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Russians beat Duchesnays at own game

With passion and polish, Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko beat the hometown favorite Duchesnays and made Olympic history in the process Monday night.

Klimova and Ponomarenko became the first figure skaters to win Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals. They finished first in all three disciplines of dance this time, taking the free dance with a captivating program they said emphasized man's and woman's devotion to each other and God.

That gave them the unique hat trick after they won silver in 1988 and bronze in 1984.

"Since 1983, we skate by our own style, and we never copy anybody," Ponomarenko said. "We have the free program, as you see, with different programs and different style each year. We can skate in fun or tragic, in different styles."

Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay, considered the world's best free dancers, were second Monday night and overall. Isabelle Duchesnay said she has had a severe cold and the flu for two days.

Russians Maia Usova and Alexander Zhulin were third.

The former Soviet Union has won all but one Olympics dance gold medal since the event joined the schedule in 1976. The only couple to break that string was Britain's Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean in 1984. Dean now is Isabelle Duchesnay's husband and the team's choreographer.

Paul Duchesnay complained he and his sister were forced "by judges and referees" to implement a relatively conservative program.

Apparently the Russians didn't feel as limited by the rules. The winners' performance was sensual, even risque at times. It wasn't Torvill and Dean's spicy Bolero. It wasn't even the most provocative performance of the night.

But it was golden.

"It is very difficult for Paul and Isabelle to skate love," Ponomarenko said. "We find such a program and know we will do it well because we love each other."

Klimova's and Ponomarenko's steamy program began with 18 seconds of twists and lifts while one or the other _ or both _ were lying on the ice they threatened to melt. It also included several unusual lifts, including one where she was held upside-down wrapped around his leg.

SKIING

Siberian sets record

LES SAISIES, France _ Raisa Smetanina set the record for most medals won in Winter Olympics history as she helped the Unified Team to the gold in the women's 4x5-kilometer relay. Smetanina, of Siberia, will be 40 on Feb. 29. She is believed to be the oldest woman to win a gold in the Winter Games.

"It gets harder with the years. You all saw how difficult it was for me today," Smetanina said.

In her five Olympics, she's won four golds, five silvers and one bronze to surpass Swedish cross-country great Sixten Jernberg's record of nine. She got her gold with the help of Lyubov Egorova, who skied the anchor leg and became the Games' first triple gold medalist.

NORDIC COMBINED

Japan takes big lead

COURCHEVEL, France _ Japan took a huge lead over Austria and Germany and appears headed for its first gold medal of these Games.

"Our jumps were just incredible," said top jumper Reiichi Mikata, after he and teammates Takanori Kono and Kenji Ogiwara surprised everyone by taking the lead.

France, the favorite, is already out of the gold-medal chase after a disappointing fifth place.

Japan's jumping performance gives it a whopping 2 minute, 27.5 second head start on the Austrians in today's cross-country race.

SPEED SKATING

Another German sweep

ALBERTVILLE, France _ German women continued their dominance, sweeping the 5,000 meters to finish with nine of a possible 15 speed-skating medals _ three golds, three silvers and three bronze.

Gunda Niemann won the 5,000 after taking a gold in the 3,000 and a silver in the 1,500, joining cross-country skiers Egorova and Vegard Ulvang of Norway as the only athletes to win three medals at these Games. "I'm just terribly happy," Niemann said.

Niemann finished in 7 minutes, 31.57 seconds, followed by Heike Warnicke in 7:37.59 and Claudia Pechstein in 7:39.80. All are from what used to be East Germany.

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