2010 European Championships Pairs

by Alexandra Stevenson

Free Skate

TOURING THE WORLD PAYS OFF FOR OFF YUKO KAVAGUTI WHO TOURED THE WORLD IN SEARCH OF A PARTNER

1.Total Score 213.15 Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, Russia 1.FS 139.23 (69.31+69.92) Kavaguti and Smirnov overtook the German defending champions to win their third medal in these European championships: bronze in 2008, silver last year and now gold. For the 28-year-old Kavaguti it has been a long climb to the top, with a lot of disappointments en route and many tough decisions. One involved turning her back on the country of her birth. Japan does not allow dual citizenship and so, by applying for a Russian passport in order to represent her partnerís country in the upcoming Olympics, she not only had to move to St. Petersburg, she has had to turn her back on Japanese citizenship. (Legally, a Japanese citizen is required to turn in their passport once they have received one from another country.) The change has involved accepting a different spelling of her last name which has gone from Kawaguchi to its present form. After standing on the top rung of the pairs rostrum here in Tallinn, she said, "I enjoyed hearing my new national anthem playing in our honor. Next time, I want to be more prepared and be ready to sing the words."

Kavaguti made her pair skating debut after turning up on Tamara Moskvinaís doorstep while the famous coach was teaching Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze in Hackensack, NJ. Although she had international experience as a singles, Kavaguti had no prior pair experience. Moskvina teammed her with Alexander Markuntsov and they won Japanís first pair skating medal at an ISU championship, silver at the 2001 World Juniors. When that partnership broke up, she had other partners and, for a short time, she competed with Devin Patrick but they were only 15th in the 2006 US championship. Just a few months after that event, she tried out with Smirnov.

They did not attempt the throw quad Salchow here in Tallinn although they have tried it in past competition. However, their throw triple, which was their first element, clearly showed she had enough air time to complete four turns. The trouble is checking the torte from the rotation on the landing. She explained, "We were a little upset that we were told not to do it, but we trust our coach (Moskvina). We would like to do the quad throw Salchow at the Olympic Games. We are so happy and satisfied with our performance. The audience gave us energy. We are so appreciative for that. We didnít expect to win."

That throw earned two +3 Grades of Execution, six +2s and one +1. Their only error came on their second move, the side-by-side triple toe loops in which she stepped out of the landing. All their Levels were deemed worthy of the maximum of 4 except for Level 1 on their triple twist and their next to last element, the pair combination spin. Only six of the 16 couples allowed into the final executed a triple twist and only two of those received more than Level 1 - Volosozhar and Morosov, and Bazarova and Larionov got Level 2. Kavaguti and Smirnov also got one +3 for their spirals, another +3 for the Axel Lasso lift and yet another for their final move, the forward inside death spiral.

Smirnov, her 25-year-old partner, said, "Today we skated better than at Russian Nationals (which they have won for the past three years). We were able to show a very high level of choreography." The routine was set to Valse Sentimentale and On the Blue Danube. Despite lying only 0.30 behind the Germans in second place after the Short Program, Smirnov said, "This win was very unexpected for us. I donít have words right now. Itís just great." They skated 14th, second in the last warm-up group of four, immediately after their teammates, Mukhortova and Trankov.

2. TS 211.72 Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy from Germany 2. FS 137.60 (66.88+70.72) The three-time champions were expected to stay in the lead they had established in the Short Program but they made several errors. Skating last, they began with side-by-side triple toe loops which were so synchronized and perfectly executed, they gained +2.20 for their GoE. (Two judges even gave them the maximum +3, four others punched in +2 and the other three officials awarded +1.) However, she stumbled out of their throw triple flip and doubled the triple Salchow. The rest of their 12 elements, set to music from the movie Out of Africa, had positive GoEs. One of judges who had given them a +3 for their sequence of triple toes, was the only official to award them +3 for three other elements, their pair combination spin, their spirals and their last lift. Another judge gave them a +3 for their last move, a throw triple Salchow which gained a huge surge of applause from the crowd. On this move, except for one other judge who gave a +2, the rest of the panel punched in "only" +1.

Szolkowy said, "I felt good, I went relaxed into the program. Of course we area little bit disappointed, but not too much. Of course we came here to win and to skate clean. We did some small mistakes but the rest of the program was quite good. Except for the two errors, it was a good performance. We just need to skate clean. We are getting too old to be nervous. Now, weíll just practice as usual and focus on our elements. The Olympics is the biggest and most important goal."

There were reports that Savchenko was suffering from glandular fever and she had traces on mononucleosis in her body, but it was believed this was from earlier in her life and all she was plagued with was bad flu. She said, "My health is fine now. We were able to prepare well during the past two weeks. But we didnít skate for one week after the Grand Prix Final and that was a shame."

3. TS 202.03 Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov, Russia 3.FS 128.49 (64.65+63.84) Mukhortova and Trankov, who skated to Love Story, she in red and he in black with a white shirt with elbow length sleeves, won bronze for the second year in a row which was disappointing for them because they won silver in 2008. Trankov admitted, "It wasnít our best performance. There were a few errors. Some landings of the jumps werenít so good. (She was very slanted in the air in their double Axels.) But we fought through it. Weíve skated clean in most competitions of the season, which is important in an Olympic season. Yesterday we were a little disappointed with our score, so it was hard to skate for us today. We thought about the score although we tried not to. We wanted just to think about our skating. We liked to skate here. The crowd was shouting ĎRussia, Russiaí from the tribunes. It felt like home. Skating first in our group didnít bother us. We actually like to skate early." Mukhortova said, "I was a fighter today. I pulled off everything you can pull off and Iím happy with that. There was a stumble after the lift. It threw us off a little and that meant we didnít build enough speed for the throw triple loop and, as a result, there was a mistake." (She was forced to put her hand down to keep from falling on the loop.)

4. TS 187.83 Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morosov, Ukraine 4. FS 120.23 (62.59 + 58.64 -1.0 time violation) Volosozhar said, "We did quite well. We fought for it, for each jump, and Stanislav went for each jump, which he doesnít always do. So we are satisfied but itís a little upsetting to be fourth for the second year. Yesterday, I felt that we were a little undermarked. It was fine to be in 4th place after the short program, but the difference in points to the top three shouldnít have been so big." He stepped out of the second jump in their sequence of two triple toes and then again on the triple Salchow which was downgraded. They performed to music from the movie Pearl Harbour. Everything else got a positive GoE. They even got one vote of +3 for their throw triple loop and two votes of +3 for their throw triple Salchow for which the other seven judges awarded +2.

5. TS 159.84 Vera Bazarova and Juri Larionov, Russia 6. FS 104.00 (56.06 + 48.96 -1.0) Skating to music from the movie Seven Years in Tibet, they finished behind the music but did not get a deduction. Larionov said, "We still had time (to the maximum four minutes and fifty seconds)." They did get a point off, however, because she fell on a double Axel which was meant to be a sequence of two and the rotation was downgraded. They also scored -1 GoE on their opening element, side-by-side triple toes. They still do not know whether they will be part of the Russian Olympic team. Their officials have told them that will be decided on their performances here."

Bazarova said, "The performance wasnít totally bad, but we can do better. For a debut, it wasnít too bad. I missed a jump (the double Axel) that I usually never miss. Somehow my legs werenít listening to me today. Already in practice I had some trouble when my lace ripped off. Today we focused a lot on the elements and forgot about the choreography a little."

6. TS 156.80 Nicole Della Monica and Yannick Kocon, Italy 5. FS 104.16 (57.00 + 48.16 -1.0 for a fall) Della Monica said, "It was the seasons best score for us, but I donít think it was our best performance. We can do better. But itís ok. I fell on the throw loop. It was just one mistake, but itís better to forget about it immediately and just to focus on doing the rest of the program clean." This equaled their last yearís placing in this event. They skated to The Mission.

7. TS 151.28 Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur of France 7. FS 99.24 (51.40 + 47.84) The French national champions skated to Romeo and Juliet. She said, "We didnít exactly fulfill our goals for this competition because we wanted to be in the top five, but it is almost impossible right now. We are a little bit disappointed because I made a silly mistake on the ice." She collapsed on the entry to their forward inside death spiral and got no marks for this element. (Done at Level 3, a forward inside death spiral has a base value of 3.2 points but even had they gained these points it would not have advanced their placing since they finished over five points behind the Italians.) Bonheur also had a mistake on his double Axel.

James continued, "But I recovered quickly and I did my hard elements afterwards. It is the first time that has happened. I am really proud of myself because I did all the jumps (including their first element, the triple Salchow) and the throws (throw triple Salchow and triple flip). I think it was a great experience for us. We love the crowd. We have a lot of supporters here Ė from France and from Estonia as well.

8. TS 144.95 Anais Morand and Antoine Dorsaz, Switzerland 8. FS 97.07 (54.19+42.88) The Swiss pair, who skated to Once Upon a Time in America, climbed from 11th after the Short Program to better the 12th place they had earned in their debut in this event last year.

Short Program

1.Total Score 74.12 (40.94 Elements +33.20 Components) The white-face makeup has been toned down a little for their Send in the Clowns Short Program, but three-time defending European champions, and twice world champions, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Skolkowy were clearly in fine form as they took the lead in the Short program.

But so were their leading rivals and the standings are practically a three-way tie. The Germans lie only 0.20 points ahead of the Russians, Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, last year's silver medalists. And their Russian teammates, Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov, who also train in St. Petersburg, are third only a further 0.38 behind.

Szolkowy said that was good. "It pushes us to be better tomorrow and make it not half a point, but a point or two. The (triple Lutz) twist was Level 1 and the (back outside) death spiral only Level 2. We expected better."

Only two couples were awarded a Level 2 for their triple twist by the Technical Specialist, David Moellenkamp and his assistant, Veronique Fleury: - Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov, and the newcomers, Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov, who lie fourth and fifth."

Although the top three current positions reflect last yearís overall positions, in the 2009 European Championship Short Program, Mukhortova and Trankov, were in the lead at this stage. The Germans had a fall and Kavaguti and Smirnov lay third.

Kavaguti and Smirnov, the reigning world bronze medalists, had slightly higher technical marks than Savchenko and Szolkowy, but the Germans had higher component marks.

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, Germany

Szolkowy said, "We skated well tonight. We didnít make any big mistake, but we got some low levels and we need to find out about that. We enjoyed skating and we hoped that the audience also enjoyed it.

Savchenko said it was her decision to go tone down the make-up. "We like to try new things and we wanted to test how if it would be better without the make-up, especially before the Olympic Games. We felt it was better now. We want to do everything to win our fourth title at Europeans."

It was her 26th birthday. After they had skated, some fans began banging drums and singing Happy Birthday but there would be no celebrating after she had skated. "Weíll celebrate later. We have practice tomorrow morning and that comes first." About their clown outfits, Savchenko said, "All our costumes are my idea. The ideas just come when we begin working on the programs."

2.TS 73.92 (41.44+32.48) Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov skated to Camille Saint Saens. She said, "We are satisfied with our performance. We enjoyed ourselves tonight and hopefully the audience enjoyed it as well. After the Russian Nationals we had a short break over New Year, and then we focused on getting our elements cleaner. We kept our music,The Swan because we love skating to it. At the moment we are planning to show the quadruple Salchow in tomorrowís Free."

3.TS 73.54 (41.02+32.52) Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov skated their routine to Appassionata by Secret Garden. She felt that they should be currently in the lead here. "We skated really well and I donít know why we got that kind of score. It was our best short program of the season. All the emotions we show in our program are not studied or choreographed, they come from our hearts."

He added, "We got only Level 2 for the footwork. I donít understand why we lost a Level. (The top two, fourth and sixth placed pairs all received Level 3. There was a lot of pressure and we were a little nervous as all the top teams before us had skated clean.

4. TS 67.60 (39.24+28.36) Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov from Ukraine who train in Germany alongside Savchenko and Szolkowy, lie almost six points behind the top three. He said, "We think that the judges were a little too tight with their marks." They performed to Dreams Illusion mixed by DJI.

5. TS 55.84 (30.96+24.88) Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov won the silver medals for Russia at the 2007 World Junior championships but just before he was to compete in that event again, he was suspended after diet pills were discovered in his system in a routine drug check in his home in Perm. That time has passed and they recently claimed the bronze in the Russian championships. She will turn 17 on January 28 and he is 23.

She admitted, "There were a few minor errors." She two-footed the landing of her triple toe loop. "But, overall, it felt surprisingly easy to skate, easier even than at Russian Nationals. We felt a good support from the crowd. Our training here have been going really well." He added, "After Russian Nationals, we had a training camp in Novogorsk (near Moscow)." They skated to music named Sadness.

6. TS 52.64 (30.92+22.72 -1.0) Nicole della Monica and Yannick Kocon, who finished sixth in this event last year, teamed up in 2007. He originally competed at the junior level for France. They are now the twice Italian champions. She fell on their solo triple Salchows. She said, "It was just a stupid mistake. I donít know why it happened." They skated to music from the soundtrack of Angels and Demons.

7. TS 52.04 (30.20+21.84) Vanessa James, who was born in Canada but has a Bermudan father. That enabled her to get a British passport and she became the 2006 British singles champion. However, she wanted to be a pair skater and came to France. She and Yannick Bonheur are now French pair champions. They skated to a Tango by Gotan Project. James said she was delighted with the performance. "We got our seasons best at the international level. This is our best short program, so we are really very happy. Finally, I got my citizenship. I am French now, and I am so proud and so happy about it. So we are going to the Olympic Games next month."

12. TS 47.60 (27.20+20.40) Maria Sergejeva and Ilja Glebov represented the home country. She said,"We feel good after the competition. Yes, we made two mistakes but we try to forget about the mistake and to continue. The Estonian public was also very good. We say to them, ĎThanks!í We moved to Poland to train with Mariusz Siudek. Our goal is to stay in the top twelve." They performed to The Legend of 1900 by Ennio Morricone.

16. TS 36.60 (36.18+21.66 -2) Jessica Crenshaw, who is American, and Chad Tsagris, who was born in Canada but is of Greek descent, showed how difficult and dangerous pair skating can be. With her in an upside down descent from a lift, he tripped. Fortunately he was able to get his knee to break her descent so she didnít hit the ice with her head. But it was a close thing. They recently started training with Isabelle Brasseur and Rocky Marval in Mount Laurel. Had he ever had any close calls when he was representing the US. "I sure did. I was at the University Games and I went a whopper backwards. When I think of that, I wonder why I am letting my daughter skate! But fortunately such mishaps are rare." They skated to Lai Lai Lai.

Of the 14 pairs who did a double twist, only three: Crenshaw and Tsagris; British champions Stacey Kemp and David King, who got no points for their side by side spins and lie 13th; and the Germans Maylin and Wende, who are 9th; were the only skaters to get a Level 3.

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