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2022 European Championships: Women

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany


Russian Women Sweep European Championships

© International Skating Union (ISU)

Kamila Valieva, 2022 European Women's Champion

(16 January 2022) The women‘s competition at the European Championships 2022 in Tallinn had a very high level especially as not only were the three Russian women outstanding , but also there were many more very good women who grew up in Russia, come from Russian schools but compete for other countries now. Russia exports many good skaters all over the world, especially to the countries of the former Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries like Georgia, Belorus, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Poland. 36 women competed, 24 of whom reached the final. In the free program on Saturday evening, there were around 5,000 spectators, everybody with a mask, the majority of them from the 25 per cent of Tallinn's population with Russian background.

No surprise that there was a Russian sweep on the podium and that this might happen again at the Olympic Games. Russian skating dominates the skating world more and more. The very best girls and women from this country are not released to compete for other countries. All three medalists from Tallinn train in the school of Eteri Tutberidze in Moscow. And as expected, spectacular Kamila Valieva, Russia’s latest wondergirl of this season and only 15 year old, celebrated a run-away victory in Tallinn with 259.06 points although she was not perfect this time. Her main coach Eteri Tutberidze said in several TV interviews that Valieva is the best talent she has ever had. Valieva is a high favorite for the Olympic Gold medal.

Her short program to “In Memoriam“ by Kirill Richter was nearly perfect and she won 90.45 points, a new world record. She could not gain many more points and even mathematically certainly not more than 100 like (the best men can) because quad jumps are not yet allowed in a women’s short program. Each quad in very good quality would have won around seven more points than a triple jump. She began with an outstanding triple Axel with both hands over her arm which got five GOEs of +5. Her triple flip and her combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop were excellent as well. The three level 4 spins and the step sequence were stellar and had mainly GOEs of +5 and her components an average of 9.7 with 11 perfect 10.0 out of 45 components.

She said, “Today I really felt that I am in the program, that am telling the story, it’s a nice feeling when you skate and you forget about your body, you are all in the program, in the audience, in the judges. I feel almost home here since I’ve been here before and when I went on the ice I was taken two years back to the Junior Worlds (when she won) as if I never left. Being tested every 24 hours is not scary. We are trying to put the masks on all the time since the virus began. It’s for our own safety. With every competition I try to improve in my skating and in my emotions. I guess it’s obvious that am growing physically as well and mentally I guess too, I feel a bit more mature. I am thrilled I was able to score 90 points.“

The first element in her free program to Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero“ was an outstanding quad Salchow with both arms over her head again which got five GOEs of +5. Then she fell on the triple Axel, but added a stellar combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop soon afterwards. Four excellent other triple jumps followed and a sequence of quad toe loop and triple Salchow, but she made one step in-between. Therefore the Salchow did not count. The spins and the main step sequence were outstanding and got many GOEs of +5. The components were around 9.3 because of her sovereign and elegant style, but this time without any 10.0 because of the fall.

She commented, “The crowd is great, we were so supported, you feel loved when you get on the ice. The skate today was work-like run through, not all worked for me, but I will train. There are so many emotions that I can’t put them into words, The medal means that I don’t just come to the practices for nothing and I guess the most important for me is not to burn out after this season, to calm down as much as possible and try to make the audience happy with my performances. I tried to show more emotions in a way that distracted me. I am excited that (US skater) Ilia Malinin landed a combination of two quad toe loops in practice at home. I had thoughts to try it as well but I think I will leave these thoughts to the end of the season. There is a risk to get injured.“

Reigning World Champion Anna Shcherbakova won the silver medal with 237.42 points. She had suffered from a foot injury for a longer period in the summer and fall, but was fit in time for Europeans. In her short program to “Dangerous Affairs“ and to “Total View“, both by Inon Zur, six elements were very good, among them a double Axel, but she fell on the triple Lutz and could not perform a combination, therefore she was only fourth. She said, “I am quite upset as I did not do the combination. I have been working to show my very best. I am skating this program only for the third time in competition and obviously, I want it to be better each time.“

First highlight of the free program – mainly to the soundtrack of “The Master and Margarita“ and to “Lacrimosa“ by Mozart – was a good quad flip, followed by seven very good triples and outstanding spins and step sequences. Her components had an average of 9.3 because of her excellent style. She said,  “I was very upset about my skating in the short, and that's why yesterday was quite hard in terms of my thoughts, I was thinking a lot, worrying a lot. So I am very glad that today I coped with all that.“

Alexandra Trusova took bronze, earning 234.36 points. She gained in elegance lately, but there is still room for improvement. In her short program to the soundtrack of “Frida“ about a Mexican artist, she fell on the triple Axel, but succeeded to perform the six other elements in a very convincing style. Later she explained, “I am upset that I fell on the triple Axel, the rest was ok, I will keep working and hope the triple Axel will happen next time.“ Otherwise she mainly talked about her dog which she brought to the press conference.

She began her free program to the soundtrack of “Cruella“ with an outstanding quad flip, followed by a quad Salchow in similar quality. But then she fell on the quad toe loop which got a q and on the quad Lutz, which was downgraded. Instead of a triple Axel she had a combination of double Axel and triple toe loop, plus four more triples, three of them very good, like spins and steps. Her components were around 8.7. She explained, “I am not happy with the skate, I wanted to do more quads, but only two quads worked. I was glad about the quad Salchow. It was gone for a while and now it’s back.“

Loena Hendrickx from Belgium, who is coached by her brother Jorik and Adam Solya, finished on fourth position with 207.97 points. Her luggage with the skates got lost on the flight to Tallinn and she had two stressful days because she was told that it was completely lost. They finally found out that her brother’s name was on the tag of his and of her suitcase, which seemed suspicious because her brother officially had sent only one suitcase. Her suitcase arrived the day before the short program.

After a flawless short program to “Caruso“ with seven very good elements, including a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, though only a double Axel, she was even second. But as expected, she dropped to fourth place because her style is not as excellent and she has no quad. Moreover, she fell on the triple toe loop after the combination with triple Lutz and on the triple flip. Four more triples and steps and spins were still excellent and her components around 8.7. She said, “I would be happier being fourth with a better free program. It was definitely not the skate I wanted.“

Ekaterina Kurakova from Poland, who trains with Lorenzo Magri in Italy, came fifth with 204.73 points, her first time over 200. She skated to a new short program to “Sentimental Waltz“ by Peter Tchaikovsky. In her combination of triple flip and triple toe loop, both jumps were not totally clean, the rest was very good. Her free program to a medley of Charles Chaplin soundtracks was faultless with seven triples.

Ekaterina Ryabova, skating for Azerbaijan, but really Russian, placed sixth with 196.75 points. Anastasiia Gubanova is also Russian, but competes for Georgia. She finished on seventh position with 188.17 points.

Niina Petrokina from Estonia moved up from 17th in the short to eighth place after an excellent free program, winning 187.07 overall points. Victoria Safonova competes for Belarus, but is also Russian and came ninth with 185.41 points.

Alexia Paganini from Switzerland, who grew up in the New York area, finished on tenth place with 178.10 points and is the best Western European skater, ahead of Eva-Lotta Kiibus from Estonia, (11th with 171.64 points), Lea Serna from France (12th with 171.00 points), and Nicole Schott from Germany (13th with 170.18 points). They are all qualified for the Olympic Games.