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Medvedeva wins short program, Kostner places third

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic (AP) Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took the lead in the pairs competition after the short program on Wednesday, the opening day of the European figure skating championships.

Earlier in the day, Russian teenager Evgenia Medvedeva was on course to retain her European title after leading the women's short program.

After winning the Grand Prix Final in December, Tarasova and Morozov nailed a perfect throw triple loop to earn 80.82 points, their personal best.

''I'm so happy,'' Tarasova said. ''We just skated for the audience. We're happy.''

The two are seeking their first gold after taking bronze at the previous two European championships.

''We hope to change something this time,'' Morozov said.

Their free skate takes place on Thursday.

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France also produced their best short program to finish second more than six points behind with 74.18 while last year's European silver medalists Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany were third with 73.76.

The 17-year-old Medvedeva, who claimed the European and world titles last year, skated to ''River Flows in You'' by Lorenzo de Luca and ''The Winter'' by Balmorhea with her trademark elegance and technical perfection to record 78.92 points and lead a 1-2 Russian finish.

Unlike most of her opponents, Medvedeva places her jumps in the second part of the program. She landed cleanly a triple flip - triple toe loop combination followed by a triple loop and a double axel.

''Today, my skating was good for me,'' Medvedeva said. ''"I will try to show my best in the free program.''

The women's free skate is scheduled for Friday.

Anna Pogorilaya, who finished third at the last two continental championships, was second with 74.39.

In a highly anticipated performance, five-time European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy returned to the European championships in convincing style. She placed third with 72.40 after a short program that included a perfectly executed triple toe loop - triple toe loop combination and triple loop.

Kostner came back to the elite level this season after a near three-year absence following a suspension for helping her then-boyfriend to evade doping controls.

She called her return ''partly difficult, partly enthusiastic,'' after skating to an unusual soundtrack, the drums of late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham in ''Bonzo's Montreux.''

Another Russian, Maria Sotskova received 72.17 for fourth in her debut, ahead of France's Laurine Lecavelier.