Last December, Irina Slutskaya was in and out of a hospital. Evgeni Plushenko lost the Grand Prix finals on a fluke in the scoring system.
Now, the two Russians have returned to figure skating's summit by winning the Grand Prix finals Saturday at Beijing, a little more than a year before the Olympics at Turin, Italy.
Slutskaya was sidelined most of last season because of an inflamed heart lining. She competed in the world championships but was out of shape and finished ninth.
"I am a strong competitor and I think I can compete with all the girls, all the best girls in the world," she said.
And she has beaten most of them this season. She had two wins in the Grand Prix series, the final and a pro-am victory over Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen. Kwan, the five-time world champion, bypassed the series. Cohen, who won the Grand Prix finals in 2003, had a back injury and withdrew from competition.
World champion Shizuka Arakawa of Japan was second and Joannie Rochette of Canada third.
Plushenko, a three-time world champion, won with a dynamic program that included a quad and eight triples.
Jeff Buttle of Canada finished second and Li Chengjiang of China finished third with a program featuring two quad jumps.
This was Plushenko's fourth overall Grand Prix title. He lost out last year when he completed one too many combinations, which wasn't allowed at the time.
Julia Obertas and Sergei Slavnov of Russia became only the fourth pair to complete a quadruple twist.
The quad twist involves a man throwing his partner into the air, where she completes four turns and lands on one skate with his assistance.
Chad Hedrick defended his 5,000-meter title in the U.S. Long Track Allround Speedskating Championships at West Allis, Wis., winning in 6 minutes 38.59 seconds.
Hedrick is top ranked in the World Cup at 1,500 meters and is focused on the goal of winning a medal at the Turin Olympics.
Shani Davis won the 500 in 36.36 seconds and finished second to Hedrick in the 5,000 in 6:39.10. He has a 76.270-77.039 lead in the overall standings in the two-day event.
Maria Lamb won the women's 500 in 40.95, and Catherine Raney won the 3,000 in 4:16.62. Lamb beat Raney in the overall standings, 84.345 to 84.530.
Max Rauffer won a World Cup downhill on a wind-shortened course at Val Gardena, Italy, to become the first German man to record an Alpine victory in nearly 13 years.
Juerg Gruenenfelder of Switzerland was second and Johann Grugger of Austria was third.
Overall World Cup leader Bode Miller finished tied for 14th with fellow American Daron Rahlves. The top U.S. skier was Bryon Friedman in seventh.
The women's World Cup downhill event at Val D'Isere, France, was postponed because of a snowstorm.
Janne Ahonen of Finland won for the sixth time in seven ski jumping World Cup events this season, stretching his lead in the overall standings to more than 300 points.
Ahonen landed jumps of 141 and 137.5 meters, collecting 279.3 points at Engelberg, Switzerland.
Thomas Morgenstern of Austria finished with 278.2 points with jumps of 136.5 and 137.5.
Vincent Vittoz of France and Kristina Smigun of Estonia won mass start World Cup cross-country races in heavy snowfall at Ramsau, Austria.
Vittoz defeated Anders Sodergren of Sweden and Axel Teichmann of Germany in a mass sprint to win the men's 30-kilometer race.
Smigun won the women's 15K race for her second victory of the season.
Two hours after finishing in second place, Nissan Z drivers Toshihiro Aneishi and Derik Comas were awarded victories in the Japan GT Championship All-Star 200 at California Speedway. Andre Lotterer and Tsugio Matsuda won by 1.456 seconds but were penalized after the race for failing to pit twice after the completion of 15 laps of the 87-lap event. They were penalized 60 seconds and finished second in an Acura NSX. Acura won the GT 300 class with Tetsuya Yamano and Haruki Kurosawa in an NSX.
Former Los Angeles Raider coach Art Shell is interested in the Miami Dolphins' head coaching job, an NFL source with knowledge of the job search told Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
By interviewing Shell, the NFL's senior vice president for football operations, Miami would comply with a league rule that teams interview a minority candidate for any coaching vacancy. Shell became the first black coach of the modern era in 1989 with the Raiders but hasn't been a head coach since 1994.
Former women's No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne played for the first time since September, losing an exhibition match to Nathalie Dechy of France, 6-2, 7-5, at Charleroi, Belgium.
The Belgian star, who dropped to eighth in the WTA rankings this year, had not played since losing in the fourth round of the U.S. Open. She was sidelined by a virus that weakened her since April.
Ted Abernathy, who twice led the National League in saves during the 1960s and pitched for seven teams during his major league career, died Thursday at Gastonia, N.C. He was 71. Story in Section B.