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Meier through to short programme

Meier got herself in a bit of a spin during qualifying Keystone

Swiss teenager Sarah Meier overcame a shaky performance in Wednesday's qualifying to progress to the short programme at the European figure skating championships in Lausanne.

After starting strongly in front of a highly supportive Swiss crowd, the 17-year-old from Zurich made a number of mistakes during the middle section of her routine.

But with few of her rivals looking much more convincing, Meier was able to finish sixth in her group with 15 going through to Friday’s short programme.

Reigning women’s champion Irina Slutskaya took her expected position at the top of the qualifying group, despite a similarly below-par performance.

The 22-year-old Russian fell flat on her face after a double axel, but recovered to beat off competition from second-placed compatriot Viktoria Vochkova and third-place Italian Silvia Fontana.

“It’s good it happened right now in the warm up to the main competition,” Slutskaya later said.

Lambiel delighted

On Thursday attention is due to shift back to the men’s competition where 16-year-old Swiss skater Stéphane Lambiel looks likely to clinch his highest ever placing at the European Championships.

Following an almost flawless tango during Tuesday’s short programme, Lambiel is in sixth place going into the free dance. Looking ahead to the resumption of competition, the Swiss youngster told swissinfo he was delighted with his progress so far.

“I skated very well (in the short programme),” Lambiel smiled, “At the start I was very nervous, but the public were great to me and once I had pulled off the combination jump successfully I felt a lot different.”

Having wowed the crowd and the judges once already this week, Lambiel is now in a good position to improve on last year’s ninth place finish. A place in the top 12 would also guarantee the young man from canton Valais a spot at next month’s Winter Olympics.

However Lambiel insists he’s looking no further ahead than Thursday’s decisive long programme.

“I just hope to do the same as in the short programme,” Lambiel told swissinfo. “I’m not thinking about my final placing yet or of Salt Lake City. I’m just concentrating on my programme.”

Russians take first gold

Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin of Russia added gold to last year’s silver medal in the pairs event on Wednesday.

Skating to Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, the Russian pair got off to a shaky start when Marinin landed poorly on the opening jump, a side-by-side triple salchow. But the duo recovered enough to earn five 5.8’s and a 5.9 for presentation.

Sarah Abitbol and Stéphane Bernadis of France took silver, having won bronze for the last four years, and former European and world champions Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov took the bronze.

Last year’s champions Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze did not defend their title in Lausanne after Berezhnaya decided to rest an ankle injury ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics.

Mark Ledsom with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR