Updated: Saturday, 18 January 2014 01:33 | By Agence France-Presse

Russian pairs lead at European figure skating championship

World champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia opened their pairs title defence by dominating the short programme at the European figure skating championships in Budapest on Friday.

Russian pairs lead at European figure skating championship

Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov perform on ice of 'SYMA' sports hall in Budapest on January 17, 2014 during the short programme for pairs category of the ISU European Figure Skating Championships - by Attila Kisbendek

The two-time titleholders hold a comfortable 7.22-point lead on Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, four-time world champions and Olympic bronze medallists, going into Sunday's free skating final.

Savchenko, 29, two-footed the landing and touched the ice on her opening throw triple flip jump in their routine to Andre Rieu's "When Winter Comes" as they achieved a score of 76.76, almost three points off their best.

Skating second last, Volosozhar, 27, and Trankov, 30, scored a career-best 83.98 for their flawless skate to Aram Khatchaturian's "Masquerade Waltz".

"We wanted to give everything and to go for a season's best score, and we did it, we broke our own record," said Trankov.

"They (Germans) are legends and they get high scores even when they make mistakes," he added.

Ukrainian-born Savchenko, who became a German citizen in 2006, admitted that she had felt unwell for the past two days, with her coach Ingo Steuer saying she had the "beginning of bronchitis".

"Considering that we weren't sure this morning if Aliona can skate at all, it was okay," said Steuer.

"It was a technical problem by both of us and we'll have to analyse what the reason was," said Savchenko. 

Russia's Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov are third with 71.70 ahead of another Russian pairing of Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, the reigning national champions, who scored 70.90.

Trankov and Volosozhar teamed up months after the Vancouver Games after competing with other partners.

They won the European title in 2012 and dethroned their German rivals as world champions last year, establishing themselves as gold medal hopefuls in Sochi.

Savchenko and Szolkowy, however, won the Grand Prix final ahead of the Russians this season.

Meanwhile, Russian teenagers Adelina Sotnikova and Julia Lipnitskaia are 1-2 going into Friday's women's free skating final. Five-time winner Carolina Kostner of Italy is third with less than three points separating the trio.

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