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2014 European Championships

Volosozhar & Trankov Defend Pairs Title, Lead Russian Sweep of Podium, Germans Withdraw Due to Illness

 by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(18 January 2014)  The pair final at the European Championships in Budapest ended with an overall victory of the expected favorites Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov from Russia, especially as the German pair withdrew. The champions got 220.38 points, but they made three serious mistakes and were only second in the free program. They won because of their excellent short program. This time Trankov was no Jesus Christ Superstar from the musical they skated to, but more a falling star. After a brilliant triple twist (eight times +3) he stepped out of the side-by-side triple Salchow, then fell on the side-by-side-triple toe loop and could not add a double toe loop. But there was more bad luck. After some very good elements, including an excellent throw triple loop (eight times +3), Trankov did not throw Volosozhar correctly and she fell on the throw triple Salchow. The other elements in the second half were very good again, especially the three difficult lifts. The overall impression was not positive. Therefore the components of around 9.1 were too high, especially the one for performance. If you fall twice the performance should not be 9.0 nor even two times 9.25.

Without mistakes, like their performance at their two Grand Prix, the program is very interesting. Trankov said, “We try to be like actors on the stage. We watched all the shows from this musical, we went to Broadway, we watched the Russian show and the movie and so we just tried to know a lot about this story and tried to represent our story on ice in a very short time, in just four minutes.”

Then he made a general comment, “First of all I want to congratulate everyone on this Russian podium. Also congratulations to our coaches because we all skate on one team, and I don’t know if all three medals going to one coaching team has happened before.” But when he talked about their own performance he admitted, “I have no explanation, I was not nervous and I am in good shape. But I didn’t do my job today because all three mistakes were my responsibility. We will analyze them later draw some conclusions and male sure it doesn’t happen during the Olympic Games. We have never skated the free program in practice with so many mistakes. Today there have been many surprises for me. In practice we sometimes have surprises, maybe one element will need more work than another, but on jumps it has never happened this many times.”

Trankov was also asked about the lack of pressure following the withdrawal of Savchenko & Szolkowy. “For sure we didn’t have so much weight on us after the short program because we had so many points, but we really wanted to skate clean for the audience, for the many Russian fans here and for all our fans. For us it is always a pleasure to skate with the Germans in the same competition and it is always a pleasure to fight them. It will be good in Sochi and I want to say we are not afraid. But there are not only them and us. Today a young couple from Russia, Ksenia and Fedor, won the free program. I think the question is not only about Tania and Maxim, the Russian pair, and Aliona and Robin, the German pair, because we have very good pairs here and from Canada, China and Russia.”

Their greatest rivals, Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy from Germany, withdrew after the last morning practice. According to the medical bulletin, Savchenko whose 30th birthday was the day of the free program, is suffering from an acute viral infection in the upper respiratory tract. Their coach Ingo Steuer said, “We decided to withdraw after practice today. We tried as everybody could see. Aliona already arrived in Budapest with this infection. Our team doctor said if she is pushing through, she might be sick for ten days afterwards. The second half of the free skate is tough and the risk of injury too high.” Savchenko added, “If it had been our last competition or the Olympics, I would have tried.” And Szolkowy said, “Looking forward to Sochi, this was the only possible decision because Aliona is only 70 per cent fit, even if my heart of a sports person tells me that we would have liked to compete.”

The new Russian champions Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov got 68 hundredth more points than Volosozhar & Trankov in the free program and won an overall silver medal with 207.98 points. Skating in an entertaining way to “The Addams Family”, they performed an almost clean program with an excellent combination of one triple and two double Salchows, a throw triple Lutz and an excellent throw triple Salchow at the very end which got a + 3 by five of the nine judges. The end of the backward lasso lift was a bit sudden, but everything else was at least good, though not outstanding. They were the only pair to get a standing ovation by parts of the 5.000 spectators. Klimov said, “We are happy about our skate today, we did almost all our elements. We beat our scores in this competition, we got new seasons bests and we are glad that our country has the top three places, so we are proud of Russia.”

The third Russian pair Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov won the bronze medal with 201.61 points, therefore the pair competition ended with a Russian sweep. Like very often Bazarova had problems with the individual jumps. This time she stepped out of the triple toe loop and later landed both double axels of their sequence on two feet. Their throws (triple flip and triple loop) were wide and safe, their triple twist caught in a very elegant way. They skated to the Polovetsian Dances by Alexander Borodin.

Bazarova explained, “Unfortunately we didn’t manage to do all the elements today. We made some errors on jumps at the beginning of the program. So naturally I can’t say we’re happy with the performance because we didn’t manage to skate as well as we do in training. I can’t even say it was down to nerves because we went out calm.”

Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek from Italy are on fourth position, earning 195.61 points after a free programme to “Dracula” by Philipp Glass. Their only mistake was on the side-by-side triple Salchow which was downgraded after she landed it forward and then fell. But the combination of triple toe loop and two double toe loops was in very good harmony and all other elements got a lot of +2. Their highlight is a spectacular lift with one arm.

The French champions Vanessa James & Morgan Ciprès are fifth with 185.48 points and therefore have the best result of all French skaters in Budapest. For the first time at an ISU championships, they tried a real combination of two triple toe loops (not only a sequence with one or two steps in between), but James fell on the second one. Everything else was clean, the triple Salchow, the two triple throws and the triple twist. The French federation president Didier Gailhaguet said that the second French pair skater Daria Popova (who is of Russian nationality and finished eleventh in Budapest with Bruno Massot), “will probably not receive French citizenship before Sochi”. As France has no other pairs but two spots in pair skating in Sochi, the French federation will probably give back their spot in a few days. According to the result of the Nebelhorn qualification competition, the Austrians Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer who finished 12th at Europeans are next on the alternate list and will get the chance to compete in Sochi if nothing changes.

The second German pair Maylin & Daniel Wende is on sixth place, earning 168.32 points. Seventh with 163.93 points are the Israelis Andrea Davidovich & Evgeni Krasnopolski who train in Hackensack, New Jersey. The Estonian pair Natalja Zabijako & Alexandr Zaboev ended up tenth and also cannot go to Sochi although they qualified in Oberstdorf a spot for their country and are the only Estonian pair. Zaboev is Russian and Estonia refused to give him Estonian citizenship.