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2013 European Championships

Tight Battle for Gold – Russians with Tableau of Misery on Ice Barely Hold onto Lead. Gold and Silver Separated by only 0.11

 by Alexandra Stevenson





(25 January 2013)

1. Overall 169.25; 2.FD 99.83 (47.00+52.83) Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev, the three-time Russian champions, said they could not be happier, even though they were eclipsed in the Free Dance by their teammates and were crowned European ice dance champions by surely the narrowest of margins ever, only 0.11!

They revealed that they thought their coach, former world champion and Olympic medalist, Sacha Zhulin, had gone bonkers when he first explained the theme of their Free Dance for this season. Bobrova explained, “We were in shock when he told us the idea of the program because Dima (her partner) was to play a sick man. At the start of the routine, he is ill in hospital, a drug addict. That’s why I have to shake him at the beginning – to get him conscious.

“I get him back by telling him I love him. In the middle of the routine, I panic and I get lost in this other world. At the end, we have reversed positions and he must save me, so our pose is the reverse image of our start.”

What won them over to Zhulin’s point of view, was when he played them the music he had chosen, which is a combination of “Man with a Harmonica” and a part from the opera “Tosca”. She said, “I had goosebumps when I heard it.

“I don’t even know how to start explaining how I feel because I’m so incredibly happy with our victory. It’s something we have worked for a long time. In principle we’re happy with our skate, although it wasn’t easy and we lost a bit of the emotional element, but we hope to give our all at Worlds. When we first heard the music, we liked it. We got goosebumps. We understood the choreography and embraced it.”

About the tightness of the rivalry with their teammates, she said, “It is great to have competition so we can grow from competing against ourselves and others.”

Re the suffering they are portraying, they said, “When someone dies or is ill, it is touching and this is ice dance so we want to arouse feeling, and show a human factor. Suffering does that so maybe someone has to die! Perhaps it will change, but the season hasn’t finished yet so we haven’t thought about next season. I expect Sasha has but we haven’t.

“Our short dance is fun. The polka is a fun dance, so our free dance is sad as we like to show different things.”

Soloviev, who arrived a bit late to the press conference, said he didn’t know whether the withdrawal of the defending champions, Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, made their job easier or not. “Competition is competition and this is the European Championships so we could not relax. There is a lot of responsibility.” He added, “It is good that we help each other to grow within our country. It doesn’t give us any chance to relax so for us it’s a big boost.”

Bobrova said, “We have to thank everyone who helped us to skate today. It is our first time in Zagreb and we love it. We must give a big thanks to all. It was not perfect and we did not show everything we can do – the diagonal step sequence only got a level 2 – but nonetheless it was a season’s best for us.

“The main thing is we are happy. Our coach is happy, and that is why we skate, to be happy. We honestly didn’t think about how our chances are to win. This would have only disturbed us. It was good for us to skate first in the group (of five). We went right out to skate (after the warm-up) without thinking. Afterwards, I went back to the dressing room, put on my headphones and waited until it was over and I saw the result only when I came out of the dressing room.”

Soloviev said, “We are really pleased with our performance. We had a clean skate, an emotional skate, and we are happy. We don’t know why the diagonal step sequence only got a level 2, we need to look at it and analyze it when we get back to Moscow. It is hard to evaluate it now.” In fact, none of the top four couples received more than Level 2 for their Diagonal steps.

Soloviev said, “We probably had a more emotional skate in America (in the Grand Prix) and in training, but it was good today.” They both said that changing coaches to Sacha Zhulin has given them a fresh start. “We have changed everything: style, emotion, technique, and mostly our mindset. We almost do not recognize ourselves, and that was his (Zhulin’s) aim.”

They opened their Free with Level 4 twizzles which received five of the maximum +3s and four +2s. They received no GoE less than +1. Only two of their elements were less than the maximum 4. Their spin and diagonal steps were Level 2. Both their technical and component marks for their Free were slightly below their teammates who earned silver. They earned three +3 GoEs from one judge, and one +3 from another judge for a different category.

2. Overall 169.14; 1.FD 100.16 (47.08+53.08) Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov, who are trained by Nikoli Morosov, were obviously over the moon to have beaten their rivals in the Free and to have been so close to gold. Their routine was quite different. Their first move, Level 4 twizzles, received the maximum +3 GoE from five of the nine judges with the other four giving +2. Roughly fifth percent of their component marks were in the 9s.

Ilinkh said, “We felt really great. We have good marks from the judges and all the people who were watching were clapping so much. We were so happy and felt so much emotion. We were doing everything together. We will work better and maybe next time we will be better.

“Our music is from the movie ‘Ghost’ from the musical that has been on Broadway. It is about two people who are in love together. Then one day someone kills him. She doesn’t know what to do without him, she is in a panic, then she sees him in a dream and he tells her everything will be OK, I’ll be with you. It is a dramatic story anyway. We saw the musical.”

There is some dialogue on the tape and questions about whether the rules allow that. Katsalapov explained, “We tried to do an unusual thing for this season. We have heard a lot of opinions about the words in the program but we tried to do it. We changed the opening because the Technical Specialist said we would take a deduction. Everything could have been done better and apparently the judges see it the same way. We will work hard to improve at World championship.

“We wish a fast recovery to Fabian and hope to see them soon.”

3. Overall 165.80; 3. FD 99.27 (47.99+51.28) Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte from Italy were, must have been disappointed that they were 3.34 points behind the silver medalists, but they didn’t show it.  

Lanotte said, “We reached our goal tonight. It was a very good performance. There was a small mistake on a step sequence after the twizzle, but the level of competition is very high and even small mistakes are costly. We are going to work with Igor Shpilband in Novi (Michigan). He recently became a great addition to our team.

“During the off season we had a couple of choices for the free dance. But, either Igor didn’t like them, or our federation didn’t. We love interpreting this story (Carmen).

Cappellini added, “We were extremely proud of how we skated tonight. At this point of the season everything is very well rehearsed. We really dove into the interpretation and the program went by so fast. We couldn’t be prouder of ourselves tonight. Storytelling is a big part of our skating and we try to incorporate it into every routine even when it is not required.

“Interpretation is what makes us skate and it is how we skate. It is what helps us most when we are out on the ice and it is something necessary to have – a story on ice.”

Asked how the withdrawal of the 2011 & 2012 champions had affected him, Lanotte said, “From one side it somehow made things easier losing one of the top teams by giving us all a chance to fight for higher results. But, it also added a lot of pressure as every one of us was fighting for more than if the French had been here. But you still have to go out and perform.

Asked about the amount of death and suffering in the free dances the top couples were showing, he said, “Sometimes, when the short dance is fun and happy, we try for contrast. Drama is a great vehicle to connect with the audience.”

4. Overall 155.77; 4. FD 93.25 (44.86+48.39); Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko drew to skate last of the 20 couples allowed into the Free. The 2011 & 2012 Russian national bronze medalists, who are trained by Alexei Gorshkov and Igor Shpilband, placed sixth and fifth in the last two European championships.

They performed to the soundtrack from “The Godfather”. Tkachenko said, “We are happy with our programs here. We will move to Detroit soon and work hard, but it will be fun to work with the team (Shpilband) there. We will keep the programs the way they are, we will focus on practicing technical elements and expression.”

5. Overall 152.95; FD 92.36 (47.15+45.21); Penny Coomes & Nick Buckland, the twice British champions, were delighted that, due to the absence of last year’s champions, they were invited to perform in the Exhibition Program, an honor they had not expected. They have had problems this season. Buckland explained, “The Grand Prix season was very hit and miss for us because Penny dislocated her shoulder in September. We’ve really only had a chance to train hard since our nationals. The aim here was really to get the levels and then the rest would take care of itself.”

Unlike the top couples who placed 1-4 & 6, who chose to do the Diagonal step sequence and all got only Level 2, Coomes & Buckland decided to present their steps as a Midline variation, and were rewarded with Level 3. (Oddly, the seventh & eighth placed couples managed to get Level 3 for their Diagonal steps.)

Coomes revealed that Robin Cousins (the British 1980 Olympic gold medalist) helped them pick out their music, “Basement Jaxx vs. Metropol Orkest”, after they all took part in the Olympic Torch Gala. She said, “Robin came to Nottingham (their hometown when they are not training in the U.S. with Evgeny Platov) and cut it for us. That really helped out. Now we’re going home for a week. We then hope to compete in the Bavarian Open competition because  we have missed a lot of Senior B assignments (due to her  injury) and we want to get higher world ranking points for next year.”

6. Overall 147.28; 6.FD 87.20 (41.08+46.12) Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi, the current German champions, presented their very show- biz routine in which they portray Zombies, a concept which has almost certainly never been considered for top level competition before.

Zhiganshina said, “It was hard to skate today. I think it was too warm in the rink. The program wasn’t bad, but it didn’t work out the way we wanted it. Her partner added, “It was very tiring today. The warm temperature slowed us down. We are not satisfied as we wanted to improve and now we will end up seventh. The English couple left us behind especially in the technical marks. But the audience was happy, and the biggest success was when we saw the other skaters watching and enjoying our program.”

7. Overall 144.83; 10. FD 83.90 (39.98+44.92 -1); Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov, who represent Azerbaijan had a fall which put them in tenth place in the Free and dropped them from fifth to seventh overall. They were so annoyed, they refused to talk to the press representatives.  

8. Overall 142.54; 7. FD 86.00 (44.61+41.09); Tanja Kolbe & Stefano Caruso, the second ranked Germans, who were 12th in their debut in this championship last year, paid tribute to Italian former world champion Barbara Fusar Poli. Kolbe said, “We made a big step forward when (Fusar Poli) joined us as coach as she has been competing herself not such a long time ago. Next year we hope to have more time practicing and to take another step forward.” Caruso chose their music, “Beethoven’s Last Night” after seeing the movie. It has been 27 years since Germany has had two teams in the top ten in the European Championships.

9. Overall 142.48; 8.FD 84.85 (42.67+42.18); Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri, are the second ranked Italians who made a mistake with their twizzles. He said, “Of course, we are not happy with how things went tonight. We can do much better. Even seeing we got our new season’s best didn’t lift our spirit.

10. 140.00; 9.FD 84.15 (41.21+43.94 -1); With Pechalat & Bourzat forced to withdraw, Pernelle Carron & Lloyd Jones, were the only French couple entered. They got a deduction for an extended lift. They are now trained by Marika Humphreys-Baranova. Jones said she has “brought new things to the program like the twizzles which are built on the music, not just done the fastest you can down the rink. You won’t see anyone doing the same lifts as us. Some couples play it safe. They all do the lift with the boot to the head, we don’t.”

11. Overall 132.90; FD 11. 82.39 (82.39+42.40) Irina Shtork & Tavi Rand, Estonia.

12. Overall 129.36; FD 13. 75.78 (75.78+36.56 -1); Siobhan Heekin-Canedy & Dmitri Dun represent Ukraine but train with Galit Chait Moracci and John Kerr. He fell on their on their diagonal steps which resulted in their getting only Level 1 for that element.

Heekin-Canedy, who is an American, said “Everything else was good except the fall. We didn’t hold back. Even the fall makes me happy because we know now anything can happen and we can recover from it. We wanted to show that we’d improved since last year’s Europeans when we were a new team and didn’t even know if we’d make it out of qualifiers, and I think now we’ve really brought our level up a lot.

He said, “I don’t know what happened. It is just one of those things. Maybe, when we go back and analyze it later.” They were competing against his former partner, who now represents Turkey, Alisa Agnafonova. “Competing against her is fine. We were partners a very long time ago, four years now, so anything that happened is now gone. We are friends.”

13. Overall 127.59; FD 12. 76.80 (39.88+36.92); Alisa Agafonova & Alper Ucar, Turkey.  She said, “We just changed our coach, a few months ago. We’ve been practicing in USA but realized we’re not going anywhere. Therefore it was an easy step to make the decision to move to Moscow. We didn’t care about any difficulties. Zhulin saw our potential. Now we’re making history as the first Turkish dance couple to qualify for the free dance. There’s even a Turkish skating fan club here to watch us.

14. Overall 124.62; 15.FD 74.10 (37.30+37.80); Lucie Mysliveckova & Neil Brown are the national Czech champions. Brown, formerly lived and competed for France, although he is of British descent.

Brown said “We’re trying to get the Czech passport for me but we don’t know how it will turn out. We’re waiting for the election of the Olympic Committee in the Czech Republic and at the moment, the country has not earned a place in Ice Dance at the Olympics. So we’re just waiting to see what happens.”

15. Overall 124.26; 14.FD 74.94 (37.87+37.07) Sara Hurtado & Adria Diaz are the Spanish champions, who train in Canada.

She said, “Skating today was a lot of fun. We had a great time and loved how the audience became one with us. They skated to “Little Wing” and “Pride and Joy” by Stevie Ray Vaughan. He said, “We actually had very different music for this season’s program, but we were forced to change it because of the new ISU regulations. Since so many couples are skating to dramatic music, we thought picking something fun and dancey could help us.”

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