Swiss brother-sister team Eliane and Daniel Hugentobler have qualified for next month's Winter Olympics after finishing 9th in the ice dance at the European figure skating championships in Lausanne.This content was published on January 18, 2002 - 23:38
Dancing to Gloria Gaynor's disco anthem, "I will survive", the pair from Zurich carried their public away during their four-minute appearance.
Although the Hugentoblers aimed for the show, their high-standard programme included many technical finesses and quick steps. Their efforts were rewarded with notes ranging from 5.0 to 5.4.
Friday's result is the best Switzerland has had for the last 39 years in a European championship ice dance.
"Things went perfectly for us," said Eliane Hugentobler, despite difficulties encountered twice by her brother during a rotation. "The key is to keep going so that no one notices it," said her brother.
"We've finally received recognition for all the hard work over the past years," he concluded.
France takes first position
France's Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat took first place in Friday's competition, just ahead of Italy's Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio. The Russian pair, which included Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh, finished third.
Anissina and Peizerat were able to reconquer their European title on Friday, which was taken from them last year by the Italian pair.
Meier fights to reach Olympics
In the women's competition, Swiss teenager Sarah Meier still faces an uphill struggle to book her Olympic place after struggling in Friday's short programme.
After missing a triple flip during Friday's penultimate stage, the 17-year-old from Zurich has now slipped to 13th place in the standings, three places short of the top ten finish needed to guarantee an Olympic spot.
"I don't really know why I missed the flip," a visibly frustrated Meier told swissinfo after coming off the ice. "I had felt good (coming into the short programme) and I wasn't particularly nervous."
Meier refused to blame her below-par performance on the sprained ankle which put her out of action at the end of last year, although she admitted to a certain rustiness after only returning to her training after Christmas.
Not yet consistent
"I don't feel the ankle injury anymore, it doesn't hurt," the young star told swissinfo. "But I've only been back in training for three weeks now, so that's why I'm not yet consistent."
The disruption caused to Meier's training as a result of that injury could yet lead the Swiss Olympic association to ease their qualifying demands, but Meier herself is still hoping to avoid that scenario.
"I have to skate a clean programme in Saturday's free skate and if I give it 100 per cent I could perhaps still make the top ten," Meier vowed. "I don't want to hope (for leniency from Swiss Olympic). I just want to skate my best and leave them with no choice but to send me."
While Meier faces a daunting challenge just to make it to Salt Lake City, some of the leading candidates for Olympic medal glory appear to be peaking at just the right moment.
The women's short programme was dominated by the big names of the Russian team on Friday, with Maria Butyrskaya, Viktoria Volchkova, and Irina Slutskaya holding the top three positions going into Saturday's decisive free skate.
swissinfo with agencies
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