Russian Roulette: Olympic Skating Partners War, Don't Win

Olympic ice skating pairs proved Monday that going for the gold works better when you're not going for the jugular.

Chinese figure skaters Hongbo Zhao, 36, and Xue Shen, 31, who are married harmoniously, took the ultimate prize, declaring, "Maybe it's time to have a baby," after dazzling the judges with their marital on-ice moves.

But Russian partners Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov have shown more venom than saccharine since the games began. They placed only seventh, the first time Russia has failed to win a medal in the skating pairs category since 1964.

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The couple -- a Molotov cocktail on ice -- has been waging a cold war behind the scenes in the Olympic village. Trankov, 26, is a fan of Russian hip hop, while Mukhartova, 24, likes to read and go shopping.

Rumors circulated that their sports psychologist needed to mediate their "tempestuous relationship" -- especially after Trankov slipped and fell, ironically on Valentine's Day.

"For the record, Trankov was dressed like a bedazzled serf. Mukhortova's costume was fairly conventional, though square-necked and totally see-through," wrote Troy Patterson for Slate. "Their coach wore a dark turtleneck, a dark overcoat, and a scowl, implying that Trankov would be spending the night in a dark trunk."

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Former Canadian lovebirds Jessica Dube, 22, and Bryce Davison, 23, etched their own heartbreak in ice to the sentimental backdrop of "The Way We Were."

"I was crying near the end," Dube, who had broken up with Davison before placing sixth in the 2010 games, told the Ottawa Citzen. "Once it was over, it was too much for me."

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Nowhere does harmony count more than in pair skating.

"You have to have the right mentality to be able to go out there and skate pairs," said Jason Dungjen, who, with his skating wife Yuka Sato, coaches Olympic figure skater Jeremy Abbott.

Dungien has had three partners, skating pairs at the 1994 and 1998 Olympics, where he placed fourth.

"You have to be able to give up control, very much like a marriage," he told"Two people have to work together for a common goal, each taking the lead at different times."

But it's not all a glide on golden pond. With his wife -- a 20-hour day between skating and home -- he's seen "the good the bad and ugly."

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And, like the Russian pair, Dungjen's had a purely professional relationship with his pairs partner, Kyoko Ina.

"We competed for eight years and did two Olympics together, and in our relationship off ice, we were completely away from each other," said Dungjen. "I can understand what it means when you heard they don't get along."

But many skating partners do end up in a love.

"These teams are together day in and day out for so many hours that they pretty much are forced into some sort of relationship and then they move from there," said Sarah Granger, a former national figure skating competitor who writes a column for BlogHer. "An unusually high number of couples end up married."

Canadian figure skaters David Pelletier and Jamie Sale were living together when they won gold at the 2002 Olympics. They married in 2005. They now have a 2-year-old son.

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