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2014 European Championships Preview

by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(14 January 2014)  European championships have had a history of more than one hundred years and are almost as big as the World Championships. For the seventh time they are held in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Originally the federation had planned to organize the event in the same big Laszlo Papp arena (named after a famous Hungarian boxer) in which it took place in 2004. But this arena is so expensive that they decided to go to the provincial city of Debrecen, about 150 miles east of Budapest. Then the ISU intervened and argued that they had given the championships to Budapest and no other city. So the Hungarians chose a near-by exhibition hall called “Syma Arena” in Budapest which they transformed into an ice rink with about 6,000 provisional spectator seats. And as a kind of thank you the ISU gave Debrecen the Junior World Championships in 2016.

Normally all European top skaters compete at the European championships. But this time in the Hungarian capital of Budapest the new team event at the Olympic Games soon after Europeans changes the situation a bit. The two top ice dance couples Péchalat/Bourzat from France and Bobrova/Soloviev from Russia do not compete in Budapest, but stay in their training rinks in the USA and Russia to prepare for Sochi. Therefore the top favorites in the ice dance competition are now Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte from Italy who train part time in Milan, Italy and part time with Igor Shpilband in Novi, Michigan. Their biggest contenders are Nikolai Morozov’s Russian team of Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov. If everything goes normal, the other teams can fight only for the bronze medal. Among them is the second Russian team Ekaterina Riazanova/Ilia Tkachenko, the German champions Nelli Zhiganshina/Alexander Gazsi (her brother is competing for Russia with Viktoria Sinitsina) and the British champions Penny Coomes/Nicholas Buckland.

In the ladies competition, there might be a fight for gold between the five time European champion Carolina Kostner (26) from Italy and the two much younger Russian teenagers Adelina Sotnikova and Julia Lipnitskaia. Kostner had skipped her Nationals in December, citing back problems. But she had prepared a new short program to Schubert’s “Ave Maria” with her choreographer Lori Nichol in Oberstdorf and revived her last year’s Bolero long program instead of the Shcerezade program which did not get very positive criticism at her Grand Prix. Sotnikova became Russian champion for the fourth time in December. Lipnitskaia was second at the Grand Prix Final two weeks earlier. Other candidates for top positions are Elene Gedevanishvili from Georgia, Maé-Bérénice Méité from France, Valentina Marchei from Italy (who trains in Detroit), Alena Leonova from Russia, and Viktoria Helgesson from Sweden.

Last year’s European men’s champion Javier Fernandez from Spain has not been in top shape in this season yet, therefore he did not reach the Grand Prix Final. But nevertheless he is a gold medal contender. Russia comes with three skaters, among them the new Russian champion Maxim Kovtun who beat Evgeni Plushenko at Russian Nationals. If he wins or at least skates very well in Budapest again, he will get the Russian federation into trouble when they have to decide which only skater to send to the Olympic Games. Plushenko opted not to compete at Europeans in order to save in energy for Sochi and not to lose again against Kovtun. But if Plushenko’s energy is limited, how will be able to compete at the Olympics four times? The rule is clear: If a country has only one spot at the Olympics (like Russia has), the skater who does the team competition also has to do the individual event. Except if one Russian does the team event and declares afterwards that he is injured and cannot do the individual event any more, so that the alternate will come in. But it is somewhat unfair if you know in advance that you will be injured after the team event. Plushenko has at least reached on goal by being in the media for weeks: It helps him to make more money for his shows. So with these controversies he at least proved to be a good business man.

At Europeans the two other Russian skaters Sergei Voronov (third at Nationals) and Konstantin Menshov (fourth) will also fight for a medal. But there are more male skaters who are able to win a medal if they skate well: The two French skaters Florent Amodio (National Champion this year) and Brian Joubert (who has worked with Nikolai Morozov in Moscow in the last ten days) as well as the two Czech skaters Tomas Verner (first at Nationals) and Michal Brezina. So the men’s field is quite open.

In the pairs event a fight for gold between the reigning European and world gold medalists Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov from Russia and the Grand Prix Final winners Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy from Germany can be expected. Four pairs are candidates for the bronze medal: The new Russian champions Ksenia Stolbova/ Fedor Klimov (who only won because Volosozhar/Trankov decided not to compete), the third Russian pair Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov, the Italian champions Stefania Berton/Ondrej Hotarek and the French champions Vanessa James/Morgan Ciprès.