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2020 European Championships, Pairs

by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(3 February 2020) The pairs competition at the European Championships 2020 in Graz, Austria, had a record in numbers because no less than 19 pairs competed, 16 of whom reached the Final. ISU‘s promotion of pair skating by holding international seminars and other events obviously is successful. The general level, however, was not very good because many good pairs made several mistakes. As expected there was a Russian sweep because last year’s winners Vanessa James & Morgan Ciprès from France have not competed this season.

There was one positive exception: The new European champions Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitrii Kozlovskii from St. Petersburg excelled with two outstanding programs and celebrated a run-away victory with 234.58 points. Though only 18 and 20 years old, they have a stellar mixture of freshness and mature skating. They might be the biggest rivals of the Chinese pairs for the gold medal at the Olympic Games in 2022 if their development remains so positive. Their two coaches compliment one another in an ideal way: the young main coach Artur Minchuk who is ambitious and eager for a first success in his coaching career and the experienced and even legendary Tamara Moskvina who at the age of 78 years still is very active.

In the short program they were more than seven points ahead and won 82.34 points because all their seven elements had an excellent quality. Highlight was the triple throw flip who got five GOEs of +5. Their interpretation of the innovative music was also very good. They used an instrumental violin version of Frank Sinatra’s legendary song “My Way“ played by Dutch music arranger Andre Rieux’s orchestra.

They opened the free program to a James Bond medley with an outstanding side by side triple Salchow which received two GOEs of +5 and six GOEs of +4. The first two jumps of the combination of triple toe loop, double toe loop and another double toe loop were very good, Kozlovskii just stumbled a bit on the third jump. But the majority of the judges still awarded this combination with GOEs of +2. The triple twist was excellent, the triple throw flip as well and the triple throw loop had even several GOEs of +5. The three lifts also were excellent. The components had an average of 9.3.

Boikova said: “I forgot the program for a moment in the middle of the routine, but nobody saw it. We were not thinking about our points and now we don't think about our points, we just need to do our job and then there will be a good result. We are relieved, we did our job and of course skating last is much harder than skating with any other starting number. In my near future I have exams so I need to prepare for the exams. I think Tamara Moskvina was really pleased with our performance. I think we will improve our skating skills a lot and maybe do some new elements, but it's the coaches’ decision, not ours.“

Kozlovskii added: “It's a big result of a big team. We are so happy and so excited because it was our first international big title. In the nearest future it will not matter for us - we will concentrate on the preparations for the World Championship. We work a lot in St. Petersburg and we have fantastic coaches – Tamara Moskvina and Artur Minchuk. They not only work with us on our physical, but also on our mental side and it really helps us concentrate on ourselves.“

Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov won the silver medal, earning 208.64 points. In Graz, they did not get back the stability which they already lacked in the fall to reach the Grand Prix Final. Skating to the famous Bolero by Maurice Ravel in the short program, Morozov stumbled during the loop lift after getting into a hole on the ice and had to finish this element abruptly and without any elegance in order not to drop Tarasova. They only got a basic level and this mistake cost them five or six points. The other elements were very good, their twist was as legendary as usual and their triple throw loop outstanding. Morozov commented: “The beginning of the lift was good. Perhaps I lost the balance when I was in the lift and my blade got caught in the ice, I lost my balance.“

In the free program to “Ti Amo“ by Umberto Tozzi, their first element was an outstanding triple twist with Level 4, but then Tarasova stumbled and doubled the side by side Salchow which was planned triple and she fell on the triple toe loop. Morozov touched down with his hand on the toe loop. All other elements were at least very good. Their components were around 8.9. Their style has improved since they train with Marina Zoueva in Florida.

Morozov commented: “Tonight the skate was not perfect, some things worked, some did not. We worked hard in the program and we just kept going. This season we started working with Marina and yes, it's different - a different country, different schedule - we skate in the first part of the day, we work on interpretation, skating skills, choreography, ballet, all of it. It's completely different.“ Tarasova added: “The feelings are not the nicest, but there are some positive sides – we have a great program and we manage to bring it across. The elements - we'll nail them, but the emotions and the feelings are one of the most important things to show, something that requires a lot of work. Yes there were technical mistakes, but am glad we were able to show the program, it was well received and well marked. I know we are on the right path and everything will be alright.“

Daria Pavliuchenko & Denis Khodykin of Moscow took bronze, winning 206.53 points. Their short program was faultless, the best element was the lift and the triple toe loop was very good as well. Nine of the eleven elements in their free program were good, the twist excellent, but the side by side triple flip (which nobody else tried) a bit shaky. She fell about one second after landing the triple throw flip, therefore some judges saw it as a fall, others not. Their style lacks a bit of elegance, especially he is a bit heavy, therefore it is doubtful that they remain Russia’s third pair because there are two very young and promising others.

Khodykin explained: “We were not disappointed to slip from second to third, it's our first European medal, our journey just begins. We know what to work on, what to improve and we enjoy so much that we are skating here. I was at a competition in Graz when I was still skating singles and it was the first time I saw pairs and the season later I switched to pairs.“

Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise from Italy finished on fourth position with 194.44 points. They have a good speed and six elements in the short were good, the lift excellent, but Della Monica landed the triple throw loop on two feet. In their free program, they made three serious mistakes on the two individual jumps and the triple throw Salchow. The second Italian pair of Rebecca Ghilardi & Filippo Ambrosini had an error-filled free program and ended up eighth with 156.74 points.

The two German pairs from Berlin won a third spot for their country at next year’s Europeans in Zagreb, Croatia. National champions Minerva Fabienne Hase & Nolan Seegert came fifth, winning 186.39 points. For the first time in their career, they had more than 70 points in their faultless short program. Their best elements were the triple throw Salchow and the triple toe loop. But in the free, Seegert fell on the triple toe loop and Hase‘s landings on both triple throws were not clean. This time, the twist and the toe loop were their best elements.

The second German pair of Annika Hocke & Robert Kunkel is seventh with 166.10 points. Their short program was more or less clean. In the free program, two of Hocke’s three individual jumps were under-rotated and the triple throw loop not clean, but they did not fall. Hocke had been 16th at the Olympic Games 2018 with her former partner Ruben Blommaert and she has trained with Kunkel only in their first season.

Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer from Austria had hoped for more than a sixth position, earning 177.41 points in their home country. Their short program was good except a shaky landing on the twist which received only a basic level (in both programs). In their free program, the best element was the triple throw flip. But Kiefer missed the triple Salchow, Ziegler fell on the triple throw Salchow and the jump combination was not clean. Cleo Hamon & Denys Strekalin, who have competed in the Junior Series for three seasons, won the battle of the two French pairs and came ninth with 153.49 points. 40-year-old Zoe Zones from Britain, a mother of three children, skated for Britain with Christopher Boyadji. They were happy to beat seven other pairs and finished 12th with 147.94 points.