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In Copenhagen last month, Torvill and Dean stood joint second at this stage with Gritschuk and Platov.
Usova and Zhulin, the current world champions, held the lead.
JAYNE Torvill and Christopher Dean discovered last night just how difficult it will be to add a second Olympic title to the one they won 10 years ago. They finished third behind their two youthful Russian rivals at the Hamar Amphitheatre in a discipline where, at their peak, they were always clear leaders.
And in the compulsory programme which opened the ice dance event, the British pair - now 35 and 36 - looked their age.
It is likely to be as great a challenge as they have ever faced in their competitive careers.Although the cheers rang round for them beforehand, and the bouquets cascaded on to the rink afterwards, he clearly knew what the score was.Jill Trenary, the former world champion who is Dean's girlfriend, said afterwards: 'They are disappointed and down right now.' Bobby Thompson, their dance adviser, concurred.Given the way Gritschuk and Platov came through to sweep the free programme with their exuberant rock and roll routine, the task facing T and D now appears even steeper. Thompson spoke admiringly of the marks their blades had left in the ice - 'They were literally three inches apart, almost like a compulsory figure.' But Gritschuk and Platov in particular had a greater fluency about them, and a greater speed over the ice.
'It was not so much what they said as what they didn't say.' The British pair now have to win the rumba in tomorrow's original dance section in order to have a chance of the gold medal going into Monday's free dance finale.They are capable of doing that - at last month's European Championships, where they finished first after a bewildering shuffle of scores at the end of the final event, their original dance was the strongest part of their overall performance, playing as it did to their smoothness and technique.