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2015 European Championships

Russian Ladies Sweep Europeans Podium

 by Klaus Reinhold Kany


(31 January 2015)  As almost everybody expected, there was a Russian sweep in the ladies competition at the European championships 2015 in Stockholm although the Olympic gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova and last year’s European champion Yulia Lipnitskaia were not even in the competition. Sotnikova still has problems with a torn ligament and could not compete at Russian Nationals. Lipnitskaia is out of shape, has had puberty related issues this season, and was only ninth at Nationals. But Russia has so many highly talented female single skaters that they could send three others without having to fear that they would not win a medal. The winner Elizaveta Tuktamysheva explained it: “If you look at the level of our 2015 Nationals and Europeans, then it seems that Nationals are tougher.” After only 1,500 or 2,000 spectators in the first three days of competition, the huge rink finally on Saturday was more crowded with about 7,000 spectators.

Tuktamysheva confirmed her comeback of this season with a brilliant performance at the European championship in Stockholm and won with 210.40 points, the highest number of points she ever got. The 18-year-old skater from St. Petersburg began her short program with a huge combination of two triple toe loops. which was rewarded with four +3 and five +2. The triple Lutz was very good as well, the double axel excellent. During the second triple toe loop as well as during the double axel, she raised the level of difficulty by putting one arm above her head. Her spins were first class as well as the dynamic step sequence which got three +3. The interpretation of Maurice Ravel’s famous Bolero was convincing, therefore her components were around 8.1. She commented: “I was not as emotional in the short program as I wanted. The music was quiet which makes it more difficult to skate in an emotional style.” Overall she was 1.4 points behind her teammate Elena Radionova in the short program.

Tuktamysheva’s free program was even better because the spectators could see that there is a woman and no more girl on the ice and gave her a standing ovation. Her interpretation of the oriental music was excellent and was rewarded with components of around 8.5. Technically, she nailed the maximum possible of seven triple and five double jumps, including a combination of triple Lutz, double toe loop and double loop. Five elements got at least one +3. This time she did not try the triple axel which she is working on and said: “I have not trained it enough yet, so it is not ready to put into the short program. That could be quite a big risk at this points.” But after the competition she and her coach Alexei Mishin announced that she will probably compete at the Bavarian Open competition in two weeks, a B level event in Oberstdorf/Germany and try the triple axel there.

Later she commented: “I am so happy that skated clean, especially with the two Lutzes. It was very satisfying for myself, my coaches and the judges. I think this was one of my best performances, but it is still not the maximum of what I can do. I am very happy that all three Russian girls skated a clean short and long program and are on the podium. We have already discussed it amongst ourselves and we are all very pleased and hope to repeat it at World Championships. I am excited to come out on top of the three. This gives me confidence. I see that nothing is impossible and I never give up. We have worked a lot on the emotions throughout the season. I want to show different emotions so it doesn't get boring for the judges or spectators.

16-year-old Elena Radionova had been in the lead after a first class short program which contained a good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, a very good triple loop, a double axel without any preparation and an outstanding layback spin which all nine judges rewarded with a +3. She interpreted popular Spanish music and a song by Jennifer Lopez and had program components with an average level of 8.0. But she could not hold this position and finished second with 209.54 points, less than one point less than Tuktamysheva. This small difference should have been bigger because her interpretation is not as strong as Tuktamysheva’s way of skating. In her free program to a Rakhmaninov medley, Radionova did the same elements as in the short program and also the maximum of possible jumps, including a sequence of triple loop, single loop and triple Salchow. This time her components were around 8.4. She said: “I was very happy with my performance. It was my debut at European Championships and it was very successful. I skated ideally in short and free program so I'm happy with everything.”

Bronze medal winner Anna Pogorilaya (191.81 points) began her short program (to a modern version of Albinoni’s Adagio) with a good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, followed by a triple loop. In the free program to the music of Igor Stravinsky’s fire bird most elements were at least good, but she touched down her hand on the flip and on the second Lutz.

After her program, she commented: “The beginning was good but then maybe I was tired, maybe I didn't pull myself together enough, but I had mixed success. I know I could do better and I want to do better so I was not entirely happy with my performance. I am crazy happy with the result but not everything happened as I wanted in my performance so that adds a bit of a sad note. In terms of skating I don't know whether I have found my style yet, I think I am still searching.”

The Swedish federation had the biggest success at senior ladies competitions for decades because of the fourth and the fifth place of the Helgesson sisters who are coached by their mother. Joshi, the younger one, ended up fourth with 169.07 points. In the short program to “Black Bird” by Paul McCartney she began with a safe triple Lutz, followed by a combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop (with both hands over her head). In the free program, three of her triple jumps were clean, but the 21-year-old skater stepped out of the triple loop and the second triple Lutz and singled the Salchow which was planned triple. She commented: “Usually I get very nervous before getting on the ice. But this time I felt so supported skating in my country, surrounded by my family and friend.”

Viktoria Helgesson finished on fifth position, earning 166.39 points. Her combination in the short program (triple toe loop and double toe loop) was a bit easy, her triple loop clean and her spins and steps all had level 4. Three triple jumps in the free program were very good, but she touched down with both hands on the triple Salchow, fell on the triple toe loop and doubled the second Salchow which was planned triple. Later she said: “It was amazing to perform in front of a home crowd, just unbelievable. I am really happy with how it went. Just my leg died after the fall and it was a bit hard to breathe.”

Maé-Bérénice Méité from France is sixth with 156.47 points. She no longer trains in the USA as in early fall but has returned to coach Katia Krier in Paris. After a clean combination of two triple toe loops, she touched down her hand on the triple Lutz and later commented this mistake: “I was a little slow going into this jump, it’s shame.” The other elements were safe. In the long, she fell on the triple Lutz and three other jumps were shaky.

Angelina Kuchvalska from Latvia finished seventh with 156.37 points. She was only 17th in the short program after stepping out of the second triple toe loop (which was underrotated). But with the fifth best free program which contained six triple jumps she could move up ten places. Roberta Rodeghiero was the best of the three Italian skaters and is eighth with 154.52 points. Italy had three spots because last year Carolina Kostner and Valentina Marchei were in the top. Kostner, by the way, has been banned from ISU competitions for one year and four months by an Italian jury because she was accused of having known that her boyfriend was doping. Nicole Schott, the new German champion, is ninth with 153.63 points.

Two more skaters who live in the USA reached the final: Fleur Maxwell from Luxemburg finished on 20th position in spite of excellent spins, but she missed several jumps. Since last early fall, she trains in Montclair, New Jersey with former ice dancer Igor Lukanin. Elene Gedevanishvili ended up 23rd after making many mistakes in the free program. She trains in Hackensack, New Jersey, with Craig Maurizi. Kiira Korpi from Finland had just started a comeback after almost two years of Achilles tendon problems. But after a good short program in which she was fourth, she had to withdraw because of severe stomach problems and fever.