Couple enters third phase with 5.41-point lead

Updated: January 28, 2005, 5:04 PM ET

TURIN, Italy -- Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov retained their European ice dancing crown Friday, preserving Russia's chances of sweeping all four titles in this year's championships.

Their triumph gave Russia its third gold medal here after Yevgeny Plushenko claimed the men's crown and Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin captured their fourth consecutive pairs title.

Enacting Puccini's tragic love story Tosca, the couple put in a captivating performance to edge out Ukrainian husband and wife Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov with a score of 214.97 over the three phases of the competition.

Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski lost their bid to capture Israel's first European figure skating medal when they were edged out by France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder for the bronze.

Navka and Kostomarov had easily outclassed the opposition in the first two phases of the competition to take a lead of 5.41 points into the free dance.

A wobble in the first few moments of their dance made little difference to the final outcome as their inventive choreography could not be matched by any of their challengers.

Grushina and Goncharov had to be content with silver after they earned a score of 205.30 for their routine to Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

"We wanted to show the warmth and coldness, love and storm between my partner and myself," said Goncharov referring to their choice of music.

Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski, last year's silver medalists, withdrew Friday because of illness. The Bulgarian couple was in fourth after Thursday's original dance despite Denkova's health struggling. She was diagnosed with bronchitis and had a fever of almost 101, according to an ISU statement.

Irina Slutskaya could complete a Russian sweep of the medals on Saturday after she edged closer to a record-tying sixth European title with an electrifying short program. The 2002 world champion grabbed a commanding lead over holder Julia Sebestyen with a segment score of 65.02.