TURIN, Italy — When the last notes sounded of the last competitive program they'd skate together, Maxim Marinin sank to one knee and kissed the clasped hands of Tatiana Totmianina, a touchingly intimate moment in the midst of a roaring crowd at the world's biggest sporting event.
"Without Tatiana, and without her help and support and labor, I wouldn't be here. I couldn't do it by myself," Marinin said. "It was a sign of appreciation for what she has done."
Fifteen months after Totmianina fell during a lift, and plunged face-first to the ice, suffering extensive bruises and a concussion, the Russian duo turned a near-tragedy into an Olympic pairs triumph Monday.
Their masterful performance to "Romeo and Juliet" entranced the crowd and the judges and gave them a runaway victory over two Chinese pairs, Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao, and Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo.
"It's everything," Totmianina said of the victory. "It's our life."
Totmianina and Marinin had agreed they'd leave Olympic-level skating after the Turin Games, and they exited with a flourish.
Skating with remarkable speed and blending high throws, fine spins and clean jumps into a cohesive whole, they became the 12th consecutive pair from the Soviet Union or Russia to win Olympic gold.
Their personal saga flashed through their minds in the seconds after they finished, the exhilaration of winning two world championships and their fear after Totmianina's fall at Skate America in October 2004. That was behind Marinin's kiss and the tears Totmianina cried on the medal stand while the Russian anthem played.
"I think he just made it a moment to say thanks to me," Totmianina said, "because we got through some terrible days together and got back on the ice and we got these medals."
Totmianina and Marinin established personal bests of 135.84 points for their long program and 204.48 points overall. Zhang and Zhang, who are not related, also set personal bests with 64.72 points for their short program Saturday, 125.01 points on Monday and 189.73 points overall. That was despite Zhang Dan's ungainly fall and slide into a split while landing a throw quadruple salchow 38 seconds into their program Monday.
The competition was halted for about five minutes while she regained her poise. The duo made several minor errors but retained second place.
"I didn't want to miss this chance," Zhang Dan said of her decision to continue.
Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo won their second successive bronze medal, this one after Zhao ruptured his Achilles' tendon in August.
U.S. pairs champions Rena Inoue and John Baldwin of Santa Monica slipped from sixth to seventh and couldn't duplicate the historic throw triple axel they'd pulled off at the national championships and again in Saturday's short program. Baldwin blamed himself for Inoue's falling forward, saying he hadn't given her enough lift when he launched her in the air.
"It came down to one throw. It really did," Baldwin said, although the standings suggested otherwise. They achieved personal bests with 61.27 points in their short program, 113.74 for their long program and 175.01 points overall, but they were nearly 12 points out of the top three and more than 29 points away from Totmianina and Marinin.
Baldwin said their partnership would continue.
"I didn't want to have any regrets coming off the ice, and I do because I don't feel I gave Rena what she needed," he said. "I just felt the pressure of the other teams before us making mistakes. I knew we could beat them."
The other U.S. entry, Marcy Hinzmann and Aaron Parchem of Detroit, finished 13th.
"We are thrilled," Hinzmann said. "Our only wish coming to the Olympic Games was to have fun and do our best, and we did that."
Unlike the Salt Lake City pairs event, which spawned a judging scandal that threatened the sport's credibility and led to an overhaul of the judging system, the Turin competition was largely uneventful. Controversy was limited to Totmianina's complaint that Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao "were trying to be too aggressive" during the warmup, renewing a clash they'd had at last year's world championships, when Totmianina said the Chinese duo "basically kicked me on the ice."
The spectacle of Totmianina and Marinin's performance made all else seem petty -- and Marinin reaffirmed that it was, indeed, their farewell.
"Do you think we could do anything more?" he said, smiling. "I don't think so."
FIGURE SKATING, PAIRS
* Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin, Russia
* Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao, China
* Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, China