improve our technical score at the Olympic Games."

It was the third time in as many days the crowd stood for the Russian national anthem, after Yevgeny Plushenko's victory in the men's event and Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov's gold medal in the pairs.

Silver medalists Faiella and Scali said their emotional dance drew on the experience of leaving Italy to live and train in the United States.

"It is a journey of two young people who leave the country, it's about how hard it is to leave their family and friends... and how exciting to have another person with you to share this new life and the hope for the future," Scali told reporters.

In the women's event, Italy's Carolina Kostner charmed the judges with an elegant routine to lead after the short program.

She is seeking to grab back the crown she held for two years before losing it last year to Finland's Laura Lepisto, who struggled with a wobbly heel on her boot but still stood third.

Kostner landed her jumps and moved around the ice with speed and grace to score 65.80 points and lead Finns Kiira Korpi (64.26) and Lepisto (62.96) before Saturday's free skating.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)