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Karbanenko Closing in on Retirement
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Karbanenko vaults in Thursday's qualification

A decade after leading France to victory at the European Championships, Dmitry Karbanenko has one final chance for a European medal Saturday in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In his ninth appearance at a European Championships, the 34-year-old Karbanenko will compete in the team final for France, which on Thursday qualified seventh to the final.

Switzerland was a place of many firsts for the former Russian team member, and this week it is also one of his last. Karbanenko, who will turn 35 on July 19, plans to retire after August's Olympic Games in Beijing.

"I want to end on a high note here in Switzerland, where I competed for the first time internationally in 1991 in Montreux at the Arthur Gander Memorial," Karbanenko said this week in Lausanne.

Karbanenko began gymnastics in 1978 in his native Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Poland. He eventually moved to Moscow to train at the Central Sports Army Club (CSKA). As a member of the Soviet team, he made his international debut in Switzerland with second place at the 1991 Arthur Gander Memorial.

He competed for Russia at the 1992 and 1996 Europeans and the 1993, 1994 and 1995 World Championships. After being left off the Russian team to the 1996 Olympics, he married a French woman and moved to France.

He made his debut for France at the 1997 World Championships in Lausanne's Malley Arena, site of this year's European Championships. He won the silver medal on floor exercise and finished fourth all-around.

At the 1998 European Championships in St. Petersburg, Karbanenko led France to an upset victory over the host Russians. Individually he finished second all-around.

Since 1992, Karbanenko has competed at nine European Championships. A year ago at the individual Europeans in Amsterdam, he finished 15th all-around, sixth on parallel bars and fourth on high bar. He had been hoping to make a final in Lausanne, but came up short.

Karbanenko during Thursday's qualification

"Dmitry is always there," French head coach Marc Touchais said following Thursday's qualification in Lausanne. "He presented his new move on high bar, with some imperfections, but I think it was harshly judged. It's too bad he did not make the final."

Following the victory in 1998, France's only other team medal was the bronze at the 2004 European Championships in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The team was sixth at the 2006 European Championships.

Karbanenko, who resides in Cannes, plans to become a coach. Eight years ago, his wife died giving birth to their daughter, Oksana. He has since remarried and has a second daughter, Olesya, 20 months.

Eleven years after his French debut, Karbanenko is still competing for his adopted country and back at Malley Arena.

"There was no curtain at the time," he said, pointing to the hanging partition. "But I am happy I am still alive and able to express myself here."

External Link: 2008 European Championships

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