2010 European Championships Dance

by Alexandra Stevenson

Free Dance

Domnina and Shabalin win, but only because of suspect huge lead in the compulsory.
They are outshone in the OD and FD by the Italians who now train alongside them in Aston, PA

In the days of school figures, skaters, like Austria’s Beatrix Schuba, won Olympic gold even though they were completely outshone by mesmerizing free skates by competitors like Janet Lynn. In ice dance, those who were good in the compulsories generally held on to that placing, but often those with flashy free routines were held up in the compulsories.

There has NEVER been a case in which skill in ONE compulsory has determined the gold. That changed here in Estonia. (Since compulsory dance is on its way out at senior level, it will, almost certainly, never happen again.) Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali clearly won both the Original and Free but still finished 3.39 marks overall behind Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin. Defending European champions, Moscovites Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski dumped the Free Dance which kept them off the podium in Skate America, and presented a completely new routine. They finished third, a substantial 6.19 marks behind the Italians.

A new ruling this season has cut down to 16 the number of couples who qualify for the Free Dance. Competitors are now discarded after being eliminated. They must vacate their hotel rooms the morning after they are cut and can no longer stay to cheer on their team mates. There is no longer a competitors’ banquet.

An even worse development from the competitors’ point of view is that the remaining 16 are split into four groups of four, with the first four competing at the conclusion of the afternoon’s activities. The skaters consigned to this "black hole" have quickly taken to calling themselves "the loser group". Local entertainment is then scheduled AFTER they have skated. This is to help market the event to spectators who might not have bought tickets just for skating. The top 12 couples perform in the evening. Each couple draw for their skating position within their group of four with an ice resurface scheduled before the top four.

1.199.25 Total score Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, Russia; 2.Free Dance 94.98 (44.10 Elements + 50.88 Components) This was the reigning world champions’ first competition since they gained their title last March and it was hardly surprising, considering the state of his knees, that they were not at their best, although they did receive the highest component marks by a narrow margin of 0.67. Their technical score was 2.40 behind the Italians and they admitted that there were problems in this area. Skating first of the top four on fresh ice, they performed to Zbigniew Preisner’s music for the Polish movie The Double Life of Veronique, which was recognized as a masterpiece by the Cannes Film Festival. The Washington Post’s review of the 1991 movie made by director Krzysztof Kieslowski stresses its ‘eroticism and melancholy’. Shabalin, 27, explained, "The name of our dance is Passion. We want to express the passion of people. They love each other but sometimes they hate each other and they fight. We want to express these emotions and the faces depicted on our costumes. These reveal different emotions. Overall, we are happy with the way we skated and the gold medal. We were with the music all the way through. However, we are not happy with some technical aspects of our performance which could have been better. We’re not satisfied with the technical score, but we have time to work on it. The expression was good. Now I hope we can bring the technical part to the same level." The chaotic black and white costumes certainly were very original.

Domnina, 25, admitted, "We had some big problems with the elements. We got some low levels and we need to look at them. We are disappointed. But we only have ourselves to blame. We probably made some mistakes. We’ll look at the elements. There is a negative touch to this title because our score was low." All their moves had positive GoEs. They received the maximum Level 4 for four of their elements but the serpentine and diagonal steps were both Level 2 as was the second part of their long lift, a straight line to a curve. Many spectators were astonished at a move in which she curls herself into a ball and he swings her around holding only the back of her waist band. The referee, 1976 Olympic champion Alexander Gorshkov, who is also Chairman of the ISU Ice Dance Committee, says it is legal but this seems to be opening the door for harnesses to be worn. Of course, anything that will make the sport more entertaining and attract more spectators is understandably OK in this financially challenged era. The move received three maximum GoEs of +3s, four +2s and two +1s. (Only two other +3 were given in the Free Dance. Faiella/Scali got one for their final curve lift and the other Italians, Cappellini and Lanotte, received one for their straight line lift.)

2.195.86 TS Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, Italy; 1. FD 96.71 (46.50+50.21)

The Italians repeated as silver medalists but this was a more rewarding experience for them because that was in a reduced field. Domnina and Shabalin had to pull out last year in Helsinki after he fell in the compulsory dance, and last year’s champions, Khokhlova and Novitski, finished a huge chasm of around ten points ahead of Faiella and Scali. Faiella, 28, cried tears of joy after their Free Dance here, set to Nino Roti’s The Emigrants. She explained, "This free dance was so emotional. I knew that we were skating pretty well. We have been through a lot this season. I was ill in China and couldn’t do our second Grand Prix, and then we changed coaches." They had been skating in Detroit but now train in Aston, PA, alongside Domnina and Shabalin and Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, coached by Natalia Linichuk.

Scali, who is 30, explained, "The music is about emigrants of a different era but it is our story, too. It is about how hard it is to leave family and friends, and how exciting it is to arrive in a new country and to have a person with you with whom you might share those emotions and have hopes for the future together. We are very happy with our feelings tonight. There was this power and this emotion. Federica gave everything she had and I was very emotional, too. We’re really proud of ourselves again to have done the best program for the second night in a row. No, it is not disappointing to end up with silver because what we want to show is skating with our heart and we did that, and the audience and the judges recognized that. Our journey to get to this point was complicated. The last Olympics was a strange experience for us. We thought we’d be the first Italian team, but then Barbara (Fusar Poli) and Maurizio (Margalio) decided to come back. They had been world champions and had an Olympic medal and that kind of overshadowed us. This year is exciting for us, because we’ll finally be the first Italian team and we have shown that Italy can be proud of us. This European Championship was amazing because was such a hard-fought competition." Their first four elements were the maximum Level 4 with good GoEs, +1 for the opening straight line lift, +0.40 for the combination spin, +1.4 for their circular steps and +0.60 for their curve to rotation long lift. Their diagonal steps and twizzles were both Level 3 with +1.40 and +0.70 and respective GoEs of +1.4 and +0.70 but the final element was only Level 2 because he put his foot down too early. However, the judges loved this move. One gave the maximum +3, five +2 and three +1. Because the base value for a Level 2 for curve lift is only 3.50, the judges’ high GoEs resulted in only a mean of 0.90, and that was the score added to the base value.

3.189.67 TS Jana Khoklova and Sergei Novitski, Russia; 3. FD 93.21 (45.70+47.51)

The defending champions drew to skate last, immediately following Faiella and Scali’s emotional showing. Khokhlova, 28, explained that they had not gone to the Grand Prix Final or competed in the Russian nationals, because they were devising a new Free Dance. She said, "The premiere here of our Free Dance (set to Stravinski’s The Firebird) was well received. We had the idea for this music at the end of the past season. But, when we heard the music of our other Free Dance, Meadowlands, we decided, together with our coache, Irina Zhuk, that, in an Olympic year, it would be good to do something patriotic. And the music seemed stronger to us. But, after two competitions, it seemed that patriotic wasn’t so good after all and the music and the theme weren’t understood so well. So, we decided to try the other music and it went very well. Then, we decided quickly to switch to the other Free Dance."

Their costumes were totally consistent with the music, he in black and she in lots of netting with tiny patches of much brilliant red and gold. The choreography suited Khoklova’s flamboyant personality and there was a lot of flapping her arms and wiggling around. Novitski, 28, said, "Today, we showed the maximum of what we can do at this point. We have a new Free Dance and we had only a short time to work on it. We’ve worked a lot and we’ve had success. It’s not the limit yet, but the way the dance was received by the judges and the audience proved that it was a success. We are not upset about finishing third. We had to miss some competitions and the third place, after the break, is a good result, although obviously the third place is not the first place. We’ve beaten Domnina and Shabalin in the past so we’ll see what we can do when we are better prepared. This wasn’t our last competition." All their elements were Level 4 except for the circular and diagonal steps which gained 3. Their technical score was 0.80 behind the Italians but a significant 1.60 ahead of the Domnina and Shabalin. But their components were 3.31 behind Domnina and Shabalin’s score for that area.

4.188.51 TS Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, France; 4. FD 92.07 (45.40+46.67)

This couple, who train in Moscow, finished 4.46 only 1.16 points out of third place but a large 4.46 points ahead of the Kerrs who earned the bronze last year. Pechalat, 26, said, "We did not feel any pressure going on to the ice being so close to third. The situation was the same last year. We know what it was like to wait for the bronze medal. So I’m not so upset about not medaling anymore. There are some things that we cannot control." They skated to Kika by Ezekiel and Requiem for a Dream by Clint Mansell with a program which is meant to reflect the uncertainties of time. It finishes with her upside down behind him swinging like a pendulum but it was definitely not their best performance this season. They earned Level 4 for all but their circular steps and the twizzles, which were both given Level 3 but the twizzles were not well done which resulted in -0.80 being removed from the base value for that Level of 4.7.

5.184.05 TS Sinead and John Kerr, GB; 5. FD 90.24 (44.30+46.94 -1.0 for an extended lift) They performed to Krwlng by Linkin Park. John Kerr explained, "I’m a man down on his luck." You can tell that from his opening pose in which his body droops in the form of a C. "Maybe he’s down on his luck," John explains. "He’s got mud on his jeans from sleeping on the ground and his T-shirt is torn." Sinead, dressed in white, is my Guardian Angel come to save me." But, somehow, they didn’t do justice to this inventive piece. All the oomph seemed to have drained out of the normally energetic and fun loving siblings. Though five of their moves received Level 4, the circular steps were Level 3 and their final move, the diagonal steps, only a base value Level 2. Their Level 4 twizzles were penalized with a -0.70 GoE. And one of their lifts went overtime, which also happened to them in Tokyo at the Grand Prix Final, and that gets hit with a point deduction. They still finished fifth, which was good enough to be invited to perform in Sunday’s exhibition. But it was a disappointment after last year’s bronze.

Sinead Kerr tried to put a good face on the situation. She said, "I felt really good today, though we had tough break yesterday. The mistake (on the twizzles in the OD) cost us quite a lot. I felt a bit more nervous than usual. We need to transport what we do in practice into competition. That’s what we have to work on until the Olympic Games. We have to skate really, really clean there." Her brother, like many ice dancers, is upset about the new scheduling format. "It’s pretty disappointing after all those years starting in the last group to skate in the second last flight here. You have to be in the top four after the Original Dance (in order to be in the last group) which is pretty tough. It used to be the top five. But those are the rules they make, we just have to go with it." Not only did the Kerrs have to skate in a group before the ice resurface, they drew to skate first of that group. Does it really make any difference? The skaters themselves seem to believe it does even under the new system. The fact that the winners coasted to victory here on a lead in the initial section which is supposed to count for the fewest marks seems to support that point of view. John was also upset on behalf of the four skaters who had to compete in the afternoon, who included the second ranked Britons, 20-year-old rookies from Nottingham, Penny Coombes and Nick Buckland. John Kerr said, "It’s ridiculous that they cut off the last group from the competition. What chance do they have when the judges may have forgotten what they’ve done? All the skaters and coaches, even the judges, who have to hang around for an extra hour, hate it. Here, they filled the gap with some circus performers. If you want to see a circus, you go to one, but this is supposed to be a figure skating competition. It is a break in the competition."

6.176.10 TS Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, Italy; 6. FD 87.34 (45.10 + 42.24) skated immediately following the Kerrs and received Level 4s for all but their circular and diagonal steps, which were called as Level 3. Their straight line lift received one maximum +3 from the judging panel of nine. None of their moves got less than +0.40 GoE added to the base value. Cappellini, who is 22, said, "We are really happy with the performance tonight because yesterday we felt like we left some points on the table. Because of that we were a little scared, which is normal. This free dance is very long and difficult but we didn’t hold anything back. We chose to skate to Addiction from Requiem for a Dream." They had a somewhat similar theme to the Kerrs, although the routines are completely different. She continued, "For two years we skated with very romantic music and we decided to change for this time because we don’t want people to think that we can do just romantic themes. This will be our first time at the Olympics. I think we want to do the best what we can and train as much as we can. It is really a different experience and I think that after that we are better ready for the next Olympics." Her partner is 24, so they feel they have plenty of development time.

7.174.91 TS Alexandra and Roman Zaretski, Israel; 9. FD 84.36 (41.90 + 42.46)

The Zaretskis skated to music from the movie Schindler’s List. Alexandra Zaretski said, "It’s from our hearts. For me the program and each move was very easy to skate, from the beginning to the end." But, though they had four Level 4s and their circular and diagonal steps were Level 3, their curve lift was only Level 2. Their technical score was only 13th best although their component marks were the 6th highest. Roman Zaretski said, "This program is my favorite from them all. We don’t do the program for points. We do it from our hearts. We were doing good last year until I did a stupid mistake." They were 8th in this event in 2008 but only 11th last year. He said, "This year strong motivation and hard work helped make us improve our position."

8.171.28 TS Anna Zadorozhniuk and Sergei Verbillo, Ukraine; 8. FD 84.38 (43.30+41.08) They skated to Johnny Halliday’s Vivre Pour Le Meilleur.

9.171.26 TS Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, Russia; 7. FD 84.90 (43.30+41.60)

Bobrova and Soloviev performed to Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio. Their theme, he explained, "is that Katia is my muse and I am an artist. I invented her, but she somehow exists within me. The end is like a dream that comes true and I finally can hold her in my arms." She made an error in their twizzles. Bobrova explained, "The twizzles are actually not such a hard element, but for some reason we had problems with them. We need to work on them. We felt that we improved our elements, the lifts and the steps and it was rewarded."

10. 163.21 TS Nora Hoffmann and Maxim Zavozin, Hungary; 10. FD 81.66 (43.40+38.26) Hoffmann said, recalling how they were forced by illness to pull out of European last year, "We were really excited to be doing our free dance here and doing so well. It was not difficult to perform here but it was really cold when we went to warm up, my throat was getting sticky." They performed to So Excited by Janet Jackson and Hush Hush by Pussycat Dolls Rock This Party.

11. TS 162.82 Alla Beknazarova and Vladimir Zuev, Ukraine; 12. FD 79.45 (42.40+37.05) They skated to the soundtrack of Babylon.

12. TS 159.52 Pernelle Carron and Lloyd Jones, France; 11. FD 79.71 (43.80 + 36.91 -1.0 for a fall) Last year, Carron, 23, was sixth in this event with her former partner and is very experienced in this level of competition. But this was Jones’ first appearance in a competition of this level. The 21 year old fell although fortunately not while they were executing an element. They skated to the same music as Bobrova and Soloviev. She explained, "We started well, we felt good on the ice and we really felt the positive energy from the crowd. When he fell, I tried to hold him, but it didn’t work out. Anyway, we never missed a beat and did the lift right away, so that was good. I am proud of him, after all this is my third year (in major international competition) and it’s his first. I need to be patient." Bobrova and Soloviev used the same music. She commented, "We are unlucky! We laughed this morning in practice. Not only do we have the same music and a similar costume, they even look a little like us because we are both blond." Jones, 21, who competed in the world junior championship when he was British junior champion, added, "We really felt good and I wanted to give it my all. Maybe I was too motivated and put too much energy into it. This is the biggest competition I’ve ever been to, but I felt good."

13. TS 155.93 Caitlin Mallory and Kristjan Rand, Estonia; 13. FD 79.44 (43.20+36.24)

Mallory and Rand skated to music from the Peer Gynt Suite by Edward Grieg. They recently learned that Mallory would not be able to get Estonian citizenship so can not compete in the Olympics. Instead, his younger brother, Taavi, a junior ice dancer, will go to Vancouver with his partner, Irina Shtork. Mallory and Rank will be continuing together and wll next compete in the world championship in Torino. Mallory said, "This morning, when I woke up, I was so excited about the performance. The audience has been completely behind us and I really wanted to skate clean, to show the emotions and expressions. The free dance is my favorite event. But, when I went out on the ice, I was really nervous. It has been a long week, but I enjoyed both programs." Her partner, said, "We have the Golden Waltz in Turin, which is more difficult for us. We have to work much on it and let’s see how it will go there. We are unhappy that we can’t go to the Olympic Games, but we can’t be so sad."

14. TS 147.56 Zoe Blanc and Pierre-Loup Bouquet, France; 14. FD 70.94 (39.70+32.24 -1.0 for an extended lift) They skated to Marine Machine by Amon Tobin and Ramalama Bang Bang by Roisin Murphy.

15. 147.36 Christina and William Beier, Germany; 16. FD 69.50 (36.50+33.00)

The brother and sister, who present a routine set to symphony music by Beethoven, aborted their rotational lift, completely missing this element, and only dropped two places. She said, "It happened so fast and something like this never had happened before in practice. It was a huge shock. The entry was different from usual. Maybe I was too high up. Then, I dropped. This is a difficult lift, but we never had problems with it in practice so we didn’t consider it to be a wobbly element for us. Fortunately we were able to continue well. We had power until the end." Her brother said, "I don’t really know what went wrong on the lift. Apart from the mistake, it was the best free dance of the season and it was better than at German Nationals. We are still developing. We are not totally upset and we will continue to work."

16. 145.91 Penny Coombes and Nicholas Buckland, GB; 15. FD 70.30 (37.60+32.70). The two 20-year-old new comers were delighted to make it into the top 16. They skated to Pavane by Myleene Klass and Sarabande by Escale. They had negatives on two of their seven elements, the Level 3 circular steps had 0.60 taken off this element’s base value of 7.20 and a similar sum was removed from the base value of 4.0 for their Level 2 twizzles. However, they got Level 4 and half a point added to both their rotational lift and their curve to rotational lift .Their Level 4 combination spin, Level 2 diagonal steps and Level 2 curve lift all earned their base values. They were just so pleased to make it to the Free Dance and said this experience will help with the up-coming Olympics.

Original Dance 

World champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin have inadvertently stirred up a maelstrom of bad feelings with their aboriginal piece. They maintained the lead they established in the Compulsory but were eclipsed in the Original by the Italians’ Tarantella. However, they still go into Friday night’s final with a significant 5.12 point lead. Meanwhile video of their previous performance of this routine during the Russian championships is being viewed to by a multitude around the world, who are trying to decide whether this piece is racist, schmaltz or just plain skating nonsense.

They wear dark-skin bodysuits adorned with leaves, some around the knees and white body paint markings. The make-up is very elaborate and certainly fun but it has aroused the ire of some in Australia. In an editorial piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, Bev Manton, who is chairwoman of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, has called the piece cultural theft. She writes, "From an Aboriginal perspective, this performance is offensive. Our dance, our ceremony, our image - and, importantly, how they are depicted - are sacred to Aboriginal Australians. Interest must be expressed in a way that is respectful. The ripping off our art and songs is not, and nor is this depiction of my culture."

Shabalin said in today’s press conference held after they had skated, "We did a lot of research and found information on the internet. Our coach (1980 Olympic champion Natalia Linichuk) thought it would be something interesting and unusual. We liked the idea and our dog liked the music. We wanted to be different. Our dance is not specifically an Australian Aboriginal dance, it is an aboriginal dance. (Using the lower case generally is taken to mean the original people of any land.)

Their music includes whooping, rhythmic chanting and shouting, and a didgeridoo.

Manton calls for the ice dancers to scrap the routine before the Vancouver games, describing the dance as insensitive and poorly judged. She wrote "From an Aboriginal perspective, this performance is offensive. It was clearly not meant to mock Aboriginal culture, but that does not make it acceptable to Aboriginal people. There are a number of problems, not least of all the fact both skaters are wearing brown body suits on their skins to make them look darker. That alone puts them on a very slippery slope."

Most of the Russians approached have been shocked by such a reaction. For Domnina and Shabalin to produce a new piece for the Olympics is not feasible and could ruin their gold medal chances. Evgeny Platov, the twice Olympic champion who coaches several of the other competitors here including the Kerrs who lie fifth and the Georgian couple, said the whole matter was ridiculous. "No one is trying to be offensive. This is ice dancing. We are here to show skating technique and entertain the judges and audience. I thought it was a great piece. I enjoyed watching it. It’s not supposed to be authentic. How can you be authentic when you are on the ice. Was the Hawaiian piece authentic? Was the Greek? We’re just presenting a routine with the theme of Folk music."

For some reason the Aboriginal dance Sydney ice dancers Danielle O'Brien and Greg Merriman performed at the Four Continents Championships in South Korea last season was acceptable because they "had respected Aboriginal culture and consulted the local Fortunately some of the newspaper readers have sprung to the Russians’ defense. One wrote, "What a pathetic attitude taken by the 'indigenous community' to a perfectly legitimate performance, probably choreographed as a compliment and with no malice intended." 

Getting back to the competition:

1.TS 104.27 Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, Russia; 2.OD 61.68 (31.20+30.48)

Domnina and Shabalin drew to skate early, 18th which was second in the pen-ultimate group of five. They received Level 4 for their sequential twizzles and curve lift. The circular steps were Level 3 but the non-touching midline steps were only Level 2. The Technical Specialist was Shae Zukiwsky and his Assistant was Sylvia Nowak-Trebacka.

Shabalin said, "We are satisfied with our performance. We felt more confident than at Russian Nationals. The audience was great. We are looking forward to tomorrow and we hope we’ll skate better tomorrow and at the Olympic Games. Domnina said, "It was fun today. I think we skated better than in our last competition, but it wasn’t ideal. Natalia suggested the idea to us. Initially, we didn’t see ourselves doing it. But it grew on us. This dance suits my soul very well. The most important thing is that the audience is not left indifferent or bored by the dance. There are reactions, and that is already a plus. It is impossible to please everyone. The idea of the costumes came from our design atelier in St. Petersburg. However, it was our idea to add the leaves. I think the costumes were spot on right away. We have unusual costumes and an unusual dance." The music is an arrangement by Alexander Goldstein.

2. TS 99.15 Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, Italy; 1.OD 61.49 (28.90+32.59)

Faiella and Scali skated first in the last group of five and were a joy to watch. They presented a Tarantella dressed in black. (Folk lore says the dance was invented to ward off the effect of a Tarantula bite. When bitten, the victim was kept dancing to get the body to fight the poison.) Three of their elements were the maximum Circular Steps were 3. Scali said, "We had a great feeling out on the ice, with the technical mark and with each other. We really found that connection. This was the best program of the season. We couldn’t have asked for more. It was amazing.

"We really want to represent Italy at the Olympic Games as much as we can. Every detail of the costume and of the moves has a meaning. We started working with Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karpanosov this summer. We spent most of the time with them there in the United States, and we feel we progressed a lot in a relatively short time. We couldn’t spend all the time we wanted there, because Federica got sick at the Cup of China (with an illness which kept them out of the Skate Canada Grand Prix). We improved a lot in the last two months. We are proud to skate with such great teams as Oksana and Maxim, and Tanith (Belbin) and Ben (Agosto). It is a great experience for us. We worked hard on the technical side of the routine, because it is really important now with the new system. Both of us were really concentrated about the edges. At the same time we find a strong connection between us and the public. Our free dance is completely different – it is dramatic and powerful, not cheerful like our folk routine, but it is definitely something that we really feel!"

3. TS 96.46 Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, Russia; 4. OD 58.59 (28.80+29.79)

They skated in very elaborate costumes, last of the pen-ultimate group and received two Level 4s but their non-touching midline steps and circular steps were Level 3. Khokhlova said, "We are satisfied with our skating today, but we had a mistake on the twizzle. We could see that in the technical mark. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was great and we are happy to skate here. We have chosen Russian folk dance because we are Russians and this dance is very close to us by its character, and we danced it with lots of passion. We love the interpretation of this song by (Russian singer) Magomaev. We´ll wait for tomorrow´s decisions of judges, tomorrow will show everything. Tomorrow we’ll show our new free dance for the first time."

The mistake was very obvious. Novitski was close to falling. He said, "We were in a wonderful, crazy mood today. The audience is great, and we were so carried away by it. That's why, probably, the mistake happened."

4. TS 96.44 Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, France; 3. OD 60.08 (30.00+30.08)

They drew to skate last and drew the contest to a lively conclusion. They performed to Thank God I’m a Country Boy by Roy Rivers and Dolly Parton, earning two Level 4s and two 3s. Bourzat said, "It’s good that we closed the gap and we are really close to the Russians. We still have a shot at third place. We skated well, but we could have done better. We weren’t so relaxed as we knew that a lot is on stake and that we cannot afford any mistakes. But we felt good in the program."

Pechalat said, "We’ve progressed a lot since the beginning of the season, technically and artistically. Our elements are clean. We don’t think about the placements during the competition, but we do think about it before and after the competition. Obviously we’d like to be on the podium, we feel like we deserve it, but many couples would deserve it, but during the competition we don’t think about that. We are on the ice to perform."

5. TS 93.81 Sinead and John Kerr, Great Britain; 5. OD 57.05 (27.20+29.85)

They performed last but one to Johnny Cash’s I’ve Been Everywhere Man. In the twizzles, they both appeared to make a mistake. Their straight line lift was Level 4 but the Sequential Twizzles were Level 2 with -0.60 GoE. The other two elements were Level 3. John Kerr said, "It was not really our best performance this season, although we received a season’s best score today. We made a few mistakes. Wee could have done much better."

His sister said, "At first it was going very well. Then I just lost concentration during the twizzle and my foot slipped out of my hand. Tomorrow we just want to skate as always. You have to learn from mistakes and move on. We just left the program as it is, we’ve been happy with it so far. We’ve been training really well the past weeks."

6. TS 90.55 Alexandra and Roman Zaretsky, Israel; 6. OD 55.92 (28.20+27.72)

The Zaretskis skated 23rd of the 26 couples to the famous Hebrew celebration song Have Nagila. Their Sequential twizzles were Level 4 and their others moves Level 3. He said, "We just wanted to enjoy the performance and make people smile. We skated for the crowd, not for the judges. The crowd here is wonderful. They carried us. After being on the podium at Skate America, we’ve been even more motivated than usual. It was our first medal (in the Grand Prix). We worked harder and harder to improve, especially in the expression. We just had some minor changes in the program, but mainly had the emphasis on the expression. We worked harder and harder as there is no limit to perfection."

7. TS 88.76 Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte Italy; 9. OD 52.83 (26.50+26.33)

They skated first of the top ten to a selection of Italian music, Return to Sorrento, an Italian Tarantella, and music by Rossini called La Danca earning two Level 4s and two Level 3s. Cappellini said, "We worked with our Italian choreographer especially on the interpretation of the dance – to express the characteristic energy and the happiness of the music. But, of course, we worked hard on the elements, too. We kept our original dance exactly in the same version during the whole season, as it worked very well for us from the beginning, we felt comfortable about the whole program. Only today it was not our best performance, as the score showed. That happens, but you always have to try your best. The feeling just wasn’t as good as usual. Tomorrow, we have another chance to show a better performance."

8. TS 86.90 Anna Zadorozhniuk and Sergei Verbello, Ukraine; 7. OD 54.30 (28.30 + 26.00) Skating 20th, they did a Ukrainian dance to gain two Level 4s and two Level 3s.

9. TS 86.36 Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, Russia; 8. OD 53.03 (26.70+26.70)

Skating 24th, they did a number in which they were dressed in identical sailor outfits. Their Rotational lift was a Level 4 and the other moves, Level 3, but the twizzles got a slight negative. Soloviev said, "We are not satisfied with our performance. It was not such a clean skate. We didn’t do a good lift, also the second twizzle and the side by side footwork was not good. We tuned (prepared) ourselves as usual. We were not very stressed. We don’t know why it went that way. But tomorrow is the last part of the competition. We hope to do our best." Bobrova said, "We changed the order of elements, now it´s much easier to skate. Our goal was to show a clean performance, but unfortunately today it was not our day. Tomorrow we will be better."

10. TS 83.37 Alla Beknazarova and Vladimir Zuev, Ukraine; 10. OD 51.22 (27.60+24.62 -1 for an extended lift) The received two Level 4s (one for their rotational lift which went on too long) and two Level 3s. Skating 19th, they did a Ukrainian dance dressed identically with two enormous fur hats, which was fun to watch.

11. TS 81.55 Nora Hoffmann and Maxim Zavozin, Hungary; 11. OD 50.02 (25.90 + 24.12)

They perfomed a Czardas, receiving a Level 4 for their rotational lift. Their other moves were Level 3 and the sequential twizzles received a negative GoE. Hoffmann said, "We felt excited about skating in front of such big the audience. But we missed the twizzles a bit, and that cost us some points. But it was better than last year when we fell. So in this sense we are glad."

Zavozin said, "The original dance mentally is the hardest part in the competition for us, because we are not used to such a style. The most difficult for us was to believe in ourselves that we can dance like this. But we are getting better and better. We think that tomorrow is our best chance to show ourselves. Finally we will skate in appropriate group. And it’s a pity we don’t have any judge from Hungary here at all."

12. TS 79.81 Pernelle Carron and Lloyd Jones, France; 12. OD 49.85 (27.40+22.45)

They received two Level 4s and two Level 3s performing an Irish dance. Jones said, "We feel happy about our performance, because we skated well, as well as we could. And the audience here was amazing. There’s a lot support from the French in the audience and we are very grateful to them. We mostly choreographed this program by ourselves because we got together late and didn’t have much money. But for us it is just a beginning. We wanted to create a program where we feel comfortable. It is good to participate in creating your program, but we would love to work with good choreographers in the future in order to understand more what people expect from us and to perform better. We are grateful to our coach and Diane Ribas for assisting us."

Carron added, "We have chosen an Irish dance because we love it. We are fans of Michael Flatley (Lord of the dance). And because we both are from different countries, (Lloyd is Welsh), we were looking for something that suits us both well. And an Irish dance is exactly this kind of dance, and we wanted to show it to international audience."

13. TS 77.86 Christina and William Beier, Germany; 14. OD 48.45 (26.40+22.05)

They choose a Hawaiian dance, earning two Level 4s and two Level 3s. Christina Beier said, "The music suits us and our looks. With this dance, we are setting ourselves apart, and this is what we wanted. We skated well, we are pleased with that. It was one of the good ODs of the season." Her brother said, "This OD with the Hoola moves is something special. We are a little disappointed with the score, we would have liked two points more. We wanted to beat the French (Carron/Jones), but we still have another chance in the free dance."

14. TS 76.62 Zoe Blanc and Pierre-Loup Bouquet, France; 13. OD 48.80 (26.80+22.00) Skating a medieval Breton dance, they earned two Level 4s, a Level 3 and a Level 2 for their non-touching steps. They pulled up from 17th

15. 76.49 Caitlin Mallory and Kristjan Rand, Estonia; 15. OD 47.33 (24.20+23.13)

They received a Level 1 for their opening Rotational lift, and Level 3 for the other moves. The twizzles were given a very slight negative. Mallory said, "The Mulgi Polka is so much fun – it has high energy and the crowd was clapping along, so it was pumping and motivating. I think we did a really good job on the routine, so will see how the scores hold up. It is the seasons best, so it is a good start. I was definitely more nervous going to this day’s event and realizing that it is going to be a close competition for the places in the final. I hope we hang on in there because I really want to show off our free dance."

Rand said, "We chose the Mulgi Polka because of the music. It is even better in front of the home audience than in practice! We are both calm by our nature but our coaches have taught us how to act vice versa."

Compulsory Dance


Losing part of hair adornment in compulsory dance fails to result in costume deduction

The nine-year old Saku Suurhall, built next to an ice rink which opened in 2002, is normally used for basketball. It has only had ice put in for a couple of ice hockey games in the years since it was built and the original 7,500 seating capacity had to be reduced to 3,000. An enthusiastic crowd of approximately 800 turned out to watch 26 couples from 19 countries perform the Tango Romantica. (The referee, Alexander Gorshkov, had someone draw for Virginiya Hoptman and Pavel Filchenko, who were entered by Azerbaijan, but did not turn up.)

1. Total score 42.78 (21.56+21.22) The judging panel left no doubt that they were routing for World Champions, Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, who skated first of the five couples in the last group. They won this title in 2008 but withdrew last year after he fell during the Finnstep. Their amazing lead here was surprising because she kicked him when stepping over his leg in the second sequence. Since that step is done on the far side to the judges, they must not have noticed the fault. They awarded 23 +1 and 31 +2 GoEs. Component marks ranged from one low of 7.00 and three 7.75s (two of which were given by the same judge who gave the 7.00 for timing) up to nine 8.75s. .

Domnina wore a bright red, high-necked, short-skirted outfit with a bare upper back that showed off what looked like an elaborate necklace put on backwards. He wore a black suit with a white shirt which had the top button undone. They both sported ponytails. She said, "The idea for this costume was born recently. I think it is something different and interesting. We looked into each other’s eyes and we showed true passion. The role of the strong, courageous man suits Maxim very well. We are very happy that the audience appreciated our performance. We are satisfied with it, but not a 100%, maybe 90%. The Europeans are a very important competition for us, along with the Olympic Games and the World Championships." He said, "For the first day, we can be very happy. We coped with our nerves and we skated well without any mistakes or wobbles."

The photographers also noticed that the silver center of the black bow in Domnina’s blonde hair fell off during their performance but officials did not notice and a costume deduction was not made.

2. TS 37.87 (18.80+19.07) Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, the defending champions from Russia, drew badly, picking the first spot in the top ten ranked couples. They appeared in black, she with a skirt which was short in the front and with a stunning hair adornment which suited the Tango perfectly. She said, "Today we were in an excellent mood and hopefully we were able to bring that across. There was a lot of support from the crowd. This is a very nice atmosphere to compete in. Europeans is, in a way, like a final test before the Olympic Games and we will debut our new Free Dance here, so it is something new for the audience. We hope to repeat last year’s success, but we are not thinking too much about what was last year and what happened at the beginning of the season where we maybe didn’t get the results we wanted. This is a completely new step now and we are going into it with a clear head and refreshed mind." He said, "We have very positive emotions. We came here with the mindset that we want to prove everyone that we are still here, that you can’t count us out."

3. TS 37.47 (18.08+19.39) Last year’s runnersup, Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy, lay 1.40 behind Khokhlova and Novitsky in Helsinki at this stage. This time they are much closer. Only a sliver (0.40) separates the two couples. In fact, less two points lie between second to sixth. Like Khokhlova and Novitski, they were also in black, she in a voluminous skirt which dropped below her knees. Sitting with them in the Kiss & Cry area was the Natalia Linichuk, who is now listed as their coach. Linichuk sported a spectacular fur-hat, which looked something like a very, very expensive mop.

Scali said, "It was a good start for this competition. There was a little stumble in a corner. I almost slipped." Despite, that very obvious error, she said, "This was one of our best performances of the Tango. We were pretty sure that with a fresh mind we can probably make it. We actually don’t have a goal for this season, we just want to skate well here and to feel better on the ice and between the two of us. We are thinking about a medal, because everybody is thinking about a medal, but the most important for us is to be at our best."

4. TS 36.76 (18.16+18.60) Sinead Kerr, who wore a black and silver backless outfit with a skirt that was longer on one side, and her brother John last year became the first Britons to win a medal (bronze) in this event since Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean returned to competition and won the 1994 title. John said, "There is always pressure, but the more you compete, the more you get used to it. We know that with Oksana and Max back it would be hard for us to win a medal, but now that we’ve done it, we know it is possible."

Sinead said, "The pressure is actually a nice feeling once you learn how to deal with it because it gives you more incentive. We really do feel good about all the support we´re getting. We see lots of the same faces and we’re hoping to pick up some more fans here." She designates John as the person to make their draw, but he was unlucky. They not only had to skate early, immediately after Khokhlova and Novitsky, they were required to skate to the second tune, which most competitors dislike. He explained, "It starts softly, sensually and our opening steps are very sharp. Fortunately, our coach (Evgeni Platov) made us practice to this piece a lot." Sinead Kerr, who turned 31 on August 30, has the double edged distinction of being the oldest competitor.

5. TS 36.36 (17.64+18.72) Nathalie Pecharat and Fabian Bourzat of France drew to skate right after Domnina and Shabalin and before Faiella and Scali, to the dreaded "sensuous" number two Tango music. Their faces showed they were displeased with their marks when the scores appeared. Last year they finished fourth in this event although they were second in the Free Dance. After winning bronze in the Grand Prix Final in Tokyo, they did not compete in their national championships in December in order to rest his injured right ankle which had given him a lot of pain all through this season. So they lost not only the national title they had won the year before in the absence of Delobel and Schoenfelder, but also upset many of own Association’s officials. When asked how his ankle was, Bourzat said, "It doesn’t hurt anymore. I had enough time to recover, so it’s all good."

6. TS 35.93 (17.94+17.99) Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, who have been the runnersup for the Italian title for the past four years, now train in Lyons. She explained, "We usually held back a little in competition and that has never paid off. What we want to do here is to really show off what we can do and really work on the fact that we want to give our best. We changed coaches over the summer, so we have been taken some time adjusting to the new ways." He added, "I feel our Tango was strong. It was intense and the interpretation of the dance was good. Usually we are softer, with a slightly softer knee. In competitions, the accent of the moves must be stronger because the performance must be more dramatic." Last year they were fifth in this event.

7. TS 34.63 (17.22+17.41) Alexandra and Roman Zaretsky from Israel, who are taking part in their fifth European championship, having placed 15th, 14th, 8th and 13th in the last four years. Roman Zaretsky said, "This is a special competition for us, because we are training for the Olympic Games. It is also special, because it is our first time in Estonia. We are very satisfied with our performance."

8. TS 33.33 (17.16+16.17) Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Russia are competing in their first European Championship. He said, "We got a funny score. We never had a score like that. But we feel like at home here, it is very comfortable for us in Estonia." She said their Tango, "was good, but not the best we can do. We wanted to show what we’ve improved on since Russian Nationals. We’ve worked on the speed, on the emotions and to make the pattern bigger. For the OD, we changed the order of elements a little and we think it will work better for us."

9. TS 32.60 (16.14+16.46) Anna Zadorozhniuk and Sergei Verbillo, are the twice Ukrainian champions who dethroned Beknazarova and Zuev who had held the title for the two previous years. They train in Hackensack, NJ, with Nikolai Morozov and also just outside of Moscow at Odintsova with Alexei Gorshkov.

10. TS 32.15 (16.42+15.73) Alla Beknazarova and Vladimir Zuev, Ukraine

11. TS 31.53 (16.30+15.23 ) Nora Hoffmann, who won silver in the 2003 and 2004 world junior championships with Attila Elek for Hungary, and Maxim Zavozin, who won the 2005 World Junior title for the US with Morgan Matthews, now skate for Hungary. But their way together has been paved with a series of unfortunate incidents since they teamed together in September 2007. At that point, pundits were predicting their quick rise to the top but that was not to be.

Zavozin, who was born in Russia, got his Hungarian passport but, "Nothing else went OK." His partner said, "Nothing compares to my leg accident when I couldn’t stand." Then her fall and resulting head injuries took them out of the 2009 World Championships. Just getting to Tallinn has been plagued with obstacles. "Our coach couldn’t get his visa. Max lost his passport. We arrived without our Free Dance music. I developed stomach ache and nothing in my room, the telephone, the clock were not working. Even towels were missing. But, of course, that is just small things. You have to laugh and think, what next? It’s nothing compared to what we’ve been through. Wwe’re just proud to have made it back. We went through a lot of hard stuff. It felt easy to compete today. It was the best Tango of the season."

15. 29.16 (15.30+13.86) Caitlin Mallory and Kristjan Rand, the Estonian champions who train in Canton, Michigan, were delighted with the crowd’s reception. She explained, "It felt amazing because the audience was just so supportive and loud. It really energized me and we gave our best performance yet! We have been working really hard on this dance which is really romantic and fierce. Both of us have really developed in the character of the dance. I also think that our personal relationship has really improved; we have gotten to be really close friends over the last couple of years. Now that we are good friends, I feel that it is a lot easier to show chemistry in a dance. He added, "We did really well, regarding that this style isn’t the best for us. It was quite different to perform at home – different in a positive way. It gave us a strong emotional package for the performance."

22. TS 22.59 (12.48+10.11) Allison Reed and Otar Japaridze, who represent Georgia, drew to skate first, thereby gaining the distinction of opening the championships. Although Japaridze was born in Tiblisi, his country’s capital, Reed is American, the younger sister of Cathy and Chris Reed, the Japanese ice dance champions.

They teamed up in May 2009 and train with Evgeni Platov in Mount Laurel, NJ. She had never competed in ice dance before. She explained, "I was always looking for a partner. We actually had a tryout a few years ago but I was too small."

In September, their 12th place in the Nebelhorn Trophy qualified Georgia to send a couple to the Olympics. "My birthday is June 8 so I was just age-eligible," Reed explained. She was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan,1994. (For the European and World Championships and the Olympic Games, competitors must have turned 15 by July 1 of the previous year.)

She continued, "It’s very exciting. I’ll be competing against my brother and sister in Vancouver. I don’t know if three people from the same family has ever competed in a Winter Olympics before for two different countries. It’s very exciting." Japaridze, who is 22, has competed with three previous partners, the last being Isabella Tobias, with whom he finished 14th in the 2008 Wold Junior Championships.

24. TS 21.18 (11.58+9.60) Nikki Georgiadis and Graham Hockey, Canadian born skaters who represent Greece, have had very bad luck this season. "In Oberstdorf (at the secondary Olympic qualifying event), we had problems with their music, which was very off-putting," said their coach, Jon Lane. Here, they didn’t start the music properly. Instead, the music started soft and they didn’t hear it. They should have stopped but, of course, you are trained to keep going. I’m going to protest because that was so unfair."

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