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Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitriev Getty

Figure skater Dmitriev rediscovers golden touch with Kazakova


The pairs figure skating competition in Nagano featured a number of skaters who had come back from serious, and in some case life-threatening, injuries.

Not least Russian skater Yelena Berezhnaya, who had been terribly injured in 1996 after a training accident with her then partner Oleg Shliakhov, in which she suffered brain damage and had to relearn how to walk and talk. Somehow she made a full recovery and was competing in Nagano with new partner Anton Sikharulidze.

Germany's Mandy Wötzel had suffered a similar injury some years earlier, when she had been forced to withdraw from the 1994 Games after hitting her head on the ice again. Meanwhile, her partner Ingo Steuer was bit by the wing mirror of a bus two months before the Games started, and faced a race to recover.

Then there was Artur Dmitriev, who had won the pairs gold medal in 1992 with Nataliya Mishkutyonok, and then a silver in 1994. When Mishkutyonok turned professional after the Lillehammer Games, he found a new skating partner in Oksana Kazakova and they forged a strong team – winning the European title in 1996. However, she spent three months recovering from injury after a mistimed throw saw her fall three metres to the ice.

Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitriev IOC / Kishimoto

Kazakova and Dmitriev had demonstrated erratic form, but in Nagano they shone. In the short programme they won the best scores from seven of the nine judges, with Wötzel and Steuer in second place and the Russian pair of Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze lying third.

The long programme resulted in an even more dominant victory, with eight of the nine judges backing Kazakova and Dmitriev. That was enough to give them the gold medal by a handsome margin ahead of their Russian team-mates, who moved ahead of Wötzel and Steuer to take second.

It meant that Dmitriev had matched the previously unique achievement of Soviet skater Irina Rodnina in winning Olympic gold medals with two different partners.

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