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2013 European Championships

Clear Victory in Paris for Defending Champions

 by Alexandra Stevenson





(25 January 2013)   

1.Overall 212.45; 1.FS 139.22 (67.39+71.83) Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov, Russia, built on their lead to win by a very substantial 7.24 points but they won’t be appearing in Sunday’s exhibition. The pair have been excused from this compulsory chore. (Skaters can be financially penalized if they win medals but don’t take part for any reason other than illness.) He left Friday morning to attend get ready for his father’s funeral.

They opened their four and a half minute routine, which is set to “Violin Muse” by Ikuko Kawai based on Bach’s Partita for Violin No.2, and Tomaso Vitali’s “Chaconne”, with a jaw-droppingly high triple twist, which was deservedly awarded Level 4 with seven of the nine judges giving the maximum +3 Grade of Execution. The only way the marks could have been the slightest bit higher would have been if the other two judges had not given “only” +1 and +2.

That was followed by side-by-side triple Salchows for which two judges gave negatives (one -1, and the other -2.) Neither were the judges who had failed to give +3 on the first element. Three of other judges gave 0 for the amount to be added to the element’s base value, three punched in +1 and the remaining official gave +2. (The panel included the notorious “toe-tapping” Yuri Balkov.) That was followed by the jump combination, triple toe loop to double toe loop, which received four +1s, three 0s and two -1s.

Both their forward inside death spiral and flying change foot combination spin received Level 4 from the Technical Panel with +1.30 and +1.00 respective GoEs from the Judges. The spin got two votes of +3, two +1s and the other five punched in +2.

At the half way mark, when the extra ten percent clicks in for jumps and throws, they executed a throw triple loop which was huge, but she jackknifed on the landing and they lost -0.90 from its base value which had an extra 10% because it was executed in the second half of the routine.

They then presented two Level 4 Group 5 lifts. The reverse entry lift received +1.3 GoE and the back entry got an extra 1.60 added to its base value. Two judges gave +3 and three others punched in +2 for both lifts. One gave +2 for the first and +3 for the second. One gave +1 on the first and +2 on the second. The remaining judge gave +1 for both lifts.

Judges, rightly, are forbidden from discussing their marks with other judges. But it seems strange that they differ so widely on the very limited range of GoEs. Obviously, they have different opinions but shouldn’t there be a provision for them to discuss, maybe with the referee, why they thought the way they do?

After their choreographed sequence, which received three +2 and the rest +1, the defending champions tried a throw triple Salchow which she was forced to land on two feet, and so they lost -1.30 on the elements base value of 4.95 plus ten percent.

Their final lift, from Group 3, earned the maximum Level 4 with a full point extra from the judges, who had punched in two +3s, five +2s and two +1s. They concluded the routine with a Level 4 pair spin which received five +2s and four +1s. Their components included one 9.75 for Interpretation and went down to one 8.25.

Since they skated before their main rivals, they were very guarded in their immediate comments. She said, “I didn’t feel so good in the free program. It was so hard and we had a big problem. Now I’m a little better. For now we are in first place. We will see. It is difficult to raise the mood at this time but I am glad we made the decision to compete here.”

Trankov, who has been shielded from making any comments to the press this week because of his father’s death, said, “We will work towards the World Championships and hope to skate better there.”

A few minutes later, after learning that they had not only won but that it was by a big margin, their mood changed slightly. She said, “We are very pleased we defended our European title and that we decided to compete here after all. Of course, we are not entirely happy with the performance, there were some mistakes. But overall, this is a good start for Russia at these Championships, the first gold medal and we hope our teammates will also do well.”

This is the first time they have defeated the Germans, who had held this title four times but had to pull out last year due to her injury. Volosozhar was asked about how that felt. She said, “We are mainly focused on ourselves and we don’t watch our competitors. But, Aliona and Robin are a strong pair, they did well and they came back strongly. I am not happy with our mistakes and Maxim and I need to skate better at Worlds.”

About the errors on both throw jumps, Volosozhar said, “During the warm up, the throws were really good. Maybe I went too strong. I was, maybe, too tense during the performance so it didn’t go as well.” Their coach, Nina Mozer explained, “They are tired more than anything. They feel tiredness much more than happiness right now.”

They got together after the Vancouver Olympics, in which Trankov, representing Russia, had finished 7th while Volosozhar and her partner, representing Ukraine, had finished eighth.

2. Overall 205.24; 2.FS 135.05 (65.90+70.13 -1) Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy, the world champions, who are from Germany, suffered their first defeat ever by the Russians, although the Russians had outshone them in the 2012 world championship free skate, but had been too far behind to pull up over them.

Szolkowy said, “All in all, we are happy with our program tonight. Yes, there were one or two mistakes, but the most important thing was that we gave a good performance. I think we did that. We have to keep working.” They had to pull out of one of their Grand Prix assignments due to her severe sinusitis and have had little competitive experience this season.

“We fought through it. I think the first half was strong, powerful, but then in the second half we run out of steam a little. But we went for everything. I should have done a triple Salchow, of course, then we really would have done everything. We know what we need to do. We didn’t try anything new, but we need to make sure that we get all the transitions in and that we can rise as the music is rising and getting faster.

Savchenko, obviously not in a good mood, forced herself to say, “We are happy with how it went for us.”

They chose to skate to “Flamenco Bolero”, by Gustavo Montesano. “We listen to a lot of music when choosing one for our programs and we were talking about this kind of music for many years. We enjoy listening to different styles of music and this year we felt ready for the Bolero,” Szolkowy explained.

Skating last of the 15 pairs, immediately following the new champions, they took the ice in in rather strange black creations, very loosely based on traditional Flamenco outfits.  Under his black bolero, he sported a very loud colorful shirt. They opened their routine with a great throw triple flip which earned five +3 GoEs, three +2 and a solitary +1, which translated to +1.80 over the move’s base value of 5.50.

Then came a sequence of two triple toe loops (earning a total of 7.96 points) and a +0.90 Level 4 forward inside death spiral, which earned one +3 but also six +1s and two +2s. Their Level 4 flying change foot combination spin received only a marginal extra 0.21. The choreographed section which followed received a range of GoEs, including one +3 and one 0, plus five +1s and two +2s. Their Level 2 triple twist got also got a mixed reception, with five judges believing nothing should be added or subtracted from the move’s base value of 5.94 (plus the 10% bonus for being in the second half), while two punched in +2 and one gave +1 and another -1.

Then she fell on their side-by-side attempted triple Salchow jumps which were classed as doubles. Although they bounced back with two excellent Group 5 lifts, one with an Axel ascent which earned unanimous +2s and the second with a back entry which received four +2s and five +1s, the following pair combination spin was only Level 2 although it received one +3 with seven +2s and a solitary +1. That +1 was thrown out because it was the lowest score along with the +3 which was the highest.

Their last two moves were a Group 3 (press) lift, which received the maximum Level 4 from the Technical Panel and four +2s along with five +1s from the judges, and a throw triple Salchow, which moved the judges to give seven +2s and two +1s. Their components ranged from 9.5 given by one judge for all five categories, down to 8.25 given once by two judges for separate component categories.

3. Overall 187.45; 3.FS 123.17 (62.56+62.61 -1) Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek, Italy, skated to “Poeta en el Viento” by Vincente Amigo. They opened with good side-by-side triple toe loops combined with two double toe loops. But then she fell on their triple Salchows. That was their only negative GoE. Their three lifts and their final flying change foot combination spin were rewarded with Level 4. Their triple twist was Level 1. Both throws, triple loop and Salchow, were executed late in the program. Their components ranged from four 8.50s down to two 7.0s.

Hotarek said, “It was very difficult skating today. We put ourselves under a lot of pressure with our third place after the Short Program. Of course, we are very happy, but the pressure was getting to us. Somehow it worked out. We couldn’t be happier winning the first medal in Italian pairs history. I dedicate this medal to Anna Grandoifi, the president of my first skating club, who helped me a great deal when I first started skating for Italy and is still helping me today. (Hotarek was born in Brno in the Czech Republic.)

Berton said, “Ondrej helped me a lot today to deal with pressure. And the audience here in Zagreb was with us from the very first moment. I dedicate my medal to my father who has had a hard time and also to Stefania Parrelli from the Italian Police (sponsor of Italian athletes) who is also going through a difficult period in life.”

Asked what happened on the stumble before throw triple Salchow, she said with a shrug, “I wish I could tell you. It was a stumble, but I don't know why!”

4. Overall 178.81; 4.FS 119.54 (60.07+59.47) Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres have been locked in a close battle with their teammates, Daria Popova & Bruno Massot, and recently took the national title from them. In Zagreb, they were clearly ahead of their rivals, who placed seventh in both sections and overall.

They skated to “Pearl Harbor” by Hans Zimmer. James said, “We’re very satisfied with our performance. There was a lot of stress because we had a good Short Program and we wanted to keep our place, and we fought for that from beginning to end. I’m glad people have noticed how our partnership has strengthened. At first it was difficult on and off ice.”

James, who is a twin and was born in Canada, is a former U.S. resident and 2006 British singles champion. She relocated to France and became national pair champion with skate with Yannick Bonheur. They competed in the Vancouver Olympics placing 14th. “Morgan had not done pairs before we paired up (in 2010) and it was difficult to manage having someone who was new to the discipline. I had to be a teacher. But now I have to pull back from that role because he’s no longer at that stage, and that’s also hard to do.

“This summer we talked about everything and had everything out and then we knew what we had to change and it worked. Now we have beating my previous best placing the Europeans (7th with Bonheur in 2010) so we are a new stage.”

Cipres revealed, “We put a new and difficult lift in, a back lasso, and this was the first competition we did it and it worked. We have worked really hard this season and now we’ll have a little break.”

5. Overall 175.48; 5.FS 119.28 (57.70+62.58 -1) Yuko Kavaguti, who gave up her Japanese citizenship to skate for Russia with Alexander Smirnov, had a lot of success including three medals in past European championships, bronze in 2008, silver in 2009 and 2011 and gold in 2010. They did not compete in this event last year due to his appendix surgery. They were fourth in the Olympics, but their performance here in Zagreb has not been on that level.

Smirnov said, “Of course we didn’t succeed in everything we did, but we are happy. It was not excellent, but it was good. There are a few things I am not pleased with but it is better not to talk about them. I felt stronger in the free program – it is calmer and there is not the same pressure on the three jumps (as in the Short Program).”

Kavaguti said she did not actually see Smirnov fall on his attempted double Axel, which was classed as a single, since she was rotating in the air at that time. “I didn’t even notice that he fell. Our coach (Tamara Moskvina) says the female partner should be looking up and smiling into the audience as much as possible, particularly after the completion of an element, and that is what I do!”

They skated to “February” by Leonid Levashkevich, beginning with a successful sequence of two triple toe loops. After his fall, they pulled off a Level 2 triple twist and a Level 4 back inside death spiral, both of which earned an extra 0.50. Their first and second lifts were also the maximum Level 4 and earned extra on their GoEs. However, their last lift, an Axel Lasso was only a +0.40 Level 2. Both throws were saddled with negatives. The triple Salchow had -1.30 removed from its base value, and the triple loop lost -0.60.

6. Overall 167.23; 6. FS 113.53 (58.86+56.67 -2) Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov, from Russia, were the bronze medalists last year in this event but had a poor start and were only eighth in the Short Program. They presented an amusing Free routine to music from “The Addams Family” but they had two falls in the second half. The first was on their throw triple Lutz, and then she fell again and he stumbled on their 10th element, side-by-side double Axels.

Klimov said, “It was much better than the Short Program. But, well, it couldn’t have been worse! Now I’m very tired. We had a great first half but I think for the second half we didn’t have enough energy. We like this kind of program with lots of character. It’s funny and we make jokes in the program. Now I don’t want to see anymore ice. I will be a tourist.”

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