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2014 European Championships

Julia Lipnitskaia Overtakes Adelina Sotnikova in Free Skate, is the new European Ladies Champion

 by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(17 January 2014) 

About 4,000 spectators watched the ladies free program on Friday night at the European Championships in Budapest. They gave a standing ovation to the winner, which has rarely happened at European championships, because European spectators are not used to stand up for good performances, instead they clap longer and louder. The new European champion is 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia from Russia who won after an outstanding free program with 209.72 points. She is the second-highest ever scored lady at an ISU championship or Grand Prix behind Yuna Kim. She is only 15 years old, but interpreted the problematical story of “Schindler’s List” in a very convincing expression for her age, the slow parts as well as the fast ones.

“We had listened to this music before”, she explained. “Naturally I have also watched the film. It is a very difficult theme. I play the girl in the red dress, therefore the color of my dress. We had thought first to take a grey dress because of the sad story. But I am not old enough to play the role of adults in this whole story. So I play the part of the children. The most important thing for me is to express this story, so that every spectator can feel it.” The judges saw it in a similar way and gave her components with an average of 8.5.

Technically, she had seven triple jumps, among them a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. The only small slips were edge calls on her two triple Lutzes. Her spins and her choreographic sequence were outstanding because of her high flexibility, getting +3 by about half of the judges. “I am flexible by birth, but I have to work on it every day to keep it”, she said. “I skated my program 200 per cent today. I did two difficult combinations in the second half and the base value went up. I have never even skated this version of my program in practice so well. Especially in the second half I managed to pull myself together and skate well and clean to the end. I thought emotions would distract me and affect my technique but they actually helped to better my performance.”

Adelina Sotnikova from the Moscow school of Elena Buianova got 202.36 points and is second. Four of her triple jumps were clean and even very good, including a combination of double axel and triple toe loop, but she stepped out of the triple Lutz (which was also jumped from the wrong edge) and the triple loop was under-rotated. Skating to a modern version of “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso” by Camille Saint-Saens, she had a lot of energy, but the levels of two of her spins was lower.

She commented, “I mostly got the levels for the elements, so I am satisfied with what I did. The big element triple Lutz - triple toe loop was not there again, but after that went wrong I was pleased I managed to pull myself together and deliver a good program. I take a risk in the first minute and afterwards it is a lot easier to live the program right through to the end. This is my job and I love it. I want to make the audience, my parents, everyone, happy. It’s just fun for me.”

Carolina Kostner from Italy won the bronze medal with 191.39 points. She had had back problems and constant headache in the weeks before Europeans. Therefore she skipped Italian Nationals and continued training in Oberstdorf, Germany, but admitted in Budapest that she was not in top shape. She returned to her Bolero free program from last year, because after the Grand Prix some people told her that she is not the best and exotic personality for a Sheherezade program. After a good triple Lutz she performed three other good triple jumps, but fell on the triple toe loop and doubled the loop. Her highlight was the elegant step sequence exactly to the Bolero rhythm for which all nine judges gave a +3.

“The original Bolero music is about 15 minutes long”, she said. “You get the impression that is it getting faster and faster, but this is not true. I want to show this impression in my program as well. I am not quite satisfied with my performance today, but this is the best training I can have before the Olympics. I made a mistake, but I don’t feel bad. That’s sport. You have to take it how it comes and I can only go hoe and learn from it. Sometimes it goes so quickly, it’s just a moment. You feel too secure and life comes back and says, ‘Get down to earth.’ I was here ten years ago at my second European Championships and I saw Julia Sebestyen win and I looked up at her with big eyes and dreamed one day to take her place, and I’ve managed to take her place five times already.

Alena Leonova ended up fourth, earning 178.15 points, behind the two other Russian skaters. She performed to Carmen with a lot of energy, but not as elegant as the top three skaters. Therefore her components were lower. Three of her triples were clean, the two flips downgraded and the Lutz got an edge call. Russia having only two spots at the Olympics in Sochi, she knew that she will probably not nominated for the Olympic Games and was very disappointed.

Maé-Bérénice Méité from France ended up fifth with 173.37 points. Five of her triple jumps were clean, but the second loop and the second toe loop were under-rotated. “It was the first time I skated in the last warm-up group at Europeans, which of course was a great experience for me, because I had to skate alongside all the medal contenders. I tried not to listen to the crowd after Lipnitskaia had skated. I am pretty satisfied with what I did today.”

Valentina Marchei from Italy, who trains mainly in Detroit under Jason Dungjen, is sixth with 165.25 points. Three triple jumps were clean, but two others under-rotated and she fell on the second triple Lutz. Elena Glebova from Estonia, who trains in Hackensack, New Jersey under Igor Krakavec, ended up on seventh position, earning 155.71 points with a program to the soundtrack of “Cleopatra”. The German champion Nathalie Weinzierl is eighth with 151.88 points.