Lithuanian pair return for one last skate

Some of the skating in Turin was breathtaking, but it wasn't just the medallists who were making news. Behind them were a couple who showed the value of perseverance, and who demonstrated that athletes who love their sport don't always need to win to produce stunning achievements.

Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas had been skating together in competition since 1991. In those days, they represented the Soviet Union and they found they liked each other and brought the best out of each other. Neither had ever had another partner in senior competition, nor would they ever spilt. Instead, they skated together full-time for their whole senior careers, as well as marrying each other in 2000.

They had not necessarily been destined to be skaters, even though both had skated since they were small children. Povilias was drafted into the Russian army, but had turned down a life as a soldier to become a full-time skater; Margarita's parents had anticipated her becoming a ballerina.

When the Soviet Union broke up, they decided to compete for Lithuania, the country of Povilias' birth and also the nation where his mother had once been the national skating coach.

Their first Olympics came in 1992, when Margarita was 20 years old and Povilas 21 and they placed 16th. Four years later, they were in Lillehammer and came 12th. In 1998, the pair came eighth in Nagano, their first appearance in the Olympic top ten.

In Salt Lake City, in 2002, they were 30 and 31 years old and recorded their best result – fifth place. They decided that that was enough, and announced their retirement.

But sometimes the thought nags at you that you should give a challenge one last go. And so the pair relented, returning to action in 2005, determined to compete at their fifth Games, a record that had never been achieved in figure-skating history.

And so it was that, after gruelling preparation, they made history in Turin. They were now veterans, aged 34 and 35, but performed to a very high standard and finished seventh. Just another six point, and they would have made the top five, but it was enough for the pair to have competed once again at the very top level and to have made history. They then retired – again - from international competition, a decision they have yet to reverse!