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Lithuania celebrates its famous figure skating pair

  • 2000-03-09
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS – Margarita Drobiazko, 28, and Povilas Vanagas, 29, became one of the leading dance pairs in figure skating in the world this year. Last week this famous Lithuanian pair came to Vilnius and fans met them as heroes in the airport with lots of flowers.

On March 1 they danced on the ice at the Kaunas Ice Arena. All 1,500 seats were occupied. A similar number of people were left outside the arena because it was already packed.

No wonder – Drobiazko and Vanagas won the bronze medals at the European championships in Vienna, Austria. The French pair, Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, became champions of Europe while Italy's Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio won a silver.

European championships are held each year. It was the first time in 32 years that Russia got no medals in dance pairs' skating.

However, it is worth mentioning that the females of both the French and Lithuanian pairs, Anissina and Drobiazko, started their careers as Russian skaters. Later they got French and Lithuanian passports respectively thanks to their skating talents and now compete under the flags of these countries.

Drobiazko said she already understands almost everything in Lithuanian, but cannot speak yet. She said that English and Lithuanian words are mixing in her head. Drobiazko and Vanagas were spending most of their time in the United Kingdom and Russia where their coaches live.

Drobiazko and Vanagas entered the world's elite of figure skaters in the beginning of this season when they won the Skate Canada competitions, which is one of stops of the world's Grand Prix.

On Feb. 28 Rimas Kurtinaitis, director of the Lithuanian Sport Department, awarded Drobiazko, Vanagas and their current Russian coach Yelena Chaykovskaya with medals for "achievement to Lithuanian sport." A press conference was held in the Sport Department and it was packed with journalists.

"This season Margarita and Povilas won two times against their main competitors – the Russian pair. It is a great victory," Chaykovskaya said, pointing to another success of the Lithuanian pair when it won the third place in the world's Grand Prix competition of the planet's strongest figure skaters this January.

Then the same French and Italian pairs occupied the first and the second places, respectively. The Russian pair, Irina Lobachova and Ilya Averbukh, were pushed by the Lithuanians into fourth place in the Grand Prix as well as in the European championships. Canada's Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz were the fifth in the world's Grand Prix.

Lilija Vanagiene, the Lithuanian pair's former coach and Povilas' mother, said that figure skating is a very conservative sport. Juries do not like representatives of small countries and that had influenced the results for the Lithuanian pair in the past. Chaykovskaya expressed the same opinion.

Vanagas said that he and Drobiazko are not only an item just on the ice. "I think, our marriage will be this summer," Vanagas said.

Lithuania holds many more significant achievements in summer sports than in winter games. Olympic gold medals in biathlon and skiing are already part of history. NHL ice hockey players Dainius Zubrus and Darius Kasparaitis fight for victories for the Montreal Canadians and Pittsburgh Penguins respectively, but they have no time for the Lithuanian national team.

At this moment Drobiazko and Vanagas are currently the most renowned sportsmen making Lithuania's national colors famous. Vanagas said they especially have lots of fans in Japan and the UK. They and the most devoted Lithuanian supporters will definitely come to support Drobiazko and Vanagas in the Figure Skating World Championship in Nice, France on March 27 – April 6.