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2020 European Championships, Ice Dance

 by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(3 February 2020) The ice dance competition at the European Championships in Graz, Austria had a high level because Europe has many good ice dance couples and only few of them made serious mistakes. In the free dance there was no fall at all.

Nevertheless there was a surprise at the top. The big favorites Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron from France did not win their sixth gold medal at Europeans although they made no big mistakes. Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov from Russia, second at Worlds 2019, performed an excellent Rhythm Dance to "Singin‘ in the Rain“ and were only 0.05 points behind the French. Three elements had a level 4, the Finnstep a level 3 and in the Pattern Dance Type Step Sequence Sinitsina had a level 3 and Katsalapov a level 4. GOEs of +4 dominated and the components had an average of 9.6 with one 10.0 for composition from the Russian judge.

Katsalapov commented: “We are happy with our skate today, we hardly rested after Nationals, we are also really happy about the high marks we got today.“ Sinitsina added: “Our freshness and the conncetion come from inside. Every day in practice we don't only work on these emotions but it comes from within - how we look at each other.“

Their free dance with music by Ludovico Einaudi and Antonin Dvorak generally had not been the reputation of being as excellent as last year’s program. But after Russian Nationals they had improved some passages and in Graz they performed it extremely well and at the end got 0.19 more points than Papadakis & Cizeron for their free dance. This was enough to win with 220.42 total points. The main reason for the victory were the level 4 and 3 in the one foot step sequence, where the French had only levels 2 and 3 because Papadakis had a tiny slip. The Russian’s GOEs were mostly +4, but there were some +5 for seven of the ten elements. The components were around 9.7, with nine 10.0.

Katsalapov explained: “Vika and I showed our program the way we trained it and skated clean. I can't say we expected to be sitting in the middle (at the press conference). To get anywhere near Gabriella and Guillaume seemed impossible for all the skaters. But we are all athletes and everyone works and improves every day. Today we were watching their performance and maybe it was not as clean as they could have done it. They still have a huge potential, but so do we and the others.“

Papadakis & Cizeron’s aerobic number to the musical “Fame“ in their Rhythm Dance was outstanding as well. They had the same levels as Sinitsina & Katsalapov, a bit less GOEs of +5, but a bit higher components and two 10.0 in their components from the French judge. Papadakis said: “We did a great performance, we are happy about it, we have almost the same points as Nikita and Viktoria. It‘s a challenge to stay grounded on the ice while moving the upper body especially as the theme is something we picked from the floor. All we do is supposed to be on the floor. It was a challenge to put it on the ice and stay focused. We try to stay really relaxed with our skates, with our legs while the upper body moves to the music. It's different and we worked on it.“

Cizeron added: “What we were mainly focused on was our connection on the ice and the way we perform and enjoy ourselves and express ourselves. When that happens when we feel our best, the scores just follow. So we are not really focused on the points that much. In France musicals are not an important part of the culture. But we still have some. We started joking around with “Fame“ and in the end we were happy with it and it's different from what we were doing so far. It brings back the memories or just a school dance of the 80s.“

In their free dance, in some passages they danced to a poem with underlined music. Maybe some judges missed a constant rhythm with a melody, because three wanted a music deduction. But you see this kind of dance in contemporary floor dance as well. Most passages of the dance were as excellent as usual, but perhaps a bit less fresh and Papadakis had two or three tiny slips. GOEs of +4 and +5 dominated again and the components were around 9.7 with eight 10.0. The judging seemed mysterious because it took almost eight minutes until the points were published.

At first there were the usual speculations of influenced judging in the social media. The TV commentators and TV viewers could see in the small box in the left corner of the screen that one step sequence received zero points first and later this changed. But there was another reason for the delay: The data input person had pushed the wrong button, including a step sequence from the Rhythm Dance into the system, which certainly got zero points. When the Technical Jury saw this, they rushed to the referee and the Swiss Timing company person who is responsible for technically correct judging. It took some minutes to delete the wrong step sequence out of the system before it could no longer be changed, to include the correct step sequence and to ask the nine judges to award their points again.

Directly after the event Papadakis said: “We knew the competition was very close and we knew we didn't have room for mistakes and we made them. We were happy with the performance and with how we dealt with the competition and the stress. We can't always win and we accept it. It's a lesson for us that we probably needed.“

The day after, they opened their heart to the reporter of the French daily sport newspaper “L’Equipe“. There Papadakis admitted that the stress had been a bit too big for them. She had prepared with less training than usually in order to avoid a burn-out syndrome. Therefore they made small mistakes which the judges saw. After Europeans, she planned to go on vacation for two weeks, which were absolutely necessary for her as she said, and then to prepare for Worlds with a fresh head. Cizeron added he saw how nervous his partner was when she wanted to step on the highest podium during the victory ceremony because they are used to be there. Papadakis said that she had to laugh heartily about his mistake, the first time she could laugh in weeks. After five European and four World titles, only the Olympic Games in 2022 really matter for them.

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin won the bronze medal with 211.29 points. In their Rhythm Dance to “Moulin Rouge“, they had mainly GOEs of +3 and +4, but their Finnstep sequence had only a level 3. In their free dance they could move up one spot because their elements were more spectacular and they had better levels than the Italians. Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri from Milan performed an excellent Rhythm Dance to “Grease“ with high levels. Their free dance was flawless as well, but their presentation a bit less convincing. Fabbri said: “I can finally fully use my right hand again. It still feel a little weird but the strength is there, I can do everything I could before the injury. We came back to some elements and features that we planned to put in the program at the beginning of the season and then we couldn't because of the injury. We did a lot of work last month, I am now much more secure, even the normal transitions are now easier than they were a month ago.“

Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson from Great Britain could climb up the ice dance ladder again and came fifth, winning 192.34 points because of their entertaining programs, even if their levels were lower. The music for their Rhythm Dance is from the Blues Brothers. For the free they used two peppy Madonna songs. Fear commented: “The crowd really kept us going, especially when clapping towards the end and gave us that little push – it was so uplifting. My mom selected the music and she has done a pretty good job so far.“ The third Russian couple of Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro are on sixth position with 188.03 points. Everything was very good, but nothing outstanding.

Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin, who train in Moscow with Alexander Zhulin, were the better of the two good Spanish couples in a close decision and finished seventh, earning 185.64 points. Directly behind them were Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz with 183.12 points who train in Montreal. The Polish champions Natalia Kaliszek & Makysm Spodyriev came on ninth position, earning 180.26 points. The Ukrainians Alexandra Nazarova and Maksym Nikitin, who no longer have the money to train in other countries, are tenth with 197.94 points. U.S. skater Allison Reed und Lithuanian Saulius Ambrulevicius mainly train in Oberstdorf, Germany and have improved a lot. They ended up 11th with 174.24 points.

Next season, folk music will be required in the Rhythm Dance, like in 2008 and 2010. In a meeting between the ISU Dance Committee and the dance coaches present in Graz, they discussed which rhythms will be allowed and used for this music.