2009 European Championships

By Sandra Stevenson in Helsinki at the Hartwall Areena

Reports are posted as received, in order, Ladies, Men, Pairs and Dance -- most recent segment on top.

Ladies - Free Skate

Laura LepistŲ wins first European Ladies title for Finland on a technicality

The first Finnish European Ladies champion in the history of the event, and their three Ladies all in the top five, brought great joy to the host nation. The whole country immediately seemed to start talking about it. LepistŲís face, overcome with joy, seemed to be constantly on television and huge photos appeared all over the main newspapers, instantly making her the most recognized person in the country. "Iím sure Iíll remember this moment for the rest of my life," she said. From then on, she seemed never to be alone but always accompanied by crowds of people. It seems a little curmudgeonly to rain on her parade, but, although it was a lovely program to watch, it was technically lacking. There were no triple flips or Lutzes. Still, she was second on the FS Total Element Score, 0.45 behind Alena Leonova of Russia.

The eventís organizers said they had already started plans to get the world championships back in their capital city (which hosted the 1999 worlds). The only other Finnish gold in Europeans was earned by Susanna Rakhamo and Petri Kokko in 1995 in the ice dance in Dortmund and the original they did then was the CD here. The now married couple had previously earned bronze, in 1993, when Europeans were also in Helsinki. Since Rakhamo is the President of the Finnish Association, she was highly visible here. Rakhamo said, "Initially, we had thought about putting curtains around the top ring (of the Arena) because it is such a large arena, but that wasnít necessary. We didnít sell out but we had a record attendance for Europeans." The total attendance, including the gala was 51,940. That was a record, in part, because most European championships have taken place in smaller facilities.

The winning margin was 1.90. Carolina Kostner would have won her third straight title had she not lost all marks for her eighth element. Instead of being called as the intended change foot sit spin, the spin turned into a change foot combination spin which she had already done. You canít repeat moves so this was classed as an "invalid" element. A change foot sit spin at Level 3 has a base value of 2.60 so silver and gold might so easily have been reversed. She said, "Perhaps, I have done too many revolutions in the final upright position coming out of the spin, and that meant it was no longer a sit spin, but a combination spin and did not count."

Next yearís European championships, for the first time, will take place in Tallinn, the capital of the small country (smaller than New Hampshire and Vermont combined) of Estonia, pop. 1,307,605. The ancient city lies not far south from Helsinki, on other side of the Gulf of Finland. It is the most northern of the three Baltic countries. (The others are Latvia and Lithuania.) Estoniaís champion, Elena Glebova, finished 12th (SP 13; FS 9), both here and in the 2007 championships.

1. Overall 167.32; 1 SP, 2 FS; FS 110.70 (TES 52.14 + PCS 58.56) Laura LepistŲ skated 22nd of the 24 who qualified for the FS, immediately after Kostner, the defending champion and the Finnís main rival. As LepistŲ took the ice, she was greeted by an explosion of noise. Obviously, this was the star theyíd paid a high price to see. She performed to the soundtrack of Don Juan de Marco by Michael Kamen. "I would say my performance was about the level that I do in practice," LepistŲ explained. "I simplified the (planned triple-triple which she had executed so brilliantly in the SP) combination (to triple-double) in the beginning and singled the Lutz but I tried to keep my thoughts together and focus on the next elements. Winning is an indescribable feeling. I canít even start to tell what all is going through my mind now. I could never have expected this to happen. I had said my goal is to medal (she won a bronze last year) but, for it to be gold, I still canít believe it."

LepistŲ opened with a lovely double Axel which earned +1.0. In addition to applause, the audience seemed to relax. With so many successful synchronized skaters watching, maybe they were all too well aware of what pressure can do to skaters. But with this opening jump, they seemed to realize LepistŲ was on form. The following triple toe-double toe was awarded +0.80. However, there was a collective intake of breath when she singled the Lutz. The flying sit was Level 4 and +0.50 but her loop got -0.60 GoE. (Four judges thought the move was fine but the other five punched in -1.0.) Her Level 4 spirals got +0.60 and the second triple loop to double toe, set when the bonus marks click in, earned +0.20 over the base value plus 10%. Her second double Axel was given +0.40. Her Level 3 layback spin received +0.80. The following triple Salchow to double toe gained the base value. She concluded with Level 3 steps (+050) and Level 4 +0.80 change foot combination spin.

During her final spin, the crowd went bonkers, sensing she had done enough to win. "I have never experienced a feeling like that," LepistŲ said. "The audience exploded and I, myself, had this feeling, too. Everything erupted at that moment. It was unbelievable. I had kind of overheard Carolinaís scores with one ear, but I wouldnít ever have believed this. The Finnish Federation had set two medals as a goal, one of them gold, but it didnít seem possible to me. It still feels crazy!" Of course, at that point, there were still two competitors to go, but the crowd just knew they had seen the victor. The Finnish people seem a very orderly lot. The crowds were incredibly polite and one could not imagine them getting nasty if a Finn had not won, but they certainly would have been extremely disappointed.

2. 165.42; 3.1.; FS 114.06 (53.50+60.56) Carolina Kostner began this season with a FS to Tchaikovskyís Swan Lake but went back to last seasonís routine to Dvorakís Piano Trio No. 4 in E Minor ("Dumky") Op. 90, played by the Eroica Trio. Kostner, who was possibly the fastest skater in the event began with a triple flip to double toe, and the most knowledgeable of those in the audience gave an internal groan. She is well-known for her amazingly high triple-triple combination and it was that move which earned her the silver medal in the 2008 Worlds. Both that and the three-jump combo of triple Lutz to double toe to double loop, which followed, earned +0.40 over the base value. She was definitely not on her top form, doubling her flip and the triple loop which followed gained a slight negative GoE (-0.20). Again, it is interesting to note the disparity between the judges. Five punched in 0 which means they felt all aspects of the move were perfectly adequate, (the approach, the take-off, the position in the air, the landing and the flow out). One judge even thought it worthy of +1. But three judges punched in -1 believing there was something wrong with the move. Was the +1 judge Italian? Gloria Morandi, an extremely experienced judge who, I believe, has been judging since the 1976 European championships, was on the Free Skating judging panel. But, with all the anonymity, she can not prove this was not her, if that was the case. Itís a situation which fuels unfair speculation.

Then Kostner presented her first spin, a Level 4 change foot combination, and a double Axel to double toe (not triple as planned), which both received +0.40 GoE. Her triple Salchow soared and was rewarded with +1.0. Then came the disallowed spin. Her Level 3 straight line spins earned +0.80 and the Level 4 spirals a huge +1.60. The final jump a double Axel seemed a little tense and was -0.48 but the final move, a flying sit was a base value Level 3. Kostner received the top component score, a full two points ahead of LepistŲ, who was second in this category.

Kostner, whose mother Patrizia, was a national level ice skater coached by her grandmother, and whose father, Erwin, played ice hockey on the National Italian team at world championships and Olympic Games, said, "I was very pleased. At the flip (doubled) my concentration slipped for a moment. Afterwards, it was going better. I canít say that this was my best program of this season. I made different errors each time. But, overall, it is good to see that Iím improving. Each athlete comes here to win, but I couldnít do it this time. Iím happy for Laura that she could win in front of her home crowd. It must be an amazing feeling. Next year, the World Championships are in my hometown, so I hope I can do the same."

3. 156.31; 2.3.; FS 100.25 (45.37+54.88) Susanna PŲykiŲ became the first Finn ever to medal in an ISU singles championship when she took silver in the 2001 World Junior Championships. Her silver in the 2005 Europeans was the first medal ever for Finland in the Ladies championship. She won her first Finnish championship in 1999 but hasnít been on the top nationally since 2007. She has taken bronze nationally for the past two year but, at 26, she seems to be making a comeback.

PŲykiŲ, who performed to three pieces by Rachmaninov choreographed by Lori Nichol, Scherzando from Cello Sonata in G Minor; Melody on a Theme; and Allegro Scherzando from Piano Concerto No.2, said, "I am really pleased about winning the bronze medal but I could have skated better. Iím disappointed about doing only a double Lutz to double toe combination and the double flip. The levels on spins and spirals, which had low levels yesterday, were good today. Of course, getting a seasonís best is good. I can improve on that at upcoming competitions. It wasnít easy skating right after Lauraís great performance. I felt a little nervous. I tried to focus on my own things and not pay attention to what was going on the ice but, of course, I noticed some of it. Lauraís gold is really great for the Finnish team. I congratulate her and her coach, Virpi Horttanen." PŲykiŲ is trained by her sister, Heidi.

PŲykiŲís component score was third best, but still 3.68 behind LepistŲ, who was second to Kostner in this category. She began well with a +0.20 triple flip to double toe to double loop and a base level triple Lutz to double toe. Her first pin was a Level 3 +0.40 flying sit. But then she doubled her second triple flip. The following double Axel got base value and the Level 4 flying camel +0.40. At the point where the bonus marks click in, she executed a +0.60 triple Salchow which was followed by her Level 4 spiral which earned the same GoE. Then came her only negative. She under-rotated and messed up the landing of a triple toe (-1.43). However, she sprung back with a base value triple toe to double toe. Her straight line steps were only Level 2 and +0.10 but her final spin, a Level 3 change foot combo, was given +0.40.

4. 143.99; 11.4.; FS 98.91 (53.95+44.96) Alena Leonova skated to La Leyenda del Beso by Raul di Blasio and was ecstatic that her fourth place in this section pulled her up to fourth overall. "Iím in shock," she exclaimed. "This was my best performance so far. When the audience supports you, it is easier to skate. After the short program, in which she finished 11th, Valentin Piseev (President of the Russian Figure Skating Federation) told me to skate for my own pleasure, and so I did. I would like to go to the World Championships, but the Federation will decide who will go."

Leonova earned the top Element Score of 53.95, but it was only 0.45 ahead of Kostner, who was second in this category, and 1.81 ahead of LepistŲ, whose technical score was third best. This was despite Leonova getting only Level 1 and -0.18 GoE on her layback spin and Level 2 for both her base value flying sit and +0.20 straight lines steps. Her triple flip to double toe earned +0.40 but her triple Lutz got an exclamation mark and -0.60 GoE. Her triple loop was +0.60. The spiral were base value Level 4 and her first double Axel +0.40 but her second triple flip was -0.40. As the bonus marks clicked in, she received +0.60 for her triple Salchow to double toe to double loop. However, her final jumping pass, triple toe sequenced to double Axel had -1.60 taken off the base value. She wound the program up with a Level 4 change foot combination spin which earned an extra 0.10.

5. 139.01; 7.6.; FS 91.41 (44.41+50.00-3.0) Skating 15th, Kiira Korpi performed to two pieces by Kerkko Koskinen, Crooked Room and Passenger to Copenhagen from the soundtrack of Agatha. Just seconds into her routine, skating backwards gathering speed as she went round a corner, she slipped off her edge and crashed hard into the boards. For a moment it looked as is she had seriously hurt her back. She got up, looking very shaken and went over to the referee, who gave her time to gather herself and recommence the program from the point where she stopped. In a case like this, a skater is penalized, not only by the point deduction for the fall, but also two points for "an interruption".

Korpi was philosophical about the situation. "I guess this is figure skating drama at its best, or, in my case, at its worst. I honestly canít say what happened. The blades must have clashed. Maybe I went too deep while doing the crossovers. Suddenly, I was hitting the barrier. I had totally confused emotions. It was a total shock. I didnít know what to do. Luckily, I was able to continue but the rhythm was lost and I had to fight to regain that. Of course, I was annoyed about the Lutz. I had to fight to focus and I canít be disappointed after such a bad beginning."

Not surprisingly after such an unanticipated incident, Korpi popped her opening triple Lutz but, somehow, then managed to pull herself together, executing a triple Salchow to double toe which earned +0.60 over the base value, a +0.80 triple loop and a +0.30 Level 4 combination Upright spin. Her second triple Salchow was given +0.40 and her Level 4 spirals +1.0. As the bonus marks clicked in, she tried a second triple loop but underrotated it. She received -0.48 on her sequence of two double Axels. Her last two spins were Level 4. The flying sit gained the base value and the change foot combination +0.10. Her straight line steps were Level 3 and +0.20 but her final double Axel was -0.16.

The three point deduction did not make a difference to her final placing and, even if that had not happened, AND she had landed the opening triple Lutz and gained its base value of 6, her final placing would only have been fourth. She had just lost too much ground in the Short Program.

6. 137.05; 5.8.; FS 88.43 (43.55+46.88-2.0) Katarina Gerboldt was still wearing the sinus drainage package on her nose, which made the Russianís final pose when the television cameras zoomed in, look very strange. She skated last, in a black dress with white polka dots and a red attachment in her hair, to the music used by the skater she is named after, Katarina Witt, in the famous Battle of the Carmens. But it was an unwise choice. There was no comparison to Gerboldtís showing and Wittís famed performance which brought her her second Olympic gold in 1988. Gerboldt said, "I couldnít do everything that was planned, but I did what I could and I will continue to work. I didnít have enough strength. It was hard to skate after the top skaters and all that noise for the Finns. Itís a little upsetting that I lost to Alena Leonova (her Russian teammate), but I was sick and she could prepare better. Now I have to go to the hospital for further health checks. I think I got valuable experience. My coach told me that I have to learn how to compete with the top skaters and I think sixth place at the Europeans is not bad. The Russian girls fulfilled the goal to secure three spots next year while the men didnít. Everyone was counting on them and writing off the girls. We proved itís too early to do that."

Gerboldt began with a +0.60 double Axel which was well-timed to the music but then got an "e" for wrong edge takeoff on her triple Lutz to double toe which saddled her with a -1.20 GoE. Her following triple toe also got a negative (-0.60) and then she fell on her downgraded triple flip. She recovered to perform a Level 3 +0.40 flying camel spin but then fell again on her second triple Lutz. This one didnít get an "e", just a warning exclamation mark. (The "e" means the judges can not go above -1 for their GoEs. The warning means the wrong edge was just a short one and it doesnít automatically limit the judgesí awards.) She received -0.20 on her triple loop to double toe, and the Level 3 spirals were awarded -0.28. Her triple Salchow to double Axel sequence received -1.0 and her Level 2 layback got -0.06. Her Level 2 circular steps earned the base value. Six judges thought Gerboldtís final Level 4 change foot combination spin was worthy of base value, but two punched in -2 and one -1. What did they see that their fellow panelists didnít?

7. 136.98; 12.5.; FS 92.92 (47.48+45.44) Annette Dytrt, who has won the German championship four times, skated to The Swan by Saens-Saint. Her previous best place in this event was 10th in 2006. She had only one negative GoE (-1.20) which was for her third element, the triple loop. "It was good," she said about her performance. "Iím very happy." She began with a triple flip which earned the base value. "The flip was difficult," she confessed. "I had to hang on to the landing. My goal was to make the top six, which I couldnít do because of the Short Program, but I was pleased with today. As the program went on, I began to feel better and better." She doubled her second jump, the triple toe but her triple Salchow to double toe earned the base value and her sequence of two double Axels was good (+0.80). That same GoE was given for her Level 4 spirals. A second triple Salchow earned +0.60 and her final double Axel +0.80. However, although her first spin, a change foot combination, gained the base value for Level 4, her two other spins and the circular steps were only Level 2. The flying sit got base value and the layback, with which she concluded her performance, +0.50. The steps got only +0.10 GoE.

8. 134.47; 14.7.; FS 91.15 (45.35+46.80-1.0) Julia Sebestyen skated to a selection by Hungarian violinist Edvin Marton. Sebestyen, who became Hungaryís only European Ladies champion in 2004, was obviously extremely upset about her Short Program performance the previous day which left her with no hope of a medal. "It was difficult to skate today. I was disappointed with my short program and the marks I got for it. I wanted to be among the top five. I didnít want to skate today. I skated this free program for my family and friends. Itís not the same to fight when youíre in the middle, compared to fighting for medals. But it was OK. I did what I could. I was here in Helsinki for worlds in 1999. Of course, I was much younger then. It was my second Worlds and I was here to gain experience. (She finished 19th.) Now, I came to get good results. Iíve been in good shape. It was very nice here. The audience was clapping when I stepped onto the ice. I thank the Finnish audience for their support."

Sebestyen began with a huge triple Lutz to double toe to double toe which earned +0.80 for a total of 9.60. But then she fell on her triple flip which was deemed under-rotated and given an exclamation mark. The second triple Lutz earned +1.0 GoE. Her first spin, a flying camel, was a base value Level 4. Her spirals were Level 3 and +0.30. But then she did a double Axel to single Salchow sequence. A triple toe earned the base value but a Salchow was doubled. Her final jump, a double Axel, earned the base value. Her layback (base value) and change foot combination (+0.10) spins were only Level 2 but her circular steps earned Level 3 and +0.50.

9. 131.42; 4.12.; FS 81.42 (38.46+42.96) Jenna McCorkell, performing 20th, second in the last warm-up group of six, in a black cat suit with gold stripes, to music from Cirque du Soleil, began with a great +1.0 double Axel followed by a good +0.60 triple Lutz. Three judges gave her a -1 for her triple flip, which the other six thought was fine, but the computer selected the negatives and she was given -0.40 GoE. Then she singled her loop. Her change foot combo spin was Level 4 and +0.10 GoE. Her triple toe to double toe combo received the base value. The spirals were Level 3 and +0.10. But then she doubled her flip. The layback spin earned Level 3 and her straight line steps Level 2. Both were given the base value. The next move, planned as a sequence of two double Axels, went wrong. She aborted the first take-off and came down forward on two feet forward with only one revolution. Even though she managed the double Axel, all points were wiped out for this entire move. She finished up with a Level 3 flying sit spin which earned the base value.

McCorkell admitted her performance "wasnít so good. Iím disappointed. I could have done a lot better, but itís one of those things that just happen. I wish I could go out there again. I was tired. The air was dry. I could feel it in my throat." In May 2008, she married Belgian champion Kevin van der Perren. McCorkell commutes between their home in Ninove and Coventry in England where she trains with Yuri Bureiko

10. 130.85; 9.10.; FS 84.59 (43.59+42.00-1.0) Tugba Karademir, who represents Turkey, the land of her birth, but lives in Canada, skated to the soundtrack of Ratatoullie. She has a pleasant style and the program was enjoyable to watch, although she fell on her triple flip and there were other mistakes.

11. 130.20; 6.11.; FS 82.20 (42.04+40.16) Ivana Reitmayerova, from Bratislaval, skating to Nostalgia by Yanni, couldnít match her SP showing.

12. 128.36; 13.9.; FS 84.68 (41.12+44.56-1.0) Elena Glebova, skating 11th to Carl Orffís Carmina Burana, said, "Of course, itís easier to perform a short program, where there are only eight elements, while in the free skating you have to perform seven jump elements. Therefore, I was thinking that there may be some mistakes. But I did 85% of the program so, I think, this is a good result. Iím looking forward to Europeans being in my home country, my home town next year. The support from the public was very good here but I think it will be even stronger in Estonia. That raises the adrenalin level for sure. From one side, itís going to be more difficult because of the pressure. But to feel the support from you audience is more important."

Irina Movchan, representing Ukraine, dropped from 8th after the SP to 19th overall.

Karla Robertson, a 17 year old from Dundee, who has been runner-up for the British title for the past two years, has a pleasant style and gave a very respectable showing in her first international event ever, placing 21st in both sections and overall. Her FS was to Leelooís Tune by Maxim Mrvica. Her Association adopted a very elitist outlook and didnít even enter any lady for last seasonís Junior Grand Prix in Sheffield, a very short-sighted approach to developing talent, which has led to much bad feeling and dissension in the ranks.

Elena Gedevanishvilli finished 25th the SP and did not make it into the top 24 who get to Free Skate.

Ladies - Short Program

Jenna Syken, who represents Israel, withdrew, due to an acute hip injury.

The Technical Specialist Katerina Kamberska and her assistant, 1980 Olympic champion Anett PŲtzsch-Rauschenbach were VERY tough. In one of the ISUís video, Tugba Karademir, who is Turkish but has lived and trained in Canada for many years, is shown doing what is called "a perfect" Level 4 spin. But when she did it today, she was given a Level 2! Karademir lay ninth of the 40 ladies from 32 countries after the short program. For what ever reason, they werenít as tough in the FS.

1. 56.62 (30.30+26.32) Dressed in purple, skating 33rd of the 40 Ladies from 32 countries, to Imagined Oceans by Karl Jenkins, Laura LepistŲ, home country competitor, soared through her opening move, a combination of two triple toe loops, earning +1.60 GoE over the base value and banking 9.60. She set a standard the others could not match technically. The 20 year old from Espoo, who was only second in her recent national championships, followed that with a base level triple loop and a +0.50 Level 4 flying sit. Her layback spin, which came next, was only Level 2 with +0.60. Then, shock, she singled her Axel. Her spirals were +0.40 but only Level 1. The straight line steps were Level 2 and +0.60 and her final change foot combination spin Level 4 and +0.80.

As she left the ice, she slapped her hand against her head, obviously thinking her chance of a medal had slipped away but she was smiling because the rest of the program had been so smooth. She had to wait over an hour, until the final skater, Carolina Kostner, performed to discover she was in the lead. No Finnish woman has ever won this title although Finns have claimed three medals in the past four years. Susanna PŲkyiŲ won Finlandís first medal ever in the Ladies event, when she claimed silver behind Irina Slutskaya in 2005. Kiira Korpi won bronze in 2007 and LepistŲ took bronze last year.

LepistŲ, who is trained by Virpi Horttana, said, "I feel good and relieved. I was pretty nervous this morning but after the practice I got into my normal competition mood. I am disappointed about the single Axel. It just slipped somehow. Nailing the triple-triple combination was amazing with the audience cheering. I had to gather my thoughts after it." She said that competing in her home country "was a different situation. I hadnít been used to being cheered on during the warm-up. I tried not to think about the audience too much. But at the end, it was just amazing. I feel good going for the Free Skate. I left out the biggest emotions today. Instead of single elements, the key thing is to stay focused. Thatís been challenging for me this season. Now, Iíll do a cool down, eat and try to sleep well." Her choreography is done by ex-British champion, Maria McLean, who makes her home in Copenhagen, and Miia Nirhamo. Although her technical score was the highest, her components were only fourth best, behind Kostner, PŲkyiŲ and Korpi.

2. 56.06 (29.30+26.76) Susanna PŲkyiŲ, who is trained by her sister, Heidi, in Oulu, skated in midnight blue with silver sparkles. Her routine was performed to Leeloosí Tune by Maksim Mrvica, choreographed by O. Martikainen. She began with a triple flip. Then came a triple Lutz to double toe and a double Axel. She finished only 0.62 points behind her team mate, and beat her slightly on the components score. "It was great, seeing all the Finnish flags and hearing people cheering for me. At first, I felt just amazing. But now that I look at my scores, Iíve got something negative to say, as well. For some of my elements, I received only Level 1 (the layback and change foot combination spins and her spirals) and the other two level moves (circular steps and flying sit) were only 2. I made some strange mistakes. In addition to jumps, Iíll have to pay attention to spins and spirals, holding them longer. Without them, I couldíve gotten a higher score. A close second is a good place to be. I wouldnít want to be leading because that puts extra pressure on you." She has been in this event since 2002 when she placed 6th in her debut. The following year she went down to ninth but then bounced back up to sixth. After her silver in 2005, she was only seventh in 2006. She was fourth in 2007 but didnít compete in the championship last year.

3. 51.36 (24.40+27.96-1.0) Carolina Kostner, looking for her third successive title, drew to skate last. Skating to Mujer Sola (Lonely Woman) and Canaro en Paris, played by the current Kansas City group, Tango Lorca, she tore into her opening move, positively soaring in a long, high triple flip but had problems with the second jump which she doubled and fell on. "Something threw me off on the entry (to the triple-triple). Maybe a baby cried, but this is no excuse. I have to be more focused. The flips and Lutzes have been going really well all week."

Then after a fast, long preparation for her planned triple Lutz, her digging-in toe rake appeared to lose track of where the ice was. Both blades collided and she fell, completely missing the element which has a base value of 6.0. "I donít know what happened there," Kostner said. "Iíll have to study the tape." The rest of the routine was fine though she received only Level 1 for her spirals and +0.60, Level 2 for both her +0.30 layback and +0.50 straight line steps, and Level 3 for the other two spins, one of which got only the base value while the flying sit received +0.30 GoE. "I canít be pleased today. I have to fight. Itís great motivation that the Italian team is doing so well. It is nice to see how others (silver medalists Samuel Contesti and ice dancers Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali) are now helping me to fulfill my goal to make figure skating more popular in Italy.

4. 50.00 (28.44+21.56) Last year Jenna McCorkell, the six-time British champion, got the highest technical score in the SP of this event, but finished eighth overall. This time she was fourth technically but eighth on the components. She is competing for the sixth time in this event. Skating to Harem by Sarah Brightman, she presented a well-rounded program which was marred only by a hand-down on her triple Lutz. She began with a great +0.80 double Axel.

"Iím happy. Itís as good as I can hope for. You always want to do better. I had an odd, stressed warm-up. I had been doing good practices all week and then this morningís practice was shaky and I began doubting myself. Then, in the warm-up, I couldnít even land my flip. I donít mind skating first (after the warm-up) because youíve got no time to think. But then everything went well. I was so delighted with Kevin (van der Perren, her husband) winning the bronze. Heís been through injuries, surgery and illness. Itís been difficult for him. I was so excited, I couldnít get to sleep. I had to tell myself Iíve skated consistent this whole season, so why should it be different here?" McCorkell received a Level 4 for her base value change foot combination spin and Level 3 for the layback which had a minimal -0.06 GoE which means most of the judges didnít think there was anything wrong with the move. She was awarded only Level 2 for both the spirals and the flying sit and only 1 for the steps.

5. 48.62 (27.70+20.92) Katarina Gerboldt, who finished third in the recent Russian championships behind two age-ineligible girls, is named after two-time Olympic champion Katarina Witt. She is making her European championship debut in this event. In 2006, Gerboldt appeared promising enough to be sent to the world (senior) championships only to finish a disappointing 26th. She will turn 20 on March 28. This time, there was no disappointment. Skating to the John Williams soundtrack for the movie Seven Years in Tibet, Gerboldt, who is trained by Alexei Mishin in St. Petersburg, appeared with very noticeable bandaging on her nose. "I was suffering from sinutis and it became worse, therefore I got a drainage put on my nose. Iím better now, and is only bothering me in the spins. Iím a little nervous because this is my first time at this event but nobody has set me any goals placement-wise and I just should do what I can do and, so far, I did." She received base value or better for all but her triple Lutz which was given -1.0 and an exclamation mark, which is a warning for a short wrong edge take-off. Her combination was triple flip to double toe. Three of her Levels were 1 but her spirals and flying camel spin received Level 3.

6. 48.00 (28.60+19.40) Ivana Reitmayerova is the Slovak Republic champion. Last season, she was only third nationally but was sent to the world championships (where she finished 26th) because the then Slovak champion, Jacqueline Belenyesiova, finished only 29th in the Europeans. Skating to Love is War, the 16 year old from Bratislava presented "only" a triple toe loop to double toe loop for her combination and a triple Salchow, but all of her elements received the base value or higher. The combination spin was Level 4, the spirals and flying camel Level 3, and the straight line steps and layback Level 2.

7. 47.06 (22.16+26.44-1.0) Skating to Astor Piazzollaís Triunfal, Kiira Korpi, the current Finnish champion, a 20 year old from Tampere who won the bronze last year, said, "It was an OK performance, not perfect, though. I have mixed feelings." She fell on her first move, a triple Lutz, "It was a pity about the Lutz. My weight was too forward on the landing, but I stayed upright for the rest of the program." The following triple loop was downgraded. "That surprised me and it also surprised me that my spins werenít Level 4. It will be interesting to see them in slow motion. I wasnít more nervous than usual. I felt quite relaxed and calm. Tomorrow, I want to show the judges that I can do clean triple jumps." Her double Axel earned only the base value. Both spirals and change foot combination spin were awarded Level 3 and both received +0.50 GoE. Her layback (+0.50); flying sit (+0.10) and straight line step sequence (+0.50) were Level 2. However, her component scores were the third highest.

8. 46.48 (27.68+18.80) Ukrainian champion, Irina Movchan, an 18 year old who was born in Dnepropetrovsk, where Oksana Baiul grew up, and is now from Kiev. She took part in Europeans two years ago and was 24th. She was also sent to worlds that season and was 28th. Another Ukrainian competed in Europeans last year but Movchan went to worlds again and was 35th. So, how come she was able to skate her way into the top 8 here in the SP? Movchan performed to Tango by Gotan Project. Her combination was a +0.40 triple Lutz to double toe. Her solo jump was a triple Salchow. That and her double Axel earned +0.20 over base. Her spirals but her three other moves were Level 1 with only 0.20 added for the layback spin, nothing added for the straight line steps and -0.12 taken off for the change foot combination spin.

9. 46.26 (27.10+19.18) Tugba Karademir, the Turkish champion who lives in Canada, has spear-headed interest in figure skating in her country. This is her eighth consecutive appearance in the European championships. Last year she finished 11th and the year before 10th. Her music was from the soundtrack of Oceanís Thirteen. She is trained by Rob Tebby and will turn 24 on March 17. Her combination of triple Salchow to double toe received the base value, as did her double Axel, but her triple flip got an "e" for wrong edge. Everything else got either +0.30 or +0.40 GoEs. Her change foot combination spin was Level 4 but the flying camel was only Level 2. Her spirals were Level 3 but her straight line steps only Level 1.

10. 45.24 (27.04+18.20) Nella Simaova, who skated to music from the show Chicago, is the twice champion of the Czech Republic who finished 15th last year in this event. She was born on July 21, 1988, is from Brno, and is trained by Stanislav Zidek. Her solo jump was a triple toe. Both that and the double Axel earned the base value, as did her combination of triple Salchow to double toe. Her spirals were Level 4 and were awarded +1.00. Her straight line steps (+0.20) and layback spin (base value) were only Level 1 but the other two spins were Level 3 although the flying sit got a slight minus (-0.06). The change foot combination received +0.30.

11. 45.08 (24.44+20.64) Alena Leonova, who was fifth in the recent championships, is making her EC debut. Leonova, who finished sixth in the last world junior championship, turned 18 on November 23. She was chosen for this event over the Russian fourth placed finisher (16 year old Nina Petushkova, who was 17th in the 2008 Europeans), on the basis of Leonovaís showings in her two Senior Grand Prix events this season. Leonova was seventh in the Cup of China and fifth in the Cup of Russia. She is trained by Alla Piatova in St. Petersburg and was in tears after this showing. Skating to Al Andaluz by Manolo Carrasco, she began well with a triple flip to double toe but she almost fell on her triple Lutz which was downgraded. Her final combination spin was a Level 4 with +0.20. She said, "I donít understand what went wrong with the Lutz. It seemed alright on the take-off."

12. 44.06 (23.54+20.52) Annette Dytrt is taking part in her sixth European championship. She is the current and 2003-2006 German champion and was also Czech champion in 1999 before her parents emigrated from that country to Germany. Her older sister, Veronika, represented the Czech Republic in the 1999 European championships. Dytrt, who turned 25 on September 7, is taught by Michael Huth. She did not compete in singles in the 2007 season, taking time to briefly try out pair skating.

Skating to The Feeling Begins from the soundtrack of The Last Temptation of Christ by Peter Gabriel, Dytrt began well with a lovely +1.20 triple flip to double toe but she messed up her triple Salchow and, later, the double Axel. She said, "There was an error on the Salchow but Iím more upset about the Axel. I got stuck with my toepick." She had three Level 1s and the rest Level 2.

13. 43.68 (20.52+23.16) This is Elena Glebovaís fourth appearance in this event. In 2007, she finished 12th. She missed the 2008 season because of a knee injury. Glebova won the Estonian national title in seasons 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009 and was second in 2006. Last yearís Estonian competitor for Europeans, Olga Ikonnikova, finished 24th. Glebov, who turned 19 on June 16, is taught by Anna Kondrasheva Levanti, who won bronze medals in the European championships in 1984, and 1986-88 for the Soviet Union. She moved to Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, when she married an Estonian.

The 2010 Europeans will be held in Tallinn. Glebova skated to Dvorakís Songs My Mother Taught Me. Her triple Lutz and the second triple toe in her combination of two of these jumps were downgraded, and, at one point her leg was not high enough in the flying sit and she lost all her marks for this element. She said, "I have to look at the tape. I did the best work I could but two jumps were downgraded. I started to do the Lutz again in December. I think my marks are not fair. I feel that my technical score should be much higher. This was my best short program of the season. My goal was to make the top ten."

14. 43.32 (19.36+23.96) What a shock to see past holder of this title (2004), who was 4th last year, Julia Sebestyen, so low. But the Technical Specialist saddled her with an "e" for wrong edge on her first jump, the triple flip, and then downgraded both jumps in her combination of triple Lutz to double toe. Then she singled her Axel. Her spirals and layback spin were both only Level 1 and +0.20. The circular steps were Level 2 and +0.40 but the combination spin was Level 3 with +0.10 and the flying sit Level 4 and +0.20. Trained by Gurgen Vardanyan, she performed to Song from a Secret Garden and Astor Piazzolaís Libertango.

15. 43.23 (27.40+15.88) This is Teodora Posticís fourth European championship. Postic, who trains in Ljubliana, had a best placing of 20th in 2006 but last year she was only 35th. She is the three-time Slovanian champion.

16. 42.84 (23.80+19.04) Last year, Candice Didierís older sister, Gwendoline, was 25th in the SP in this event, a very frustrating position since she just missed the cut of the 24 who progress to the Free Skate. This year Candice, who turned 20 on January 15, dethroned Gwendoline in the French championship, and won back a title she had previous held in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Skating to Blues for Klook by Eddie Louis, she messed up her triple Lutz which was to have been her combination. It was also given an exclamation point, meaning a warning for a wrong edge. "I felt stressed out today and didnít feel good at all. Considering that, it could have been worse. I did several clean short programs this season. Even with the confidence I got from that, I still didnít do well! You ask yourself, ĎWhy?í"

17. 42.24 (25.60+17.64-1.0) Francesca Rio, who was 33rd in world juniors last season, is now Italyís second ranked senior. Rio fell on her triple Lutz. Rio skated to Harbinger by M. Oldfield. She said, "I didnít do everything today. I can skate better. I was nervous."

18. 41.94 (20.70+22.24-1.0) Stefania Berton was 13th in this event last year. She was runner-up for the Italian title in the past two seasons but, although she was second in the Short Program, newcomer, Francesco Rio, eclipsed her in the Free Skate and pushed her down to third. Both Berton and Rio are 18. Bertonís birthday is July 19; Rioís is December 16. Berton did such a good job of interpreting Jealousy by J. Gade, that she earned the eighth best component score, despite completely messing up her three jump elements. She had three Level 4s, for her spirals (+0.80), and the combination (+0.50) and flying camel (+0.50) spins. Her layback spin was Level 3 and (+0.70).

25. 37.20 (15.56+22.54-1.0) Elene Gedevanishvili, who turned 19 on January 7, was one of the wunderkind at the 2006 Olympics when she did well in the SP in Torino and finished in the top ten. She grew up in Tblisi, the capital of Georgia, and, the year before the Olympics, she was the first from her country to win a medal in a Junior Grand Prix. On the strength of her potential, she was invited to Moscow to train. But then she grew up and out. Because of the problems between Georgia and Russia, her mother ended up being deported from Moscow back to Georgia which, at that point, had little ice time available. Eventually, her family ended up in New Jersey, where she is still trying to recapture the great potential she had as a child. She is still representing Georgia and is now coached by Roman Serov who trains her in Hackensack.

This is Gedevanishvilliís fourth European championship. Her best placing, fifth, came in 2006. She was seventh last year. She skated to the Cabaret soundtrack by John Kander. It was a disaster. She began with a single Lutz to double toe, then came a downgraded triple Salchow and, later, a downgraded double Axel. Strangely, she was able to regroup at the end and do a Level 4 combination spin which earned +0.50 over the base value. Her two other spins were Level 3. The layback got +0.90 and the flying sit +0.50. Her component scores were they seventh highest.

38. 25.82 (13.82+12.00) Clara Peters The look of sheer joy on the face of Peters as she finished her Short Program captured the essence of what this sport should be about. She was overjoyed to be in this competition. Sheíd skated her best, and when the crowd applauded she was besides herself. "Iíve wanted this since I was a little kid and started to skate in this very small rink in Dublin," said the 17 year old who was born in Germany, where her mother was living. "But we came back to Ireland when I was only months old so I have no memory of that." After sheíd got hooked on skating, they closed the rink. The nearest open rink was in Northern Ireland, a huge distance away. But she did manage to get there from time to time. Then in 2006, she went to Kerry Leitch in Florida to train, and eventually ended up with the Ludington team at the University of Wilmington. Barbara Roles Williams was with her in this competition. She didnít place last, although she was far from qualifying for the top 24 who progress to the Free Skate but she was so pleased just to be taking part. "To represent your country is wonderful. But to be the first to do so is incredible," she said with a look of absolute bliss.

Men's - Free Skate

Brian Joubert has now won medals in eight straight European Championships, 3 golds, 2 silvers and 3 bronzes, medals in every Europeans in which the 24 year old has competed. Joubert previous won the European title in 2004 (when he unexpectedly beat Evgeni Plushenko) and in 2007. He was only third last year behind Verner and Lambiel.

However, Yannick Ponsero, who was only 9th in the Short Program, was the star of the Free Skate in Helsinki. Although Joubert received the top components score, Joubertís FS technical marks were only fifth best, almost ten points behind the technical score for the FS winner, Joubertís teammate, Yannick Ponsero. With only 0.07 points more in the SP or FS, Ponsero would have won the bronze. As it was, he finished fourth overall. Thatís something for coaches to stress to their pupils, as you start to tire, always keep pushing for the extra rotation that could get you the next level up. It could mean a big difference.

In the FS Ponsero, Alban Prťaubert, and the Russian Andrei Lutai were the only competitors to bring off a clean quad. Lutai was the only competitor to accomplish a quad combination (with a double toe and +0.60 GoE). Joubertís quad was flawed and Tomas Vernerís and Sergei Voronovís attempts were under-rotated, and Voronov fell. Bronze medalist Kevin van der Perren received the biggest amount of marks for any one element in the championship. He executed a combination of three triples, Salchow to toe loop to loop, which was executed at the point where the 10% bonus marks click in, and he earned +0.40. That gave him a total of 15.25.

Silver medalist Samuel Contesti and Igor Macypura from the Slovakian Republic, were the only competitors to accomplish a triple Axel to triple toe loop. Like Contestiís, which earned +1.20, Macypuraís effort was a good one and he received +1.00 GoE for it. Both were performed as the first element, well before the bonus points snap in. Contestiís total points banked was 13.40, and Macypuraís 13.20. Macypura, who will be 24 on April 10, was born in Kiev in Ukraine and represents the Slovakian Republic (capital city Bratislava). However, he now lives in Anaheim, CA, and trains at the Kwan rink in Artesia. Despite his opening feat, he had four negative GoEs and was only 14th in this section and 16th overall. (This is his fourth European championships. His previous best finish was 17th in 2007.)

1. Overall 232.01; 1 SP 2 FS; FS 145.11 (TES 71.51 + PCS 74.60 -1.0) Skating 22nd, which was 4th of the top 6, Brian Joubert presented his new routine set to a later Matrix movie. He had previously used Matrix music for two seasons Short Programs. This version was combined with Requiem for a Dream. There is no doubt the music suits him and he is comfortable with it, though with a new routine there are bound to be uncertain moments.

Joubert struggled with the landing of his first jump, the quad toe, and was forced to do a double three turn to hold the landing, so he didnít attempt the second jump of the intended combo. But, although he got -0.96 taken off the base value, he still earned 8.84 points. The judges did not agree with each other. One thought the landing was 2-footed and bad enough to punch in -2, five thought it should get -1 but three thought it was a perfectly acceptable and he should be rewarded with nothing taken off the base value. The following jump was a good +1.20 triple Axel earning a total of 9.40. A second triple Axel followed with a double (instead of planned triple) toe, which received +0.40 over the base value of 9.50. His circular steps (+0.80) and change foot sit spin (+0.50) were both Level 3. Instead of the planned second quad, Joubert substituted a triple Lutz to triple toe, executed when the 10% bonus marks come into effect, which earned +1.20 GoE for a total of 12.20. But then he fell, completely messing up the landing of his second triple Lutz, although he got credit for the rotation. Amazingly, although seven judges punched in -3, one gave -2 and another -1. How can that be? (Joubert did bounce up extremely quickly. Could that judge have missed the fall?) Upset, Joubert then did a dicey double loop. His triple flip was fine but he got an expected "e" for wrong edge take-off. His straight line steps were only Level 2 and +0.20. A double Axel gained only +0.60 over base. He finished with two spins, a Level 4 change foot combo (+0.50) and a Level 3 flying sit (+0.10). It wasnít the same Joubert as had appeared in the SP.

Joubert said, "Today, I went to skate with an open mind as I didnít know quite what to expect. I knew it was going to be difficult today, but I had a good sensation. Iím a little disappointed about (the mistakes on) the Lutz and the loop, because I was not tired. I knew that it would be difficult to skate because I changed the free program only two weeks ago. Iím not at my best yet. The beginning of the season was difficult for me. I had lots of problems. Iíll try to fix it and get ready for the World Championships. Today, I was not 100% but I will be in two months. When I first won this title in 2004 (surprisingly dethroning Evgeny Plushenko) it was easier because I didnít have pressure. Iím very proud of this one because one week ago, I still couldnít practice the quad in practice. We fixed it maybe two days before leaving for Helsinki. Iím proud of myself and my team. I won, and that is the most important (thing). So I prefer this title. I still feel (problems) in my back. I donít feel it when I do jumps but I feel it in the footwork and spins. We have to fix it before the World Championships. I really want to feel confident physically. In October, I had boots that were not good. I didnít feel my blades, and I couldnít do very good jumps. I stayed with those boots, and my triples were OK but the quad I couldnít do. Actually, here, I wore the boots that I won (the world title with, in Tokyo) in 2007. I knew those boots were good and my jumps were better every day and when I came to Helsinki it was great." In the after event interview in the arena for the fans (a relatively new but nice addition to the program filling time while the rostrum is set up), he was asked about quads. Joubert had originally planned to present two. Joubert said the future of skating lay in the quads, and he was working on doing three. (Two toe loops, one in combination, and a Salchow.)

Joubert was asked about Samuel Contestiís success. "Itís great. He used to have so many problems and that is why he is Italian now. I would have wanted to see three French guys on the podium, but we couldnít do it today. For Samuel, I think itís going to be better for the rest of this season and the next season. I think he will be a great skater next year."

2. 220.92; 3.3. FS 144.97 (76.77+68.20) Skating 21st, Samuel Contesti said, "I felt good. It was easy to finish the program when youíve landed everything. It was a good audience here. I think they liked the program. Iím happy because it was very difficult to wait three years to compete (as he changed countries, from France to Italy). I felt pressure all through the competition. I just try to concentrate, not to watch the others. I stay inside my world. Medaling is just fantastic. This is a beautiful victory for all the people who believed in me. It was a lot of work for my wife, a lot of sacrifices for both of us. I am very happy about my performance and I am pleased to win a medal here. It wasnít about giving an answer to someone (showing the French Federation they had made a mistake by treating him poorly) or about giving an answer to what happened in the past. I only want to think about the future now. I want to thank again my team for the support and, of course, the Italian Federation, Courmayeur (his home town) and the Aosta Valley."

He was asked about his FS being reminiscent of Philippe Candeloroís cowboy routine. He answered, "Candeloro was a genius, a great skater. Actually, I wanted to create something different, but, naturally, it reminds me of Lucky Luke." In addition to his wife, Contesti is coached by Stephane Lambielís Peter Gruetter. "We did a lot of work with my wife but then we asked for help from Peter Gruetter, as he had (much top level) experience with Stephane Lambiel. Iím happy, so I want to think of what I did now, and only later about future competitions. For the Olympics, weíll see. I can compete there because I now have Italian citizenship, but I wonít think about that tonight."

Contesti presented a routine set to Once Upon a Time in the West by Ennio Morricone and Cotton-Eyed Joe by Red Nex which should go down very well in Los Angeles. It has lots of light-hearted miming, riding-a-horse and lasso-ing. He began with a triple Axel to triple toe which earned +1.20. There was a slight hiccup when that was followed by a double Lutz intended as a triple. Then he executed a triple flip earning +0.60 over the base value. Two Level 4 spins earned +0.30 and +0.40 GoEs. His Level 3 circular steps got (0+50). As the bonus checked in, he performed a strained (-0.56) triple Axel and a +1.20 triple loop. A Level 4 flying sit earned +0.50 over base value. His straight line steps were Level 3 and +0.70. Then came a triple Salchow-triple toe loop combination and a double Axel which both earned +0.80. He finished with a crowd pleasing three-jump combo of double Axel to double toe to double toe which earned +0.20 over the base value plus 10% which was 6.91 points.

3. 219.36; 4.4. FS 143.56 (76.86+66.70) Skating last but one, Kevin van der Perren performed his best, winning his second bronze. His first was in 2007 in Warsaw. He said, "Iím quite happy with the way I skated. I didnít skate a clean program since my surgery in April. Iím surprised about the placement. I experienced a lot of pain. I was skating in the most horrible condition I ever had. I didnít think Iíd be on the podium. The pain was even worse than it was for the Short Program. In my hip operation, they removed cartilage and a little piece that had broken off. I was off the ice for two and a half months. I had difficulty doing the Axels. This was my first clean free program this season. I wasnít expecting to skate this well and Iím surprised I did my personal best. This medal means so much to me. Because of my back musclesí problem, Iíve been on and off the ice, and then I got flu! I only practiced two weeks for the Europeans. I will do one more competition in The Hague and try the quad there. Itís not good to try the quad at worlds if you didnít do it before. Two days ago, I fell on that spot (of his hip operation). Iím embarrassed to say this, but I fell when I was skating forward. That was really stupid."

Van der Perren skated to Heros in Action by the Safri Duo. His outfit was adorned with angular symbols like bent arrows. There was a "7" on his back. He began with a +1.0 triple Axel. He said, "After the first triple Axel, there was so much pain, I was afraid to try the the second one so I just did a double," he explained. This also received a +1.0. Then came a +0.80 triple Lutz and a Level 4 +0.30 flying sit. After Level 3 straight line steps, which earned +0.40, as the bonus marks clicked in, he did a three-jump combo of triple Salchow to TRIPLE toe to TRIPLE loop. Amazing! It earned him the base value plus 10% plus the GoE of +0.40. A total of 15.25! Following was a triple flip to double toe and a triple loop which both also earned +0.40. Then came a combination upright Level 3 spin which was presented with +0.20, a +1.0 triple flip, Level 1 circular steps with +0.10 and the final move, a Level 3 +0.40 change foot combination spin.

4. 219.30; 9.1. FS 151.85 (81.45+70.40) Skating 15th, Yannick Ponsero won this section and climbed all the way from ninth after the SP to fourth overall, missing the bronze medal by 0.06!! He interpreted four pieces of music starting with Caravan by Brian Setzer, followed by two pieces sung by Louis Armstrong from Gerschwinís Porgy and Bess including Summer Time. He finished with another piece performed by Setzer, Sing Sing Sing. This sounds like a lot of changes of music, but he used them very well, particular the circular steps to Summer Time. He said, "After last season, I thought I was closed inside one style. Everyone thought that I always look like a classical dancer. For this season, I completely changed my preparation. I now have two really difficult programs. I really enjoyed my free program today. The short program is more difficult for me because it is not automatic stuff. I have to work a lot. I did the quad for the first time when I was 14, so I have been doing it for eight years now. I want to be able to do it automatically."

He began his FS with a gorgeous +2.0 quad toe which took your breath away and made the audience really start paying attention. That gave him an immediate total of 11.80 points. Then came a +1.60 triple Axel which put 9.80 in his bank. A +1.0 triple Lutz produced 7 points. That was followed by a well earned Level 4 +0.50 change foot combination spin which banked another 4 points. The circular steps were only Level 3 but +0.60. That produced 3.90. Then came a second triple Axel to double toe at the point where the 10% bonus clicks in, which meant he earned 11.25. The change foot camel spin was good but only Level 2 and +0.40. That added 2.70 points. His triple Salchow to double toe to double toe received a total of 9.01 points. Obviously tiring, he messed up the landing on his triple loop but managed to save it although he had -1.20 taken off the base value +10%. The sequence of triple toe to triple Salchow brought dissention to the judgesí panel. The second jump was a bit wild. Five thought it was good enough for the base value, and one thought it was superior enough for +1, but the other three thought it was flawed and punched in -1.0. In this case, the GoE depends on which judgesí marks the computer was selects. One of the -1s must have been chosen because the overall median GoE was -0.20. Ponseroís straight line steps were Level 3 and he got the crowd clapping along with him which may have helped earn him a good +0.80 GoE. His final jump, a double Axel was flawed and was given -0.64 off the base value +10%. He finished with a crowd-pleasing Level 3 +0.50 flying sit. He was first on the technical element score by 4.59 over the second in this division, Kevin van der Perren. However, Ponsero was only third on the component scores behind Joubert and Verner.

5. 212.22; 5.5. FS 138.72 (74.02+64.70) Skating 20th, Alban Prťaubert performed to famous Russian music, Kalinka and The Volga Boatmen, which included some interesting interpretation including miming a drunkard. He said, "Iím very happy. It was difficult today and I was under pressure. Everything wasnít perfect but I fought well. I did better here than at French nationals. I missed my quad at nationals. It was bad. Itís important to put difficult jumps into competition. I think the highlight of my performance today was the quad."

This is Prťaubertís fourth Europeans and best place finish, although he was sixth in both his debut in 2006 and 2007. He was a disappointed 10th last year. Prťaubert began with a beautiful quad toe, although he did not add a double toe as planned, and triple Axel, both of which earned +0.80. Then came a triple flip to triple toe (+0.40). However, although he got credit for the rotation, the following triple Axel was messy and was saddled with -2.52. He presented a Level 3 change foot sit spin (+0.20). That was followed by a triple Lutz which was given an "e" and was saddled with a -1.40. The triple loop which followed was +0.80 GoE and the Level 3 straight line steps +0.10. But his triple flip to double toe to double loop was strained. Although five judges thought it was adequately done and punched in zeros, the other four put in -1 and he received a median GoE of -0.40. The ending two spins and the straight line steps were all Level 3. The flying sit got the base value, while the steps and change foot combination spin earned an extra +0.30. His final jump was a -0.40 triple Salchow.

6. 207.98; 2.7. FS 126.53 (54.23+72.30) Skating 19th, first on of the top six, Tomas Verner gave an unsatisfactory performance to three well-known Astor Piazzolla tangos, Oblivion, Adios Nonino and Libertango. Also included in the four and a half minutes was Matos Rodriguesí La Cumparsita. He said, "I donít know what happened. I was focused. I was calmed down after the warm-up. I knew I have to do the jumps. I screwed up. My practice was fine. I found my skating confidence. I tried to do my job like Iím supposed to. But I didnít."

Last yearís champion signaled right away that he was off-form. His quad toe was downgraded and the landing was a two-foot mess. He received only an overall 1.40 marks for the attempt. The triple Lutz to triple toe which followed, however, earned a full point over the base value of 10.0 and the very good triple Axel, which came next, was awarded +1.20 GoE. But then he singled his Salchow. His Level 3 straight line steps earned +0.60 and the Level 4 flying sit +0.30. A single Axel came next. In this roller coaster ride program he zig-zagged back up to earn the base value with a triple loop but swung back to the dark side with a single Lutz. He stayed there for the triple flip to double toe to double loop in which the last jump was downgraded and the first saddled with an "e" and a GoE of -2.40. He real self showed through for the final three moves, two Level 4 spins (+0.40 for change foot sit and +0.50 for the change foot combination) and +0.60 for the Level 3 circular steps. However, it was not quite the meltdown he had in the 2008 world championships.

7. 200.57; 6.6. FS 132.82 (70.72+62.10) Skating 17th, Andrei Lutai skated to a Latin Medley Headhunters in an Egyptian looking outfit. Although he put his foot down on his first jump, a triple Axel, he didnít fall and received credit for the rotation so he started with 5.68. He didnít panic and the following quad toe with an improvised double toe was rewarded with +0.60 over the base value so he gained 11.70 marks for this move. His was the only quad combo of the event.

He then presented a triple Axel to double toe which earned the base value of 9.50. He then did a spread eagle into a base value triple Lutz, which was meant to be a three jump combo with a triple and a double toe loop. He received an "e" for wrong edge take-off on his triple flip which meant he could earn nothing higher than -1 for his GoE. His triple loop earned +0.80 GoE but his final jump, a double Axel was off axis and two-footed. He had -1.60 taken off base value. Two of his spins were Level 4 with +0.50 and +0.40. He concluded the routine with a Level 3 +0.20 flying sit. His straight line steps were Level 3 and +0.20 but the earlier circular steps were only Level 2 although they gained +0.50 over the base value.

He said, "Iím pleased with this championship because I got into good shape and the jumps came easy to me. My leg was hurting but not as much as yesterday, because I was excited and the adrenalin suppressed the pain. I hope this result will get me onto the Russian team for the world championships. I changed three pairs of skates during this season. The last change was before the Eric Bompard Trophy and I didnít skate well. Iím here to rehabilitate myself. I had an inflammation of the leg right before my departure to Helsinki and wasnít able to practice the quad at all. We worked with our medics and pyschiotherapists."

8. 186.15; 7.10. FS 117.96 (54.26+63.70) Skating 16th, Kristoffer Berntsson skated to Axel F by Harold Faltermeyer; Moments in Love by Art of Noise; and Take on Me by A-HA He said, "Some of my performance was good, and in some places I struggled." He started with a triple Lutz to triple toe loop. He turned out of the second landing and put his hands down but he got credit for the rotation so, although he was saddled with a -2.0 point deduction, he still earned 8 points. The following triple Axel popped to a high single. Later, he tried this jump once more. This time he put his free foot down. His GoE was -2.80. However, the rotation was accomplished and it was in the bonus period so he still earned 6.22 points. His spins were all Level 4 with +0.20, base value, and +0.40 GoEs. Both footwork sequences, straight line and circular were Level 3 and both earned +0.50. "It wasnít my seasonís best," he said later. "But it was OK. Once my hip injury got better, then the pain traveled to my back and itís still not perfect. I just have to take a couple of days off. Itís a little better now, though. I was happy to come to Finland and the audience was great (from Sweden)."

9. 184.96; 6.13. FS 113.67 (51.57+63.10-1.0) Skating last, Sergei Voronov performed to a Tango Selection by Astor Piazzolla. After his opening disappointment, under-rotating and falling on his quad, Voronov did a great triple Axel which was rewarded with a +1.20 GoE. But his next move, planned as a triple flip was a bad double and saddled with a wrong edge "e". He again swung back with a +0.80 triple Axel to double toe and a +0.30 flying camel combination spin. But both sets of footwork were only Level 2 (circular +0.40 and, later, straight line +0.30). He got positives for his triple loop and triple toe to double toe and his final spin was a +0.30 Level 3. However, he got negatives and doubled his final two jumps, a Salchow and a toe loop. He left the arena, stumbling and holding his knee. As he left the Kiss & Cry area, Voronov refused to talk to the press. His coach, 1994 Olympic champion, Alexei Urmanov, said, "I can only assume that the wait (to skate) was too long for him."

10. 183.19; 17.8. FS 123.84 (66.34+58.50-1.0) Michal Brezina skated 12th, the last skater before the ice resurface. He gave an extremely promising showing to a "Latin Dance" in a selection of music by the Safri Duo. He made his debut in this event last year, finishing 16th and he might have been even higher this time, had he not lost much training time due to a bad knee injury which kept him out of the Junior Grand Prix Final. (He qualified for that event by winning both of his Jr GPs, in France and Italy.) He started his routine with a triple Axel to double toe and a triple Lutz which both earned a full point over their base value. Then came a triple flip to double toe (+0.80) and a Level 4 change foot sit spin (+0.10). His other two spins, presented as two of his last three moves, also earned Level 4 with both the flying sit and the final change foot combination receiving +0.20. His only negatives were 1) for falling, but still getting credit for the rotation on his second triple Axel, and 2) stumbling out of his next move, a triple loop, which was not straight in the air and which was downgraded. Both his step sequences were Level 3. The straight line earned +0.50 and the later serpentine was given +0.20. He took the time to include a lovely spread eagle. Brezina, who is from Brno in the Czech Republic, is trained by Petr Starec and Karel Fajfr. He will turn 19 on March 30.

11. 182.91; 12.11. FS 114.22 (54.26+63.70) Javier Fernandez, who will turn 18 on April 15, is from Madrid. Spain is just waking up to skating and Javier is breaking onto new ground. These were his third Europeans. He placed 28th in 2007 and 17th last year. Now heís just outside the top ten, ahead of some very experienced skaters. Skating 18th to Matrix he accomplished a super triple Axel (+1.40) and a +0.40 triple Lutz. However, he stepped out of his second triple Axel and only just managed to save his triple flip to double toe. He couldnít control the landing of his triple Salchow either and doubled the second flip. He also had to struggle with his triple loop but earned the base value for his triple toe to double Axel sequence. His five Level moves were all 3 and had positive GoEs from a solitary +0.30 up to three +0.50s.

However, he could have been in the top ten if his boot strap had not come lose in the SP. "I noticed it and tried to continue but after the Lutz, I realized that I had to stop. I knew I would get a deduction of two points. I knew that could affect my placing, and it did. It has happened to me in another competition, but on the other foot and it was another costume."

12. 178.79; 20.9. FS 121.29 (64.89+56.40) Although Jamal Othman from Switzerland did two single Axels, his was the cleanest program of the evening, except for the silver and bronze medalists. Othman had only one negative GoE, which was true of only one other competitor, Contesti. Van der Perren had no negatives. Everyone else had at least two elements on which they had marks subtracted from the base value. Othman executed a triple Lutz to triple toe and five other triples, and received two Level 4 and three Level 3s.

13. 175.99; 15.12. FS 114.22 (58.22+56.00) Artem Borodulin from Russia.

14. 170.88; 10.19. FS 104.24 (49.24+55.00) Local competitor Ari-Pekka Nurmenkari, who had been 10th in the Short Program, was only 19th in the FS. He said, "My skating was a fight today. The landings of my jumps didnít come easily. I couldnít skate as well as yesterday. Some days are good and some arenít, but you have to land your jumps. The audience was great, though. I donít think my triple Axel and the triple Lutz should have been downgraded. I donít think they were under-rotated. I checked the Axel landing and it was clean. (Maybe the problem was an over-rotated take-off.). I didnít even imagine my triple Lutz couldíve been under-rotated. I feel good about yesterday, and this has been a good learning experience."

Of note: Przemyslaw Domanski from Poland, who was 16th in the SP and 18th in the FS, finishing 17th overall, was the only competitor to present a triple flip to triple loop, although he received a -0.40 GoE.

Men's - Short Program

1. 86.90 (TES 48.00+PCS 38.90) Brian Joubert is back to his old self. He skated brilliantly. Opening his Rise by Safri Duo routine, choreographed by Evgeny Platov, attired in an outfit which looked as if it had started off as a sale item, was torn apart by aggressive bargain hunters, and thenn stitched back together by a blind lunatic. Of course, on heartthrob, shiny stuff and fishnet cutaways look sexy. On anyone else it would have looked ridiculous.

There was a collective intake of breath from the fans when he fell on his quad in the warm-up. Strangely, as they got more apprehensive, Joubert said he got more confident. "I was almost happy to fall, because I made few mistakes here in practice and the fall put pressure on me. It woke the adrenalin up."

Skating 34th of the 39 men from 28 countries, last of the penultimate group to skate, the French 24 year old opened with a quad toe loop - triple toe loop combination. The quad was landed on the toe but Wow! What a technical feat. He earned +1.40 over the base value of 13.80. The fans went cuckoo. The triple Axel came next and he was presented with +0.60 over that base value of 8.20. He sailed through the air with ease on the following triple Lutz, pushing five judges into punching in +2 and the other four +1 for another median GoE of +1.40. His +0.60 flying sit and change foot combination (+0.40) spins earned the maximum Level 4 from the technical specialist Shin Amano. The (+1.00) circular and (+0.90) straight line steps were only Level 2 as was his concluding (+0.30) spin, the change foot sit.

"Iím very pleased to have beaten my personal best. Today, I was confident and I had fun with the audience," Joubert said just after he came off the ice. "I was confident despite the fall in the warm-up. Iíve felt good ever since I arrived in Helsinki. I came here to win. I know I can. I want this third European title." Later, he said, "I know I can do better at Worlds. I was a little disappointed with the levels of my footwork and spins and I will work on them. This short program was better than at the Cup of Russia (which he won). In Russia I was very nervous because of the Trophy Bompard where I didnít skate clean."

2. 81.45 (43.90+37.55) Tomas Verner skated immediately before Joubert. In a shock move, the Czech 22 year old defending champion, began his two minute, fifty second routine with two triple toes, a combination with a base value of 8.0 which is more suited to the top women than the men! Later, asked why, he said, "My goal was to do a clean short which Iíve never done before and I accomplished that today. Brian won the Cup of Russia because I messed up my quad in the combo and could not recoup the amount of points lost. The SP is absolutely critical."

In doing so, however, he saddled himself with a 5.45 deficit behind Joubert. His combo was textbook perfect, high, clean and easy, with both jumps high and long. It earned +1.60. His triple Axel and triple Lutz both received +0.80, although he landed the Lutz with quite a deep edge. The change foot sit and change foot combo both earned Level 4 and +0.50.

Vernerís three other moves received 3, a higher level than Joubertís. For both the straight line and circular steps the difference between base values of Level 2 and 3 is a full point. On top of that, Verner earned 1.0 GoE, which was a tenth of a point more than Joubertís GoE, on his very dance-y, straight line steps. However, Vernerís GoE for the circular steps was 0.60, 0.40 lower than Joubertís GoE. On the remaining element, Vernerís Level 3 change foot combo, had a base value of 3.00 while Joubertís Level 2 change foot sit had a base value of 2.30. Both got the same GoE (+0.30).

Vernerís component score was second best, 1.35 marks behind Joubert. Dressed in a black outfit with gloves with white, he skated to two pieces by Django Reinhardt, a Belgian gypsy guitarist who died in 1953: Melodie en Crťpuscule and Minor Swing played by the Greek-American group, Children of the Revolution. The choreography for this program was done by Rostislav Sinitsyn. Verner refused to talk specifically about his plans. "I canít tell you what Iím going to do tomorrow because my opponents are here. But Iím the first skater in my group so I have no other choice but to do everything I can and then see what the others do."

3. 75.95 (43.90+32.05) Samuel Contesti was born in The Hague in the Netherlands but lives in Courmayeur. He represented France and was ninth in the 2005 European championships but, after placing second nationally, but not being picked for the team for the 2006 European championships, he threatened to sue (although he did not actual file the papers). The French Association preferred Frederic Dambier who had done well in internationals previously in the season, but had not beaten Contesti in head to head competition. A messy legal situation resulted. Bowing to Contestiís threat of legal action, the Association put Contesti on the team and removed Dambier. However, Dambier then actually sued and won, so Contesti was thrown off.

Contesti, who will be 26 on March 4, soon set about arranging to skate for Italy, and is now twice Italian champion. He beat the previous Italian champion, Karel Zelenka in December 2007. Zelenka did not compete this season due to injury. Dambier subsequently quit eligible competition and is performing with Holiday on Ice. Contesti married his coach, Geraldine Zulini in February 2007. She held both French and Italian citizenship. This was Contestiís first time representing Italy in the Europeans.

Skating 21st, well before the major competitors, a waltz number, Contesti gained +1.0 GoE for both his triple Lutz to triple toe combination and triple Axel, and +0.60 for his triple loop. His spins were all Level 4 gaining GoEs from +0.20 to +0.50. His steps were both Level 3 with +0.50 for the circular and +0.40 for the straight line. His component score was only seventh best. Not surprisingly, Contesti said, "I would like to thank my new Federation for their support and the good training conditions. I am happy." His co-coach, Peter Gruetter said, "It is part of his mental preparation not to give interviews during the competition."

4. Kevin van der Perren was the first male from Belgium to medal at the Europeans in fifty years when he claimed the bronze in his eighth appearance in this event in 2007. Last year he finished fifth after being injured. He has since had surgery. He and British champion, Jenna McCorkell, were married this past summer.

Van der Perren, who drew to skate 37th, performed to Mussorgskiís Night on Bald Mountain, opening with a triple Axel and triple flip to triple toe which both received +1.0 GoE. His triple loop gained +0.80. Two of his spins were awarded Level 4. The flying sit got +0.50 but the change foot sit was given only the base value. The other three elements were Level 3. The judges gave +0.20 for two and +0.30 for his straight line steps.

He said, "This morning, I didnít know if I am going to compete. I had surgery this April and the hipís been going on and off. Until now, I couldnít really prepare for this championship. Yesterday morning, I felt pain on it. I almost couldnít walk yesterday, so I didnít know what to do. Then I decided, what doesnít kill me makes me stronger. It was a painful performance. Next year is my last Europeans so I have only two chances let. I have so many problems, my back, my knee, my ankle and my hip. Iím an old man already." Van der Perren, a dog person with a black Labrador called Quad and a golden retriever named Luna, is from Ninove and turned 26 on August 6. He is coached by Silvi de Rijcke.

5. 73.50 (40.80+32.70) Alban Prťaubert was a disappointed third in this seasonís French championship, made more bitter because his more famous countryman, Brian Joubert, was not competing because of an injury. Earlier this season, the flamboyant Prťaubert beat Joubert in the Masters competition and in the Eric Bompard Trophy in Paris in which Prťaubert won the bronze with a sub-par Joubert fourth. Prťaubert, who won bronze in the 2006 and 2008 French championships, is competing in Europeans for the fourth time. He was sixth in 2006 and 2007 but only tenth last year. He turned 23 on September 20, and is trained in Paris by Annick Dumont.

Skating 30th to music by Brad Mehldau and his acoustic jazz combo, Exit Music (Radiohead Cover), Prťaubert opened with a +0.40 triple flip to triple toe followed by a +0.80 triple Axel. His three spins were Level 4 with the change foot combination receiving +0.30 and the other two +0.20. Both his step sequences were Level 3 with the straight line getting the base value and the circular +0.10. Prťaubert said, "This is my ninth clean short program in a row but that isnít difficult because I donít do the quad in the Short Program."

6. 71.29 (36.24+33.05) Sergei Voronov made his European debut last year, taking sixth place in the SP but then climbing to fourth overall with third place in the FS. He is the twice Russian champion who turned 21 on October 3 and is trained in St. Petersburg by 1994 Olympic champion Alexei Urmanov. His parents nearly made him give up the sport two years after he started, thinking it was just too dangerous after he broke his collarbone on the ice. But Voronov was determined to continue.

Skating last (39th) to music from The Godfather, he began well with a +0.40 quad toe to double toe which earned him a total of 11.50. His triple Axel earned 0.20 over the base value but he was the only competitor in the top six to make an error, messing up his triple loop, but not falling. He got credit for the rotation but -2.0 off the base value. He said, "Itís already the third time for me to make such a mistake. (He also messed this jump up at the last worlds and in Russia.) But I was even worse in practice. I couldnít do anything there. So basically, I was able to pull myself up from a very bad place. I wasnít totally over my feet. Before competing for medals, Iíll have to think about competing with myself. I probably should change the loop to a flip. Itís a more difficult jump and may make me focus better."

7. 68.19 (36.14+32.05) This is Kristoffer Berntssonís tenth consecutive appearance in the Europeans championships. After a competent but fairly undistinguished start in which he finished 21st three times (1999, 2000 & 2001), he has steadily climbed the ladder. Last yearís seventh was his best placing. He first won the Swedish championship in the 2000 and 2001. He repeated as title-holder five more times 2004-9, although he was dethroned in 2006 by Schultheiss. Last April, Berntsson, who turned 26 on July 13, had surgery to remove excess bone in his right hip which was causing problems and he was off the ice until mid-July. He then had back pain which interfered with his spin training.

Skating 32nd to music from two French movies, Amelie (La Valse DíAmelie by Yann Tiersen) and The Triplets of Belleville (Belleville Rendez-vous by Ben Charest), Berntsson began well with a +0.80 triple Lutz to triple toe. However, he stepped out of his triple Axel (-2.80 GoE) and triple flip (-2.0). Two of his spins were Level 4. The other elements were Level 3. He said, "I had a late start this season because of injury but itís OK now."

In 2000, Berntsson became the first Swede to land a triple Axel, which he did in the Swedish nationals. Early in his career, he also did ice dance and synchronized skating which is not a surprise since his coach, Andrea Dohany, also teaches Team Surprise who are the 2003, 2005 and 2007 world synchro champions.

8. 67.75 (37.90+29.85) Andrei Lutai, who turned 22 on July 24, skated 25th to Anton Dvorakís Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World"). He began with a good (+0.80) triple Axel and a base value triple Lutz to triple toe. But he messed up his triple loop and was saddled with -1.20 off the base value. He had only one Level 4, his change foot sit spin. He received two Level 3s and two Level 2s. Lutai received only the 12th best component score.

Lutai has competed in seven straight Russian senior championships. He was the runner-up in the past two seasons but was third in both parts of the recent national contest behind Voronov and Borodulin. He made a splendid debut in Europeans, placing fifth in 2007. But last year he was eighth. Lutai is trained by Alexei Mishin in St. Petersburg.

9. 67.45 (33.80+33.65) Yannick Ponsero, skating 35th to Ice 5 by Maxime Marecaux which is based on Beethovenís Symphony No.5, was one of only three competitors to present a quad which he combined with a double toe earning +0.20 over the 11.10 base value. However, he executed only a double Axel, which received +0.60, and only a double Lutz for which he got a total of 0.90 marks. Asked why he had reduced the difficulty of two of his elements, he said, "If I knew what had happened, I wouldnít be in this position. The quad was the element I was most nervous about and that was fine. I felt good but I didnít go all the way."

In the recent French championship, Ponsero, who turned 22 on October 17, also gave a flawed Short Program performance but took the title with a brilliant FS. He had been runner-up for the past two years. This is his third European championship. He has finished 12th for the past two seasons. Previously, he had won both a silver and bronze in five appearances in the world junior championships. This season he won his first Senior Grand Prix medal, the bronze in Japan. Ponsero is trained by Didier Lucine.

10. As the home country representative, Ari-Pekka Nurmenkari was guaranteed a place in the Free Skate. But he got there on his own merit. His triple Axel earned +0.80 over base but the triple Lutz to triple toe had 1.20 subtracted from the base value of 10.00. His solo jump was a triple flip, which earned +0.20. All of his spins earned Level 4 although the change foot sit spin got a slight negative (-0.06). His circular steps were Level 3 and his straight line Level 2.

He said, "I was a little disappointed about the landing of the triple-triple combination but, otherwise, Iím satisfied with my skate. My warm-up wasnít normal. I had difficulties with my triple Axel but I decided to fight and go out to the ice with a smile. This was the best Short Program of my career. But I canít understand why I got such low component scores. I was expecting to get at least 30 points. Maybe it was because of skating in the early group. (He drew to skate 13th of the 39.) I sure didnít get extra points for being on my home turf." He performed to Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman by Bryan Adams.

Nurmenkari, who was born in Helsinki on July 8, 1983, has won the Finnish championship six times although he was defeated last season by Mikko Minkkinen, who was 28th in the SP of the 2008 European championship and so did not qualify for the Final. Minkkinen did not defend his title this year due to injury. Nurmenkari has competed in Europeans five times, 2002-7, with results of a low of 27th (in 2002) to a high of 22nd (in 2003). He is trained by Sirkka Kaipio.

Pairs - Free Skate

The event was marred by the bloody accident to Ekaterina Sokolova and Fedor Sokolov, the married pair formerly from Russia, now skating for Israel. She fell during their free and the back of one of her left blade spiked her right leg just above the knee and blood came shooting out. They had been lying 20th. Their coach, Nikolai Valikov, said, "It was bleeding a lot. But she will live and she will skate."

1. Overall 199.07; 2 SP; 1 FS 132.43 (67.71+64.72) Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy won their third straight European title with a masterful though not flawless interpretation of their Schindlerís List routine, which concluded with half-a-minute of what they term "more up-beat" music, Tomaso Albinoniís Adagio.

Szolkowy said, "Our free program was much better than our short (in which he fell on their solo jump and put them second). That wasnít great. But, of course, we have to be able to deal with it and, more or less, push it aside and be relaxed about it. I mean, we have been skating together for a long time (since 2003) and before that we skated with other partners. Before that we were kids skating as singles. You donít start at the top in first place. You slowly push forward and you learn how to deal with defeats and setbacks. Thatís what I did, because, yesterday, I was the one who made a mistake. But I said immediately that I was not going to let it have an impact on me. Now, when we get back home to Chemnitz, we will completely analyze and scrutinize everything and study all the levels we got. Where there might be questions, we will maybe make changes. We will try to make sure everything is at maximum for Los Angeles (where they will defend their world title)."

Savchenko said, "We noticed that the audience was silent (enthralled) and I got goosebumps." Her partner added, "They were especially quiet after our circular step sequence. I thought, ĎOK. Either everyone is asleep or they are enjoying our skating.í" In fact the audience was definitely mesmerized.

He was in grey and she in rose. They began with a planned sequence of two triple toes executed perfectly as was their throw triple flip which followed. Both earned +1.40 Grade of Execution. Five of their elements received the maximum level of 4. Only the top four presented a triple rather than a double twist. Savchenko and Szolkowy were one of the two who received a Level 2 for the twist; the two others got Level 1. Szolkowy then doubled the side by side Salchow while she stumbled on a triple, but that was their only error. Their back outside death spiral and circular steps were Level 3, but the remaining moves were all Level 4. Their final move, a marvelous throw triple Salchow gained +0.16 GoE.

2. 182.77; 3 SP 2; FS 117.39 (58.59+58.80) Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov, performed to music from the opera I Pagliacci by Leoncavallo. She was attired in a tutu like dress, which certainly emphasizes the rotation in the twist. They began with a sequence of two triple toes but Kawaguchi had a problem with the second jump, landing forward and so it was downgraded. Their Level 1 triple twist received -0.42 because he didnít catch her cleanly. Then they tried a throw quad Salchow. It was landed on messily on two feet and so got a GoE of -1.60 with all the judges punching in either -1 or -2. But they got credit for the rotation, earning 6.40. The throw triple Salchow, executed before the 10% bonus marks click in, has a base value of 4.5 while the quadís value is 8.0. So, for this couple, that risk really paid off. It made the difference between earning silver and bronze. (There was only 0.70 difference between the scores of the second and third pairs.)

All of their other nine elements received the base value or better. All their remaining moves which receive Levels earned 4 except for their last two, their straight line steps which was given a 3 and +0.50, and their pair combo spin, which was a Level 2 with +0.30. Kawaguchi said, "We are very happy with tonightís results. There were some mistakes, but we got one step up since last time (earning the bronze last year in this event), so we are satisfied. Smirnov said, "We think we have a lot of work to do. Our coach (Tamara Moskvina) will make some adjustments and we hope to adapt by Worlds."

3. 182.07; 1 SP 4; FS: 112.45 (54+58.96-1.0) As they had in Skate America, Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov, presented a superb SP but then had a melt down in their very ambitious FS, finishing fourth in this section but still winning a medal, the bronze. This was not quite the disaster of their performance in Everett, WA, but their three major mistakes thoroughly marred their fine interpretation of their music, The Lady and the Hooligan by Dmitri Shostakovich.

They began with a solid +0.70 Level 1 triple twist, but Mukhortova singled her second jump in their intended combination of triple toe to double toe. She also put her hand on the ice landing the following solo triple Salchow. All went well for the next three moves, a throw triple loop (+0.56), back outside Level 2 death spiral (0.28) and Level 4 Axel lasso lift (+1.00) but then she fell on their throw triple Salchow.

Mukhortova said, "In general we think that this performance was good. We fought for every element. We were thrilled that we have now beaten the world champions in the short program twice now. I havenít fallen on the throw jumps for a long time. When I did, I found it hard to concentrate and go on."

Trankov said, "Maybe after some time we can skate the Free program clean, too. It was a big pressure because we were lying first. We skated (this routine) better at our first competition of the season (in Oberstdorf). We lost one position from our placing last year and we are sad about that. (They won silver in the 2008 Europeans.) We have another competition now, the Final of the Russian Cup. We will skate there and then go to Chicago to prepare for Worlds, getting used to the time change and also the smaller ice surfaces in North America."

4. 171.34; 4 SP; 3 FS 115.14 (57.30+57.84) Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov skated to music from the sound track for the movie Pearl Harbor by Hans Zimmer. Coming into the event, Morozov explained, "There wasnít enough time for us to prepare for these championships. I fell in practice (in Chemnitz where they now train alongside his ex-partner Savchenko) and missed a week of training. Maybe we just needed three or four more run-throughs. We came here not fully prepared. When we finished skating today, I became aware my leg still hurts a lot. We are mostly sorry about our short program (in which they were fourth)."

Both throws were huge and earned excellent GoEs, +1.24 for the throw triple loop and +1.26 for the throw triple Salchow. Volosozhar said, "In general we are satisfied with our performance. Iím a bit sorry for (the two mistakes though not falls on) the jumps. Usually I never do that mistake. I fell in the warm-up. It was just an accident. I got too rushed. Training with the strongest pair in the world, the world champions, they stimulates us a lot." They moved to Chemnitz this past summer. They received better than base value for all except their first two moves. In their planned sequence of two triple toes, they got credit for only a double on the second jump with a -2.0 GoE. They also were given a negative GoE (-0.48) for double Salchow, instead of the planned triple. They gained four Level 4s.

5. 147.84; 5 SP; 5 FS 95.42 (49.46+46.96-1.0) Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze performed to a selection of music played by the famed Hungarian violinist, Edvin Marton. Maisuadze was not pleased with his partner not completing the fully rotation on double Axel. "Itís just crazy to miss elements like that. But these mistakes were only on Liubaís jumps. Otherwise we did all the elements more or less cleanly. We have to fight for higher levels." She fell on their throw triple Lutz .

They are very ambitious for newcomers with some interesting moves, including their cantilever into their double twist which helped them earn a Level 3. They also received four Level 4s and two other 3s.

6. 135.33; 8 SP; 6 FS 89.83 (46.95+42.88) Nicole Della Monica and Yannick Kocon, the new Italian champions, who were 14th in the last world junior championships, made an impressive debut. Their free, to music from the movie, The Mission, received only two small negative GoEs (a -0.12 for their Level 1 double twist and -0.20 on their side by side triple Salchows). It was an impressive placement especially since, apart from their throw triple Salchow, all their jumps were doubles and they received four Level 1ís!

7. 129.78; 10 SP; 7 FS 85.50 (45.26+40.24) Erica Risseeuw and Robert Paxton, the new pair representing Britain made an excellent debut. Despite, their short time together (six months, and she hadnít done high level pairs before), they look very polished. They won out in what was really a tie with only 0.72 separating 7-9th place. Performing to the number, Donít Cry For Me Argentina from Evita, their best element was a Level 4 Axel lasso which received +1.0 GoE. Their throw triple Salchow earned the base value. However, their triple toes were downgraded.

8. 129.67; 9 SP; 8 FS 84.47 (45.39+40.08-1.0) Maylin Hausch and Daniel Wende from Germany performed to music from the movie Alexander played by Vangelis. He said, "Overall, we feel comfortable with our skating. It was only our second competition and first Europeans. We are hoping to get the chance to skate in Worlds." He said, "Iím disappointed with the fall on the throw double Axel. We will keep working hard and try to get selected for worlds."

9. 129.06; 7 SP; 10 FS 83.16 (41.96+41.20) Adeline Canac, who is learning to cope after dealing with a growth spurt, and Maximin Coia skated to The Cotton Club by J. Barry. Canac said, "Our training is going really well in Canada. We love everything there, our coach, the life, friends and everything. But we skated with a lot of pressure here because France can send only one couple to Worlds." Coia, who looked so pleased at the end of the performance, said, "It was hard to skate today because we didnít do as well as we had hoped yesterday, and now we find out our side by side triple Salchow got downgraded."

10. 127.71; 12 SP; 9 FS 83.83 (44.79+39.04) Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur are another couple making an excellent debut, interpreting Romeo & Juliet, although their opening triple Salchow was downgraded. They accomplished a throw triple Salchow and got Level 4 for their final move, a Group 4 lift, although it had a slight -0.20 GoE. James, who was born in Canada, was an American resident who became British singles champion (in Jenna McCorkellís absence due to injury) and then moved to France. This is her first season competing in pairs. She said, "This is the best weíve ever skated. Both throws were perfect and we got a new personal best. I moved from Britain to France because I found the perfect partner. I couldnít turn that opportunity down."

11. 127.47; 6 SP; 11 FS 79.49 (43.57+37.92-2.0) Stacey Kemp and David King started well skating to Requiem for a Tower with a Level 3 base value double twist and double flips but then things went down hill. She fell on the throw triple loop and then later came an even worse heavy, flat-out fall on her side on the throw triple toe loop. King stumbled out of a double flip on a planned sequence of double jumps. As usual their strongpoint was their lifts. All three were Level 4 and the pair spin and their final forward inside death spiral earned Level 3 with base value or greater. Their overall score was only 2.31 marks behind their teammates who finished seventh.

Pairs - Short Program

The Opening Ceremony which preceded the Pairs Short was truly unique. Three synchro teams, the 3-time world champions, Marigold Ice Unity; the Rockettes, who are the 2008 world champions and Team Unique performed along with gymnasts. Susanna Rahkamo, President of the Finnish Skating Association, spoke, but, as former European ice dance champion, she did so on skates, and, instead of her husband and partner, Petri Kokko, she was with Sauli NiinistŲ, President of the Executive Committee of these championships, a not too steady adult skater who is the speaker of the Finnish parliament and whom some predict will be the next President of Finland.

For those predicting doom and gloom for the sport, please note the 21 pairs from 13 countries are the most entries ever. The previous record highest number was 20 in 2000, which equaled the number of entries in 1968. That Europeans in 1968 witnessed the debut of the legendary Irina Rodnina and her first partner Alexei Ulanov. They finished fifth in the snowy recesses of Sweden, Vasteras, which has not hosted an international ISU event since then. The Protopopovs won with now famed coaches Tamara Moskvina and Alex Mishin taking the silver.

Moskvina and Mishin are both in Helsinki. Moskvina is teaching the twice Russian pair champions, Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov. Mishin is teaching Andrei Lutai. The nadir in pairs in Europeans was six in 1981, the year after Rodnina/Zaitev retired. At that point, nobody but Soviet skaters had won the European gold since 1964. Rodnina with her two partners had claimed 11 European titles (1969-1978 and, after taking a year off to have her first child, 1980.) The brilliance of both her partnerships made the outcome a foregone conclusion. That was the era when the Soviet Union was the enemy of the Western world. They fully supported their athletes financially while those in non-communist countries couldnít even work in a coffee bar in a rink without being disqualified as a "professional". Yes, folks, that is TRUE.

The ultimate goal of pairs from other countries became to win their national title and retire because there seemed to be zero possibility of getting a European or World medal. The ISU was forced to bring in rules stressing artistry to counter the overwhelming Russian technical superiority. The European pairs championship had started in 1930 and, though it had few entries in that decade, prior to í81, the previous smallest number of entries was in 1950 when there were five.

1. 69.62 (39.86+29.76) Last yearís runners-up, Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov, who have been trained since 2006 by the 1984-86 holder of this title, Oleg Vasiliev, drew to perform last, which they didnít like. Trankov, who turned 25 on October 7, said, "It was not easy to skate because it was so late in the evening. Our goal was to skate a clean short program. This is the second time we beat Aliona and Robin in the short program (which they also did at Skate America). But itís not about beating Aliona and Robin. Itís about competing with ourselves and doing our best. We are very confident with our Short Program and now we have to take this confidence into the free program. We are confident with our elements so, psychologically, it wasnít hard for us to skate." He also said that he felt that Finland was lucky for them. They won the Junior Grand Prix Final here in the 2005 season and later the Finlandia Trophy.

They skated to Nobody Home by Pink Floyd performed by the London Symphonic Orchestra. Mukhortova, who was 23 on November 23, said, "This was a small step forward for us. Itís a small plus for us to have been able to put out another clean short program. I think we could have done a better twist but we really feel this program. Itís close to our heart and soul." They established a lead of 2.88 points, although the judging panel put the German world and defending European champions ahead on the component score by 1.24.

Mukhortova and Trankov train mainly in St. Petersburg but they will spend time in Chicago, where Vasiliev trained the current Olympic champions for many years, to get acclimatized before Worlds. In the last four years in the Russian championships, Mukhortova and Trankov have taken bronze, gold (in the 2007 season), silver and silver.

They opened with a triple Lutz twist, which received +0.56 GoE. Only five couples chose to risk doing the triple instead of the far easier double. They were the top four and, quite surprisingly, Ekaterina Sokolova and Fedor Sokolov. This Moscow born duo, who were married in March 2008, and made their debut representing Israel in the Europeans last year finishing 12th, earned the Level 1 base value for this move. But the rest of the Sokolovsí elements were such that they lie 20th.

Only one of the five couples who executed the triple twist received better than Level 1. Read on to find who. (Ahh Ė the suspense!) Mukhortova and Trankovís side by side triple toe jumps were text-book perfect earning 1.60 GoE. All their levels, except for the triple twist, were the maximum 4 and the GoEs all positive.

2. 66.64 (36.64+31.00-1.0) As defending champions, Iliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, warmed-up, the excellent announcer, who was giving some titbits about all the skaters on the ice, wished Savchenko a belated Happy Birthday. She had turned 24 the day before. But it didnít turn out to be a happy, belated birthday. Savchenko and Szolkowy, who have been German champions since they teamed up in 2003, skated 16th to fun and fast music from the soundtrack for the movie, Lost in Space, composed by Bruce Broughton. Both were dressed in shiny material, he in a muted purple body suit and she in shocking pink with hot pants and fake knee-length boots.

Szolkowy, who was 29 on July 14, fell on their opening move, side by side triple toe loops. "I donít really know what happened because I did two perfect clean ones in the warmup. I felt in the air that the jump probably would be a little off, but I didnít expect to fall. The whole program, I had the mistake in my head. It hurt, and I will be even more sorry tomorrow." The throw triple flip which followed earned an excellent +1.40 GoE and their triple Lutz twist +0.84. All their Level moves, except the twist, were awarded 4 by the Technical Specialist, Troy Goldstein from Randolph, NJ, with positive GoEs given by the judging panel for all but their solo jumps.

3. 65.38 (35.54+29.84) Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov gave a lovely showing to Camille Saint-Saensí The Swan, appropriately dressed in white. Kawaguchi, who turned 27 on November 20, said, "We made little mistakes but we are satisfied with our performance. This was our best performance." Smirnov said. "We couldnít exactly follow everything to reach the highest levels today. Tomorrow weíll try harder. We are very pleased to have done all elements today as we didnít do so many clean short programs this season".

They began with +1.0 triple toes but their Level 1 triple twist was saddled with -0.56. All of their other elements received positive GoEs. However, they got only Level 3s on their flying change foot combination spin and their spirals. She is an experienced pair skater but this is only her third season together with Smirnov, who was 24 on October 11.

4. 56.20 (29.32+26.88-1.0) Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov were the only pair to get more than Level 1 for their triple Twist. They performed it so well that, in addition to the Level 2, they were awarded +1.40 GoE. However, he stepped out of their side-by-side triple Salchows and their intended throw triple loop was aborted to a single. They also received only Level 2 for their spiral and Level 3 for their spin. They skated to music for the 1995 movie, Mr. Hollandís Opus, composed by Michael Kamen.

5. 52.42 (28.86+24.56-1.0) Making their debut in the event are Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze who dominated the Junior Grand Prix Final in South Korea. Some are already referring to them as the 2014 Olympic champions. Over Christmas, they were fourth in the SP but then overtook Ksenia Krasilnikova and Konstantin Bezmaternikh in the FS to claim the bronze medal in the (senior) Russian championship which got them on this team. The Russian couple who finished fifth last year in Europeans last year, Arina Ushakova and Sergei Karev are no longer competing.

Iliushechkina, who was 17 on November 5, said, "We came just to skate and have a nice time. We donít expect to win medals. Here the atmosphere is more pleasant than the national championship. Everything is relaxed. Our coaches tell us there is no difference between Junior and Senior. Itís only the name of the competition. But I like to compete on a senior level more because you can see where you should aim."

Her partner, who turned 20 on February 18, said, "We changed our spiral sequence after Russian nationals because it was rated only Level 1 but we are still getting Level 1." In the Grand Prix final, they did side-by-side double Lutzes. Here they tried triple toe loops. She fell and the rotation was downgraded. They had a cantilever approach into their double twist which helped earn them a Level 3. They also received Level 4 for their forward inside death spiral, their solo spins and their lift.

They performed to Prologue, music by Canadian Loreena McKennitt, which appears in her album, The Book of Secrets. They train in Moscow with Natalia Pavlova. Both were singles skaters who had no experience of pairs before they teamed together in April 2006. Iliushechkina said, "It was wonderful to see my idol (Savchenko) skate in Korea. Now I get to compete not only on the same ice but in the same competition as her. Iím thrilled."

6. 47.98 (28.78+19.20) Stacey Kemp and David King were sixth in this event last year and were delighted to be maintaining that place despite her stepping out of their throw triple loop. They received four Level 4s, although the side by side spin got a small -0.30. They said they were disappointed their pair combination spin received only a Level 3. Their side-by-side jump was only double flip.

They are the four-time British champions, but this year was the only time they had rivals. She was 20 on July 25 and he turned 24 on May 8. They train in Torun in Poland with Mariusz and Dorota Siudek. They won the Golden Skate in Zagreb this season and the combined Polish, Czech and Slovak championship. They skated to Numb by Linkin Park & Jay Z.

7. 45.90 (25.78+22.12-2.0) Adeline Canac and Maximin Coia are last seasonís French champions, who were 14th in their first Worlds in Gothenburg. They skated to the soundtrack to Goodbye Lenin by Yann Tiersen. Canac, who turned 18 on May 20, and Coia, who was 25 on December 5, were unable to compete in this event last year because of a stress fracture in her sternum. They are coached by Annick Dumont and have been training in Canada with Annie Barabe. Their choreography is done by Line Haddad. She fell on a triple Salchow, which was down-graded, and they had a timing deduction.

8. 45.50 (28.58+17.92-1.0) Nicole Della Monica and Yannick Kocon are the Italian senior champions. To gain that title, they beat the two Italians pairs who competed in the Europeans last year. Marika Zanforlin and Federico Degli Esposti were 10th and Laura Magitteri and Ondrej Hotarek finished 11th in the 2008 Europeans.

Della Monica and Kocon teamed up in 2007. He is originally from France. Representing that country, he finished 19th in the 2006 world junior championships. She competed also as a singles internationally at junior level. They won the Italian junior pair title last season and were 14th in the world junior championships. This season, in the Golden Skate in Zagreb, they won the SP but were second in the free and overall. They are trained by Silvia Martina and their choreography is done by Luca Mantovani. Della Monica was 19 on June 3. Kocon was 22 on August 20. Unwisely, they choose to skate to Ravelís Bolero. They began with great +1.0 triple Salchows but she fell on their throw triple Salchow.

9. 45.20 (26.72+18.48) Maylin Hausch and Daniel Wende are in their first season together. They were second in the most recent German championships to Savchenko and Szolkowy. Wende, who was born on July 24, 1984, competed in the European championships with Rebecca Handke five times 2003-7 with a best place finish of sixth in 2005. When that partnership broke up he briefly skated with a Russian girl, Ekaterina Vasilieva, but she had visa problems. Hausch turned 20 on September 22. They train with Karel Faifr. Wende lost some training time due to torn ligaments at end of October and resumed jumping only a week before the German championships in December. Mari Vartmann and Florian Just, who had taken silver in the German championships in the previous two years and were seventh in the 2008 Europeans, did not skate well and were third in the German championships this season. They skated to Black Machine and Move to the Big Band Their star element was their throw triple Salchow but they changed their intended solo triple Salchows to bad doubles.

10. 44.28 (26.56+17.72) Erica Risseeuw and Robert Paxton are a Canadian-British duo who teamed up in 2008. This is the first year Britain has qualified to send two pairs for this event since Jackie Soames & John Jenkins and Victoria Pearce & Clive Shorten skated in this city in 1993. (They finished 12th and 13th out of 15.) The last time Britain got two pairs in the top ten was in Leningrad in 1990 when Cheryl Peake and Andrew Naylor were 9th and Catherine Barker and Michael Aldred 10th. Since she had never done pairs before, this is a very promising partnership. They presented a throw triple Salchow and side by side triple toes. Their pair combo spin even got Level 4. They performed to Tango de Roxanne from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.

Ice Dance - Free Dance

Only the top 24 progressed to Free Dance, and that dropped one number, when the Hungarian Nora Hoffmann and her Russian/American partner Maxim Zavozin (former World Jr Champion with Morgan Matthews) withdrew after the draw. They were 8th after the Finnstep but dropped to 12th after the Original. He was suffering from a bad flu. This section was not without controversy as two couples, Franceís Carron and Jost and the Zaretskyís were both penalized with no points at all for one of their eight elements, AND a two-point deduction for an illegal move. (The Technical Specialist for ice dance was Marie Bowness and her assistant, Francesca Fermi. The Technical Controller, who oversees the specialists, was the USís Bob Horen.)

1. Overall 196.91; CD 1; OD 1; FD 1. FD 97.31 (TES 49.50 + PCS 47.81) Khokhlova/Novitski skated last, to Rachmaninoffís Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini and Paganiniís Caprice 24. He portrays a painter and she is his muse. As ever, they were extremely fast. The new system rewards flexibility and she is very talented in this field. Their overall victory was by more than ten points. This margin was aided by the silver-medal winning Italians taking only fourth place in the FD. The Russians earned Level 4s for all but their circular steps and combination spin, which were Level 3. All their GoEs were positive. The lowest was a +0.70 for their twizzles. The highest was +1.80 for their diagonal steps. They got a GoE of +1.0 on their circular steps, the straight line to rotational (long) lift and their rotational short lift.

As Khokhlova left the ice, knowing they had won, she said, "It is still unreal. We put all of our emotions out there on the ice. It was just amazing to perform today in front of this supportive (9,900-strong) audience. I think this gold medal is only the beginning of a long way, but it was a big step for us." Novitski agreed, "We havenít yet quite understood what happened. We havenít skated last that often. Usually we draw first. So it was an experience for us. It was hard to wait until all our main rivals had skated and more than 30 minutes had passed. But I think we dealt with it well."

In the Press Conference later, after being awarded their gold medals, apart from thanking "our lovely parents, choreographers and all the people who came tonight to support us", the couple had little to say. "The emotions are really strong," Khokhlova said in good English. "We plan nothing but if the technical controllers and coach would say to change something, we will." On the withdrawal of Domnina/Shabalin, she said, "We canít say that we felt disappointment. Of course the moment of competing with our Russian team rivals was gone, but it didnít take away the competition against all the others. We tried not to relax, to pull ourselves together to compete." Speaking in Russian, he said, "We were training to win the gold. I think we were both speechless at the end. We just hugged each other and stood still for a long time."

2. 186.17; 2.2.4. FD 91.11 (45.80+45.31) Faiella/Scali skated second in the last group of five couples. In their routine, set to Beethovenís The Moonlight Sonata, he portrays Pierrot, a stock, sad, classic mime, normally dressed in a white clownís outfit as Scali was, with an obsession for the moon. She is his Columbine. They received five Level 4s. Their circular steps and midline steps gained their highest GoEs (+1.40 and +1.20) but were only Level 3. Their serpentine lift was Level 2 and only +0.80. Their lowest GoEs were 0.50 for their first two elements, the curve lift and the combination spin, and also for their twizzles.

Scali, who is usually the talkative one, said, "We had some issue with the serpentine at the (Grand Prix) Final. We really worked to get the Level for it, but we still got Level 2, so we were disappointed. We will probably have to change it. It is so stupid to lose points on lifts, as lifts are the easiest way to get points." The difference between a Level 2 Serpentine lift worth 4.80 and a Level 3 is an extra 0.80.

Serpentine lifts do not seem to be a popular choice for skaters. Strangely, only one couple accomplished a Serpentine lift at Level 4, which has a base value of 6.40 and they got +0.10 GoE. That was the Finns, Oksana Klimova and Sasha Palomaki, who finished 22nd, but are a team to watch. They were 23rd in the 2008 world junior championships not long after they teamed up in 2007. He had been Finnish champion before with a previous partner. Klimova was a Russian singles skater and has some catching up to do. They train in Moscow. She is 16 and he 17 and they will compete next month again in the World Juniors. Palomaki said, "It was hard physically but we fought. We have been training a senior (4 minute) Free Dance (to Astor Piazzolaís Libertango) for almost half a year now, so itís going to feel light and easy to do a half minute shorter free in Sofia."

Only two couples did a Level 3 Serpentine lift. Ksenia Shmirina and Egor Maistrov of Belarus received +0.20 for theirs but it didnít help to boost them from 23rd place. The other couple who received Level 3 were the Hermanns who got +0.50 over the base value of 5.60. Daniel Hermann, who skates with his sister, Carolina, said, "We never expected we would finish 12th. That was a great debut for us." He had a shaky twizzle but these new German champions pulled up two places from 14th after the OD. (They had been 14th in the OD and had held onto that place although they were 15th in the OD.) The Hermanns skated to music from the movie The Mask. She is 21 and he 22. They overtook the Ukrainians, Beknazarova/Zuez, who were 13th in all three sections.

In addition to Faiella and Scali, Level 2 Serpentine lifts were executed by Pechalat/Bourzat (for +1.00); Hajkova/Vincour (for +0.50) and Findlay/Richaud (for the base value). What do the Finns, Belorussians and Germans know about what makes a high level Serpentine lift that an experienced couple like Faiella and Scali donít? However, Scali was delighted with their overall placement. "We were so happy when we saw we had the silver medal. It is really hard to describe the feeling. Itís so strange. The pressure was really high, because we were for the first time in this situation. We are excited that we are on the top and we want to stay there. We have been dreaming of a medal at Europeans and Worlds and Olympics since we were 10 years old (well before they teamed together). In the last two or three years we began to feel this was actually possible."

In the Grand Prix Final in mid-December in the Free, Faiella injured her hand when a lift when wrong and a blade dug into her hand in the practice before the free. She had to have stitches, but still insisted on competing. "Itís not bothering me anymore. We just took some time off when we got back home and then we didnít practice lifts for a while. Now itís fine."

3. 185.20; 3.3.3. FD 92.60 (46.90+45.70) Kerr/Kerr skated third in the last group to Ruled by Secrecy by Muse. They created a world where some terrible disaster has occurred and humanity is trying to survive. They are a brother and sister and the routine starts with her at near death. He helps her get back her strength but, towards the end, she must support him. They are dressed in shades of brown, in outfits that were obviously once very fashionable but are now in tatters.

"They were the worst four minutes of my life," John said. "The pressure was incredible and when we finished, I could hardly stand. I was so drained. I was a bit like Federica at the end. Usually, itís the girl who cries, but I was so emotional, it was me who started crying. I think it bodes well for ice dance to get a real response like that from the crowd. It may sound cheesy, but I said to Sinead, before the marks came up, ĎWhatever happens, I think the journey was worth it.í There are always points to be gained. Once the dust is settled, weíll watch the video with our coaches and really work on what we can improve on."

Much has been made in Britain, that it was the first medal for the UK (in any discipline) for 15 years, since the great Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean returned to eligible competition and controversially took this title. T&Dís win the 1994 Europeans was suspect in some circles because they had been lying behind a Russian couple. Then another Russian couple skated and changed the ordinal count and there was a reversal. Even the OBO system couldnít prevent that sort of thing from happening. It was a nightmare for live television commentators. Since no one could explain it without going into the complicated (and fair, as long as you didnít get a "bloc" of judges ganging up) majority system, many believed a "fix" had been arranged. A short time later they T&D won the Olympic bronze and went back to the professional world. Prior to that no Briton had won a medal since 1984 when T&D first concluded their career.

Sinead explained their program is " all about skating skills, edge quality and smooth skating. Last year, we maybe got the away with just the audienceís reaction. But this year, we did it also with our skating skills. Pechalat and Bourzat beat us last year at Europeans and Worlds, so, to come above them here, was great because they are great skaters, too."

The Kerrs received Level 4s for four elements. Their Midline steps, for which they received their highest GoE of +1.20, were Level 3 as were their twizzles which got them a slight negative (-0.10) and their final move, the straight line lift (+0.70). They tied with Pechalat and Bourzat for second place on the element score, and were only 0.30 behind this French couple on the component score.

4. 184.84; 4.4.2. FD 92.20 (46.90+46.00) Pechalat/Bourzat skated first in the top warm-up, after an ice resurfacing. The audience had performed an enthusiastic wave as the warm-up ended. They performed to La Notte di Favola by Nicola Piovani, the very famous circus music, La Marche des Gladiateurs and Jonglage by Maxime Rodriguez. They played carnival performers with Pechalat in a tutu-like outfit consistent with her role. Like Faiella/Scali, they, too, received a Level 2 for their Serpentine lift. It received an extra full point for their GoE, as did their Level 3 diagonal steps, and for their final move, their Level 4 rotational lift. They tied on the elements score with the Kerrs and their component score was only 0.30 higher. It wasnít enough to pull them out of fourth place. "It was quite good right now," said Bourzat. "We feel confident about our free dance, but we still have a lot of work to do before Worlds."

5. 172.67; 7.6.5. FD 85.71 (45.00+40.71) Cappelini/Lanotte skated 17th to the soundtrack of the movie Love Story by Francis Lai, dressed in understated grey. They were lying sixth after their original, but their FD performance was ranked fifth best and that was enough to pull them ahead of Carron/Jost to fifth overall. "Weíre really satisfied," said Capellini. "We made no mistakes and skated with our hearts. The competition lasts for so many days." (The dancers were the first to start, on Tuesday morning, and they didnít finish until the Free Dance on Friday evening.) "Iím happy to be finally done. We chose Love Story because we really liked the Canadian pair, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, skating to it. Since no one has competed with it for some years, we thought it wouldnít be boring for people. Also, itís a simple and effective theme. Weíll fix some elements before Worlds and work on our power, speed and bending. Our choreography and expression are fine. We are looking forward to the Olympics."

6. 168.03; 6.5.7. FD 78.64 (38.80+41.84-2.0) Pernelle Carron/Matthieu Jost from France skated 23rd. They received the 10th best technical score (tieing with the Hermanns) because their straight line lift got no points at all. They were also saddled with a two point deduction for an illegal lift. She said, "Obviously that was a major disappointment. We donít understand why." Their components were the fifth best. They performed to Butterflies and Hurricans by the British band, Muse. They began well with two Level 4 moves, a curve lift and their combination spin which both received +0.50 GoE. Then came the Level 3 circular steps which earned +0.40. They followed that with a great (+0.80) long lift in which both the rotational and curve parts were Level 4. A short rotational Level 4 +0.40 lift followed. They were a little off (-0.20) on their twizzles but still earned Level 4. Then came the problem. They finished up with base value, Level 2 midline steps.

They were not the only couple to be penalized in this fashion. The Zaretskys from Israel, also were left open-mouthed by the situation. Roman Zaretski said, "I donít understand why we got no points for that curve lift. That was six points at least." (In addition to the two point deduction for an illegal move, a Level 4 curve lift has a base value of 4.0 and they might have received a positive GoE.) Roman continued, "If it was an illegal lift, why didnít anyone tell us about it in practice? This lift was done by Igor Shpilband and he knows what an illegal lift is and what is not!" Shpilband was not in Helsinki because of his Cleveland commitments.

It is likely that both couples got over-enthusiastic and did something to make a previously legal lift, illegal but no one was immediately available to explain this. The Zaretskis were, naturally, extremely upset. They were lying 10th after the Finnstep and were 7th in the OD. But their 11th place in the FD, which they performed 19th to Jesus Christ Superstar, brought them down to 11th overall. The four couples, who finished 8th through 11th, were practically tied. Rubleva and Shefer of Russia (see below) had a total score of 156.43, only 0.87 points ahead of the Zaretskis who received 155.56 overall. Between them were Kristin Fraser and Igor Lukanin with a total score of 156.00, and Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas of Lithuania, who were awarded 155.57.

7. 160.62; 9.9.6. FD 80.10 (42.30+37.80) Anna Zadorozhniuk/Sergei Verbillo skated 16th, interpreting music from Bizetís opera Carmen. The Ukrainian champions were ninth in the previous two sections but advanced to seventh overall with a sixth ranked FD. This was their third appearance in this event. They previously finished 10th in 2007 & 11th last year.

8. 156.43; 12.10.9. FD 77.42 (41.20+36.22) Ekaterina Rubleva/Ivan Shefer skated 18th to Nyah from the Mission Impossible soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Solo Tu from the Frida soundtrack by Elliot Goldenthal. They concluded with a Flamenco. The Russians received no negative GoE from any judge for any move. They received Level 4s for twizzles (+0.30), their straight line lift (+0.30), their rotational lift (+0.60) and their curve lift (+0.30). All the rest were Level 3 except the diagonal steps, which were only Level 2 (+0.20). Rubleva said, "Our emotions after the championships are very good. We didnít have any goals concerning places. Our aim was to do all the elements right and clean and we succeeded in that. Of course, they are questions about some marks. We will have to analyze our performance later. Our next plans are to the Universiade (World University Games in Harbin) and then weíll have to keep ourselves in shape because we are the alternates for worlds." Her partner said, "Today, it was unusually easy for me to skate. We had a job to do at these championships and we did it."

9. 156.00; 11.11.10 FD 76.41 (40.70+35.71) Kristin Fraser/Igor Lukanin were first up after the warm-up for the penultimate group. After a light-hearted OD, they showed their versatility by interpreting Ocean Heart by Amici Forever (which is based on Khatchaturianís Spartacus) for their FD.

10. 155.57; 15.8.8. FD 78.16 (42.80+35.36) Katherine Copely/Deividas Stagniunas performed to music from the show Evita by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

14. 139.03; 19.16.14. FD (69.11 (38.20+30.91) There were some interesting debuts including Caitlin Mallory and Kristian Rand were only 19th in the Finnstep and 16th in the OD but their Bach FD was 14th and this is where they finished. Next season the Europeans will be in Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. Itís only a small country with about 1,300,000 inhabitants but they have staged the Eurovision Song contest and some minor skating events. Obviously, it is advantageous for the locals to have someone to cheer for. It will be interesting to see what place this couple will manage to take next year.

18. 134.98; 20.18.17 FD 66.67 (38.60+28.07) Christina Chitwood from Colorado Springs and Glaswegian Mark Hanretty made a respectable debut finishing 18th which matched the finish of last yearís second British couple. The British Association is going through an upheaval after much criticism of the selection procession for the team for this and the world championships. Hopefully, this will be all sorted out so the skaters donít have to continue with a cloud that is not of their making hovering over their heads. Their FD was to music from the movie Elizabeth Ė The Golden Age, composed by Craig Armstrong.

They teamed together in 2006. British coach, Jimmy Young, had taught in Colorado Springs for a time and knew Sandy Hess who was based there. The two coaches corresponded. Chitwood, who was born on March 21, 1990, did pairs with her brother, Will, until she was 11. She had completed all her dance tests in the U.S. Hanretty, who was born in Glasgow, on the same day as Christina but five years earlier, was a singles skater who switched to ice dance in 2004. He was British Junior bronze medalist in singles and a silver medalist later at Junior level in ice dance. Chitwood traveled from Colorado to Britain and now attends Sheffield Hallam University where she is completing her final year for her honors degree in Performing Arts.

The two make a good-looking couple. Both are blond and tall. Sheís 5í8" and he 6í. She is newly engaged, having fallen for a fellow student at Sheffield University, so may end up living permanently in Britain.

WONKY KNEE GROUNDS DOM/SHAB. COULD THIS BE THE END FOR THEM?

Domnina and Shabalin have withdrawn from the European championships but they did not do so until after Wednesday's practice. He had fallen during the Finnstep onto his left knee, but they drew for the Original, taking to skate 26th of the 28 competitors, the middle of the last five, right after Hoffmann and Zavozin. 

The first official word that they had withdrawn did not come until Wednesday evening when the revised order of skating was issued, stamped 21.1.2009 at 22:33:05, when the top pairs were completing their championships. Shabalin has had meniscus surgery three times in the past, on his right knee in May 2007 and then twice on the left knee, in December 2007 right after winning the Grand Prix Final and then in March 2008 which kept them out of the World championships. One doctor told him at that point, he could not skate for a year, which, obviously, he ignored.
 
The Finnstep was an unfortunate draw for this couple. All the toe steps put a great strain on the knees. It will not be in the draw for Worlds but we await further news on whether this talented duo will be at Worlds. 

Ice Dancing - Original Dance

1980 Olympic champion, Natalia Linichuk, who is in Helsinki coaching several couples, spoke about the withdrawal of her pupils, the defending champions, Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin. "Maxim fell in the compulsory dance (on Tuesday) on his left knee, the one that was injured before and where he had two surgeries. The knee is sore and swollen and we decided not to risk further injury and they withdrew last night. They both were very upset, because they wanted to compete here. This morning they left for Moscow. Maxim will see his doctor there and undergo therapy on his knee. The world championships are too close to risk anything."

Overall 1. 99.60 OD 1. 62.17 Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, Russia, consolidated their lead with a polished routine set to Samís Blues by Sam Taylor and the well-known Puttiní On the Ritz. They now have a substantial lead of 4.54. They began with their spin during which she showed her extreme flexibility with a high-kick split on one foot and a head by the ankle on the other.

Khokhlova said, "We did all elements clean and got a high component score, so we are very pleased. We were in a special mood today. The audience was so supportive and when we were announced, we were so well received." They received all Level 4 except for their non-touching step sequence which was a 3 but it earned +1.60, which was their highest GoE. Their lowest GoE was 0.60 for their twizzles.

Novitski said, "We changed our first lift after the Russian Nationals. Although it was quite an interesting lift, we somehow never got the maximum points for it. Apparently, we did the right thing because we had a high technical score (+1.0 over the Level 4 base value).

Asked about Domnina and Shabalinís withdrawal, Novitski said, "Someone told me, ĎDonít get complacent. The first place hasnít been reserved for you.í And I agree. Weíll have to fight for it. There are no weak skaters here." Asked about injuries and the new system, Novitski disagreed with the opinions of the other top two couples, saying, "Injuries are part of the sport. There were injuries before and after. Not much has changed because of the system." Maybe, since they are in the lead, they were just trying to be politically correct.

2. 95.06 (OD 2. 59.03) Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, Italy, look solidly in line for silver. They performed to music from the 1936 smash musical Follow the Fleet, Itís Too Darn Hot, Letís Face the Music and Dance, which is a Foxtrot, and Let Yourself Go. Scali said, "We were really into the dance today. It was like going back to the 30s." They received Level 4 for their first three elements, and Level 3 for their last two, the twizzles and diagonal steps. Scali said, "Federica was a little bit out of balance and the twizzle wasnít sliding."

He also said, "I think the hardest part of this competition overall is the Finnstep. It was stressful because we had so little time to work on it and weíd never competed at an international in it before. After that was over, everyone has got a bit more relaxed. Today we felt confident. I agree with John (Kerr) that injuries are partly because of the system, because skating has changed a lot during the past four years. Of course, injuries were always a part of the sport. Skaters fall. However, we have to do a lot more difficult stuff nowadays and we fall more in practice."

Scali was a buoyant tap dancing Fred Astaire in a sailor outfit. She was emulating Ginger Rogers in pants (which, at that time, was quite a revolutionary fashion move). "I love this music," Scali enthused. "The costumes are authentic," said Faiella. "We studied the movie."

3. 92.60 (OD 57.71)Sinead and John Kerr, from Scotland, performed the Lindy Hop to The Boogie Bumper by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy with a West Coast Swing in the middle to Minnie the Moocher by Cab Calloway and Irving Mills. They worked with a Swing ballroom champion for Robert Royston and he showed them lots of videos of that era. Sinead said, "It was amazing how fast they danced. They had enormous energy. Today, the routine went well. We had good energy. We were nervous at the beginning, but once we got going it was good. The only way to get a medal is to skate our best. We hope itíll be enough. The most important thing for us was to really dance the Swing. We consider the judges to be a part of the audience. We want to entertain. We skate well when weíre enjoying ourselves and we did that today." They received three Level 4s but only 3s on both step sequences. The twizzles, though Level 4, had a -0.40.

Her brother said, "I was more nervous today than Iíve been this whole season. But, as the music started and the audience began enjoying it, it really helped a lot. After 50 seconds, I was enjoying it. I think the new system puts a lot more strain on the joints. But it is a good thing because itís making ice dancing more of a sport. Top teams in any sport have to deal with injury."

4. 91.94 (OD 57.56) Nathalie Pechalat and Fabien Bourzat, from France performed to It Donít Mean a Thing by the Puppini Sisters from the Hellzapoppin soundtrack. Pechalat said, "We were very pleased, although there was pressure because we skated last." Only nine instead of ten couples were included in the draw for the prestigious final two warm-up groups. (Fraser and Lukanin would have been included in this draw had Domnina and Shabalin pulled out at the time the draw was made, but they had not made their decision at that point.) Bourzat said, "We got a good technical score (three Level 4s and two Level 3s) Both Level 3 moves got +1.0 GoE, the circular and non-touching steps. Their lowest GoE was _+0.50 for their twizzles. We feel our free is the strongest part of our competition so weíre looking forward to tomorrow night. After French nationals we did shows with the free to polish it, and we saw our choreographers again." Pechalat said, "We beat our personal best by three points. We have a chance to medal because we are so close. (They are only 0.66 points behind the Kerrs.) We have a nice free and we are confident.

5. 89.39 Pernelle Carron and Mathieu Jost, from France, improved a position because of the withdrawal of the world champions, who had been lying fifth. They performed both a slow and fast swing with him in a white suit and she in a Charleston-y black fringe dress. Their music was Basin Street Blues sung by the incomparable Louis Armstrong.

He explained, "Yes, we changed our costume. At the beginning of the season, I had a white suit but we changed it to black because it was difficult to keep it clean with all the make-up. Olivier (Schoenfelder) is one of my best friends. Usually I am with him on every competition, so this time it is almost the same. He talks to us, makes some jokes and makes us believe in ourselves. I am so sorry he canít compete here (because of his partner Isabelle Delobelís injury)." They received three Level 4s. Both the non-touching steps and the diagonal steps were Level 3. They received +1.0 GoE for the Level 3 moves. The other GoEs ranged from +0.20 for their Level 4 twizzles up to 0.70 for their Level 4 curve lift.

6. 86.96 Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, from Italy, skated to Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen by Sholom Secunda. She said, "We felt pretty good today but we donít understand why we got a Level 3 on the rotational lift (instead of the maximum 4). We didnít expect our music to be so popular with the other competitors. I am very picky about out music and, for me, it took a long time to find this piece. I want to really like the music that I skate to." They also got Level 3 for their diagonal and non-touching steps. The non-touching received their highest GoE of 1.0. Their Level 4 twizzles got their lowest GoE of 0.20.

7. 81.81 Alexandra and Roman Zaretski, from Israel, moved up three spots, performing to Summertime sung by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. They received three Level 4s and two 3s. But their Level 4 twizzles had a -0.40 GoE.

8. 80.52 Anna Zadorozhniuk and Sergei Verbillo, from Ukraine, did a Charleston to All That Jazz from the soundtrack of Chicago, with was wrapped around a central Foxtrot to Razzle Dazzle from the same show. They were ninth in both the Finnstep and todayís Original. She said, "It wasnít our best performance but it wasnít bad." She used a feather boa to get the feeling of the dance and the era. "It didnít take us long to get used to it." Her partner said they watched the musical to help them get the real feeling of the music. Only their lift got Level 4. They had two Level 3s and two 2s.

9. 79.59 Kristin Fraser/Igor Lukanin, representing Azerbaijan, do a fun performance of Blues and Swing to St. Louis Blues. She was in a blond wig with a blue head band and frump-y, old-fashioned spectacles. Obviously, they have decided they are going to have put some lightness in this sometimes too serious, still some-what subjectively judged sport and they did. She explained, "We are two old people in a nightclub setting, first having dinner and then, when the music gets fast, thatís when we go to the dance floor, dance together and reminisce about our youth. Tomorrow, we wonít be old people any more. We are going to wash the gray out of our hair and be back to our normal selves." Their opening move is their spin, after which her dress seems to have grown in length. Then, when the music changed from Blues to Swing, her dress completely changed shape and went from gold, to royal blue. Great entertainment!! They were actually 11th in both segments but benefited from the up-and-down swings.

She said, "At the Eric Bompard Grand Prix, we used a cane, as a prop, but it was suggested to us that weíd better not use it again. Our choreography was made by Peter Tchernyshev. He suggested the music. Itís actually only one piece but itís OK because it has a change of rhythm. They received three Level 4s but one of them, the twizzles came with a -0.30 GoE. Their non-touching steps were Level 3 and the circular steps Level 2.

10. 79.01 Ekaterina Rubleva, who graced tabloids in several countries after a shoulder strap broke fully exposing one breast during her Finnstep, and Ivan Shefer, from Russia, climbed two places performing performed to St. Louis Blues and Sing, Sing, Sing. She said, "(Their music) wasnít our first idea but we chose it with the cooperation of our coaches." He said, "The coaches are satisfied. There were no errors." They received two Level 4s (for their +0.60 straight line lift, and +0.40 for their twizzles); two Level 3s (+0.20 for their circular steps and +0.60 for their non-touching steps) and Level 2 for their +0.30 spin.)

11. 77.96 Hoffmann and Zavozin, representing Hungary, dropped three places with a Blues and Swing routine. He was the only competitor to fall. He explained, "It wasnít our best, but Iíve been really sick for the past few days. Iíve no idea what happened on the fall. I caught my toepick. I have to see the team doctor. We arenít in a too-good placement now."

12. 77. 41 Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas, representing Lithuania, performed to Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen by the Swing Kids so well, they received eighth place in this section and climbed up seven places after being 15th in the Finnstep.

13. 74.85 Alla Beknazarova and Vladimir Zuev from Ukraine, skated to music from the musical Chicago.

14. 74.15 Carolina and Daniel Hermann, from Germany, executed a Slow Foxtrot to Youíre the Cream in my Coffee by Gordon MacRay, and a Charleston to Happy Feet. She said, "We have to find out what was wrong with the spin to make adjustment before the next competition. In all our previous competitions, we got a Level 4 for it. Weíll check the video and I guess, then itíll be clear to us. The twizzles were a Level 2, as well."

15. 72.12 Barbara Silna and Dmitri Matsjuk, from Austria, skated to Sing, Sing, Sing, Swing by Louis Prima.

16. 70.66 Kamila Hajkova and David Vincour, from the Czech Republic, skated to Mack, the Knife, by Kurt Weill from his famed The Beggarsí Opera sung by Louis Armstrong. They then went into a Charleston.

17. 70.00 Isabella Pajardi and Stefano Caruso, from Italy, skated swing to Baxiami Piccina by Ray Gelato at the beginning and end with New Orleans Blues sung by Ella Fitzgerald. They beat the Czechs in this section but werenít able to overtake them.

18. 69.92 Caitlin Mallory and Kristian Rand, representing Estonia, performed to Yes, Sir, Thatís My Baby by Walter Donaldson played with two rhythms, one, the slower Foxtrot, and the other the faster Charleston, which they seemed to enjoy greatly.

19. 68.31 Christine Chitwood and Mark Hanretty, representing Britain, performed to Bei Mir Bist Du SchŲn from The Swing Kids - Composer James Horner. One of the fun moments was when she dragged him by his tie. "Iíve gone through a few ties," the Glaswegian said with a smile.

20. 66.93 Terra Findlay and Beniot Richaud, France, skated to Sing, Sing, Sing, Swing by Louis Prima. She was a pairs skater internationally until turning to dance in 2005. Findlay said, "We havenít done many competitions together, so compared to our first international, this was a lot better, but I was a little shaky on the twizzles but technically we were very happy. The music was the first idea that came into our heads. Asked about being a Canadian, skating for France, she said, "It was definitely a great move for me. I value it." Asked about turning to dance, she said, "I went to dance because I grew up very tall for pairs. I wasnít able to do the jumps and throws. But I loved performing so I turned to dance. I canít say dance is easy Ė definitely not, but Iím really enjoying it."

21. 62.17Joanna Budner and Jan Mosciki, Poland, skated a Blues to Minnie the Moocher from the Blues Brothers soundtrack and a Quickstep to Shout and Feel It by James Homer.

22. 60.78 Leonie Krail and Oscar Peter, Switzerland, skated to a jazz number, In the Mood, and Swing to Sing You Sinners by The Manhattan Transfer

23. 60.72 Oksana Klimova/Sasha Palomški, from Finland, skated to a Foxtrot, Cheek to Cheek, followed by a Quickstep to I Want to Dance. They got a great response from the audience and, in this section, gained more marks than the two couples above them. However, it was not enough to overtake them.

24. 55.29 Ksenia Shmirina and Yahor Maistrov, Belarus, performed to Stormy Weather by Max Raabe and All Godís Children Got Rhythm by Bunny Berigan

25. 48.46 Ina Demireva and Juri Kurakin, Bulgaria, skated to Louis Armstrong singing a Slow Foxtrot and a Quickstep.

26. 45.28 Christa-Elizabeth Goulakos and Bradley Yaeger, Greece, skated to a 1930s Blues called Lover Lies and a Sweet Pussycat Swing, both performed by the Atomic Fireballs

27. 42.08 Nadine Ahmed and Bruce Porter, Azerbaijan, skated to a Blues from the 1940s by Duke Ellington. They had a deduction for an extended lift.

Ice Dancing - Compulsory Dance

1. 37.43 (19.08+18.35) In the lead are Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, last yearís bronze medalists, who skated 23rd, last in their warm-up group. They are the two-time Russian champions (titles earned in the absence of Domnina and Shabalin). Novitski said, "We like this dance. It is fun for us. Unfortunately, we didnít have much time to prepare it. Our goal is always to achieve the maximum, and so we want to win. We didnít know anything about Maxís fall. Our officials didnít tell us anything on purpose and kept us away from the marks."

Khokhlova said, "We started to work on the Finnstep immediately we came back from the Grand Prix Final where this dance was drawn (and where they had to withdraw because of his food poisoning). We even did two practices per day because there was so little time to master it."

2. 36.03 (36.03+18.08) Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, who train with Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Kryova at the Detroit SC, drew to skate in the "star" spot, last. After placing fourth last year, they were hoping to medal and they look pretty assured to do that.

Faiella said, "We worked with Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio, who did a demonstration of the Finnstep in Italy, which was very helpful for us. This is the first compulsory where the man has to twizzle." Scali admitted he had a little wobble. "There was a little stumble but I saved the twizzle. This is a difficult part of the dance. We arrive from the Choctaw and we have to do a double twizzle. Maybe our position was too open and I wasnít ready to twizzle. It is one of two or three critical parts of the dance, especially in the second pattern when you are tired."

3. 34.89 (14.32+17.57) Sinead and John Kerr, Scottish siblings, who now train with Evgeny Platov in Princeton, NJ, explained they enjoyed doing this dance. Their two-time Olympic gold medalist coach Platov said it was done "medium well, but with something as new as this there is always a risk so the performance is perhaps a little more holding back than what they do in practice."

Sinead holds the dubious honor of being the oldest woman in these championships. "When John and I first started skating together, I never thought Iíd still be competing at this age, but weíre still improving. I think our best days are ahead. Weíve equaled Jayne Torvill and Christopher Deanís record of six consecutive British titles, and weíd like to match their overall total of seven." Sinead turned 30 on August 30. John was 28 on June 2.

She continued, "It felt fantastic to do the Finnstep here where it was invented. Itís such a happy dance. We tried to relax and get that feeling across to the judges and audience." Her brother said, "We felt pretty good about it. I was a bit cautious because I heard about Maxís fall. Itís very fast dance with very tricky steps so I wasnít surprised at all by his fall. Iíve done the exact same in practice. The cross-behind Choctaw is very difficult."

4. 34.38 (17.32+17.06) Nathalie Pťchalat and Fabian Bourzat, who took the French title in the absence of Delobel/Schoenfelder because of her shoulder injury (for more details see this siteís preview of Europeans), were obviously not enamored with the Finnstep. She said, "We practiced it for only a few weeks and we are happy to be done with it. We are looking forward to the original and free."

Place 5. Score 33.53 (TES 16.28 + PCS 18.25-1.0) In a shocking development, defending champion Maxim Shabalin fell, the only competitor to do so in the field of 28 couples from 19 countries. He crashed down towards the end of their Finnstep on the cross-behind Choctaw. Both his blades clashed and he was helpless to stop the loss of control. Their presentation had begun brilliantly, with him miming opening a champagne bottle and Oksana Domnina pretending to raise a glass.

He had been apprehensive as soon as this dance had been picked in mid-December. Yesterday, representatives from each of the four disciplines were asked to attend the Opening Press conference. Domnina and Shabalin were the invited ice dance couple and were asked, naturally, about the Finnstep. Domnina looked over at the President of the Finnish Association, Susanna Rahkomo, who devised this new compulsory as a Quickstep for their original dance which helped her, and her partner and husband Petri Kokko, win the 1995 European championship.

Domnina said she hoped that maybe they could get some advice from Rahkomo. Max burst out laughing and said, "Itís a bit late for advice, now!" He also said he didnít feel they were defending the title. "Each competition is different. You do your best and hope to win. But each time you are starting from scratch."

They had not drawn well, performing 20th, which was second of the penultimate group, before any of the other main contenders. The top ten ISU ranked couples draw for the last two groups so this was not a preferred spot. They have never fallen before in a compulsory.

Shabalin explained, with a shrug, "It was just a mistake. I canít say what happened. It is still a mystery." His partner said, "Of course, we are disappointed."

6. 33.21 (16.74+16.47) Pernelle Carron and Matthieu Jost, who were runners-up for the French championship for the past two years, showed a distinct benefit from demonstrating this dance in September in a seminar run by one of their coaches, Romain Haguenauer. They lie three places up from last seasonís ninth place finish in the European championships. They train with Muriel Zazoui in Lyon. She turned 22 on August 20; he was 28 on January 8.

7. 32.58 (16.66+15.92) Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, who teamed up in the spring of 2005, are the three times runners-up for the Italian title. They were not pleased with their performance or their placement. Although they finished seventh last year, since Delobel/Schoenfelder are out, they were hoping to advance at least one place. Cappellini said, "The performance was OK. The dance is difficult. This is definitely not an improvement." She will be 22 on February 19 while he turned 23 on July 30. They are trained by Roberto Pelizzola and Barbara Riboldi.

8. 31.13 (16.22+14.91) Nora Hoffmann and Maxim Zavozin have waited a long time to make their international debut representing Hungary. They might never have teamed up had not her partner, Attila Elek not broken his ankle in practice at the 2007 European championships. Meanwhile, Zavozinís partnership in the United States had dissolved following a disappointing fifth place finish at the 2007 US Championships. The USFSA were not prepared to release Matthews or Zavozin. "It took a long time for that to come through," said Zavozin. "Itís a relief that that period is over. We are just very happy to be here. Our goal is just to show ourselves. This is only our second competition. The other was the Hungarian nationals. When we first learned this dance, we thought it was very Awkwar and weird. But once we got used to it, we began to enjoy it."

Zavozin was born in Russia but his parents emigrated to the United States and he became a U.S. citizen during the extraordinary legal processes that were put in place for Canadian Tanith Belbin to become a U.S. and therefore represent that country in the 2006 Olympic Games, in which they won silver.

Hoffmann has now been Hungarian senior champion five times with her previous partner, Attila Elek, and once with Zavozin. Hoffmann explained, "There was so much paperwork. Thank goodness, the Hungarian Olympic Association was so supportive." Zavozin, who is a month older than Hoffmann, having been born on March 2, 1985, knew of Hoffmannís skills. In 2004, Hoffmann won a world junior silver medal for Hungary with Elek, while Matthews and Zavozin claimed the bronze for the US that year and gold the next.

Hoffmann and Zavozin are trained by Nikolai Morozov and Zavozinís mother, Elena Garonina. When they are in Hungary, they are under the guidance of a Hungarian coach, Sandor Nagy. They had hoped to compete in two lesser internationals before this but, "I had to wait 30 days after my clearance from the USFSA," said Zavozin. "My clearance didnít come through in time for the first one." Hoffmann added, "And then I had a fall on my hip and had to have therapy. But now everything is alright and we are looking forwards to Worlds. If the Viennese Waltz is picked (from that and the Paso Doble, a draw which will be made at Junior Worlds), I may even wear this same dress (a beautiful white concoction with black feathers).

9. 30.45 (15.68+14.77) Anna Zadorozhniuk and Sergei Verbillo represent Ukraine but train with Nikolai Morozov in Hackensack. Both are 24. Her birthday is September 25; his July 21. This is their third European championship. They were 10th in 2007 and 11th last year.

10. 30.16 (15.62+14.52) Alexandra "Sacha" and Roman Zaretski, who are now in their tenth season of skating together, were born in Minsk but now live in and represent Israel. The brother and sister are trained by Galit Chait. She was 21 on December 23; he was 25 on December 4. He said, "The Finnstep is a strange dance. It has a stop in the middle and very few edges." This is their fourth Europeans. Previously they finished 15th, 11th and 8th.

11. 29.94 (15.32+14.62) Kristin Fraser and Igor Lukanin have competed in Europeans for many years, representing Azerbajian although they live in New Jersey, where they train with Nikolai Morosov at the Hackensack rink. They have placed in the top ten in this event for the past four years with a best place finish of seventh in 2007. She will be 29 on the non-existent February 29, 2009 as she was born in a leap year. He will be 32 on February 3.

12. 29.04 (15.24+13.80) Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer have skated together since 1994. They switched to coach Alexander Svinin in 2006. She turned 23 on October 10 and he will be 26 on February 19. She has a problem with her costume but didnít get a deduction. She said, "I donít know how it happened. It just ripped off. It was on the second pattern, so I canít say much about out skating because all I was thinking of was my dress. I donít remember anything, because all I was doing was struggling to hold the slipping part of the costume. I heard some people in the crowd whistle at me." Her partner said, "I didnít remember the second pattern either. I did all the steps automatically." The couple was 12 in their debut in this event in 2007 and 13th last year.

13. 28.77 (15.42+13.35) Alla Beknazarova and Vladimir Zuez skated 17th. During a resurface after the 18th couple had skated, Rakhomo and Kokko did a press interview with Finnish reporters. She said that she felt too many of the skaters up to this point (which was before the top ten had performed) had treated the Finnstep as if it were a folk routine, not a Quickstep, but this Ukrainian couple was an exception. She also said that there was much too much up-and-down motion of the leg and the body should be kept more upright and flow over ice. Beknazarova, who is 24, and Zuez, who is 23, are the twice Ukrainian champions who lost their title recently to //. They have competed in this event twice before placing 13th and 14th.

14. 28.40 (15.36+13.04) Carolina and Daniel Hermann, who are making their debut in this event, are the new German champions who drew to skate 18th. They are brother and sister. She was 21 on January 3; he turned 22 on October 12. The past champions, Christine and William Beier, stopped skating together after her injury at the 2008 world championship forced them to withdraw. She has now teamed up with Tim Giesen but they were fourth in the German championship. Daniel said, "I felt a little nervous. It is something special to be here. We tried to stay calm but itís so strange to hear the EuroSport commentators talking about us."

15. 27.24 (14.16+13.08) Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas are the Lithuanian champions, who finished 18th and 12th in the past two European championships. They train with Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva in Canton, Michigan. She was born in Cinncinnati on January 9, 1988. He was born in Kaunas in Lithuania on April 28, 1985. They made their debut together in 2006 placing sixth in the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf Germany. Both had previous partners in their home countries. Copley was eighth in US Juniors with Patrick Connelly.

16. 26.66 (14.34 + 12.32) Kamila Hajkova and David Vincour are the four time Senior champions of the Czech Republic, who have finished 19th and twice 17th in the last three European championships. She turned 21 on September 9 and he will be 25 on March 14.

17. 26.10 (14.16+11.94) Barbora Silna and Dimitri Matsjuk are the 4-time Austrian champions. Matsjuk, who was born in Ukraine, turned 27 on October 4. He had previously been Austrian champion several times with his Barbara Herzog. Silna, who was originally from the Czech Republic, turned 20 on January 8.

18. 24.52 (13.46+11.06) Isabella Pajardi and Stefano Caruso are the third ranked Italians who were 9th in the last world junior championships. Their choreography was done by Shae-Lynn Bourne. Pajardi will turn 20 on January 24; Caruso was 21 on April 19.

19. 24.22 (13.32+10.90) Caitlin Mallory and Kristian Rand, who train in Canton, Michigan, with Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva, had the honor of starting of these championships, drawing to skate first in the opening competition. They are very excited about the prospect of having the Europeans next year in Tallinn, the capital of the country they represent, Estonia. They formed their partnership in 2008. Rand was the three-time national champion and the 2007 world junior silver medalist with Grethe GrŁnberg and they placed 15th in Europeans and 19th in the world seniors last year. When she retired, Rand, who turned 21 on June 12, came to the United States to search for a new partner and found Mallory through Shpilband. Mallory was born in Oakland, CA, June 2, 1987, and had previously partnered Brent Holdburg. In the 2007 season, they were 7th in the US championships and 4th in the Karl Schšfer international in Vienna. But they broke up. In their first international together this past fall, Mallory and Rand were 4th in the Finlandia Trophy (won by the Kerrs) and 6th in the Karl Schšfer event.

Mallory looked stunning in a very Ginger Rodgers type aqua sleeveless outfit with a mass of feathers on the hemline just past the knee, said, "I felt it was a nice start. It could have been better. We were very worried with all the feathers that one might fall off and weíd get a costume deduction, but all went well." Shpilband had been totally opposed to the selection of this dance when it was drawn in December. However, Mallory said, "I think he warmed up to it as we worked on it, but it is a shame if we donít get to skate it ever again."

20. 23.75 (12.80+10.95) Christina Chitwood, who is from Colorado Springs, and Mark Hanretty, from Glasgow in Scotland, are a highly promising but very inexperienced couple who are making their debut in this event under very controversial conditions. Because the British championships were held the week before this event, the Association decided to pick the team beforehand. The top couples took part in a round-robin competition with the highest scorer getting the place as the second Britons to the Kerrs.

Initially, it looked as if the then 3-times, now 4-times runners-up for the title, Phillipa Towler-Green and Philip Poole, who finished 18th in this event last year, would win the second spot to the Kerrs on the British team for this event. They beat Chitwood and Hanretty in Oberstdorf at the Nebelhorn Trophy. But then, Chitwood/Hanretty got more marks in the Pavel Roman Trophy in Olomouc in the Czech Republic, where there was a small entry, than Towler-Green and Poole received in Zagreb at the Golden Spin where there was a high level entry. Marks, particularly for components, are not absolute and, undoubtedly, this selection process was flawed.

In last weekís British championship, Towler-Green and Poole overall finished 14.31 points above Chitwood and Hanretty, who were only fourth. However, today, Chitwood and Hanretty gained more points for their Finnstep than Towler-Green and Poole did in Nottingham. Both couples were upset at the unpleasant situation, which was none of their own making. Jimmy Young, who coaches them in Sheffield, said, "Theyíve had to put that behind them. Except for a bobble on the Choctaw, which is uncharacteristic for them (in the end part of the second sequence), they were pretty good. They made it look fun."

21. 23.56 (13.10+10.46) Terra Findlay, who was born in Sault Ste. Marie in Canada, and Benoit Richaud were third in the French championship and replaced the Delobel and Schoenfelder on the French team. She is 18 and he turned 20 on January 16. He said, "We were very surprised when the French Association told us we would be skating here." She said, "We did well considering that we had a mishap in our first practice here. Benoitís blade went into my leg. It was cut open and I had to have 10 stitches but it feels OK now. It is a bit sore but skatable."

22. 22.99 (12.62+10.37) Joanna Budner and Jan Moscicki are the twice Polish champions who are competing in this event for the third year. They previously placed 21st and 19th. Budner is 20. Moscicki will turn 21 on February 6.

23. 22.88 (12.88+10.00) Leonie Krail and Oscar Peter, who are the twice Swiss champions, train in Aston, PA, with Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov. He formerly represented Switzerland in singles and was 30th in that discipline in the 2000 Europeans. She is 22 and he 27.

24. 21.43 (12.16+9.27) Newcomers Oksana Klimova/Sasha Palomški are the Finnish champions. She was a singles skater. They teamed up in 2007 and he moved to train in Moscow with Ksenia Ruminatseva and Elena Tchaikovskaia. He was born in Espoo, September 4, 1991; she was born in Moscow May 24, 1992. They were 23rd in the 2008 world junior championships.

26. 17.15 (9.32+7.83) Ina Demireva and Juri Kurakin are the Bulgarian champions, competing in this event for the first time, although they took part in the world championships in Gothenburg where they finished 30th. She is the younger sister of Albena Denkova, the 2006 and 2007 world ice dance champion, who is now the President of the Bulgarian Association. She will turn 20 on February and he was 21 on August 3.

27. 15.83 (8.40+7.43) Christa-Elizabeth Goulakos and Bradley Yaeger are Canadians who represent Greece. Goulakos previously skated in this event with Eric Neumann-Aubichon. She teamed up with Yaeger in 2007. He formerly competed with Mylene Girard and they were runners-up for the Canadian Junior title. She will be 21 on March 3. He turned 24 on January 7.

Last year, for the first time Azerbajian entered a second couple and Nadine Ahmed and Bruce Porter have returned. Though they finished 25th last year and currently lie in 28th with 15.10 (8.36+6.74), which is last place again, they are both enjoying the experience of doing what they love to do and traveling around the world to do it. They were both born in the United States - she in Miami Florida, he in Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. They train with Genrikh Sretenski, who coaches in Washington DC. She was born in Dec 2, 1985 and he in January 13, 1981. They teamed together in 2007. They competed in Oberstdorf this past summer and were 14th. A short time later, they were 10th in the Golden Spin of Zagreb.

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