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2014 European Championships

Italian Dancers Take Lead in European Championships Short Dance

 by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(15 January 2014)  Twenty-nine couples competed the short dance at the European Championships in Budapest, 20 of which reached the final. There are five required elements: two compulsory Finnstep parts, a twizzle sequence, a lift and a not-touch midline or circular step sequence to Quickstep, Foxtrot, Swing or Charleston rhythms. The Finnstep is named after the 1995 European ice dance champions Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko from Finland who created this dance as an original dance. There was a lot of enthusiasm among the 1,500 spectators in the rink, Hungary being a traditional country of dance, though more gypsy-style and other folk dances than quickstep style.

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte from Italy are in the lead with 69.58 points, but only with a tiny difference of four hundredth points. They performed to two quicksteps of the musical “42nd Street” and the Foxtrot “Lullaby of Broadway”. As usual, they were mainly superior with the technical elements: Twizzles, the first Finnstep part and the lift got level 4, the second Finnstep part and the step sequence level 3. Their highlight was the rotational lift which got one +3 and eight +2. Their components were around 8.9.

Lanotte commented: “I’ve got to be honest it is not the easiest short dance to do and we tried really hard to bring sparkle to the ice. We were really happy with the performance this evening.” Cappellini thought how close the result is: “It is really a tie, it’s a virtual tie. So much can happen. We make it a point never to think about the points or the places. We focus on the performance. After all it is the performance which brings the results.”

Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov are second, having earnt 69.54 points to the Quicksteps “Bei mir bist du schoen” and “Sing, sing, sing” plus the Foxtrot “Sixteen Tons”. They had been second at Russian Nationals behind Bobrova/Soloviev who are not in Budapest because they want to prepare for their four competitions at the Olympics. There are rumors that they will go back to their last year’s free dance. Ilinykh/Katsalapov had the highest components because of their enthusiastic style and their high speed. Technically, they got three levels 4, a level 3 for the second Finnstep part and only a level 2 for their step sequence. But each of these five elements was excellently executed, with several +3 for the twizzle sequence and the lift. Their components were 9.0 on the average.

Ilinykh said: “It was our best performance of this program. We are always happy to skate here as we love the European championships. We did what we had planned and it was much better than in Sochi at Russian Nationals from a technical point of view.” Katsalapov added: ”Of course we wish that the French and our Russian teammates were here, but there are still enough good couples here and we have to skate our best.”

There is a big difference of almost eight points to the rest of the field. If everything goes normal in the free dance no other couple should have a chance for gold and silver. The difference between the third and the eighth place, however, is only three points, because Europe has a good density of good dance couples. The majority of them are coached part time or fulltime by the coaching team of Barbara Fusar Poli and Igor Shpilband who together have almost ten couples at Europeans.

The British champions Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland, who train with Evgeni Platov in New Jersey, are third with 61.76 points. They performed a very showy short dance to music of Fred Astaire with a spectacular rotational lift, but it was a bit too long. The Finnstep parts got levels 2 and 4. Buckland said he has had no more heart problems since August when he had to undergo surgery. “It was a bit of a shock. I had a kind of faulty nerve which meant that whenever I produced a lot of adrenalin it caused a short circuit. Now I am fully recovered and can get on with my skating and my life. Today I was really pleased. So far I haven’t been able to skate this program how I feel I should. But today I enjoyed it.” Coomes added: ”After the Eric Bompard Trophy which was not as good as we would have liked we went to Nationals and straight to America for training and Evgeni nearly killed us. We really couldn’t have put more into our training.”

Victoria Sinitsina & Ruslan Zhiganshin from the school of Svetlana Alexeeva and her daughter Elena Kustarova in Moscow had been third at Nationals and are on fourth position with 60.63 points. Skating to the Quickstep “Let the Good Time Roll” and the “Swing Baby”, they excelled by high speed and dynamic elements. The twizzle sequence and the rotational lift got a level 4, the Finnstep parts level 2 and 3, the step sequence level 3. Their best element was the twizzle sequence.

Sinitsina knew a reason for this success: “We feel very comfortable here at this competition, it doesn’t feel like a big championship, it feels more like a Grand Prix. It looks as if we were at home in Russia. You hear a lot of Russian around here and there are many Russians who are skating for other countries. We do not know yet if we are nominated for Sochi and therefore we feel that it is a very important competition for us.”

The third Russian couple of Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko, coached by Shpilband and Alexei Gorshkov, are on fifth position with 60.35 points. They had chosen three music pieces of the musical “Chicago” and had four very good levels but only level 1 on their second Finnstep section because they had timing problems.

Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov, another part time Shpilband couple, are sixth with 59,82 points, Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi from Germany are seventh with 59.79 points and the second Italian team of Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri (main coach Fusar Poli) are eighth with 58.17 points.