2011 European Dance Championship

By Alexandra Stevenson

Free Dance

Persistence Pays Off ĖThe new European champion, Fabian Bourzat, now admits, about his shocking Level 1s back in September in the Nebelhorn Trophy, "Sometimes it is good when you get your ass kicked, and we got it kicked quite hard in the first competition of this season. It made us (he and partner Nathalie Pechalat) more determined and we did everything we could to make sure it didnít happen again." That blow to their esteem was made all the more painful because neither of their coaches, Alexander Zhulin or Oleg Volkov could get to the event.

Back in 2000, when Muriel Boucher-Zazoui insisted they try out, Bourzat, then 18, was not at all impressed with the 15-year-old in his arms. She was a bit of a lost soul. Pechalat agreed it was a very tentative beginning. "I was 14 when I moved to Lyon. But my second partner decided to leave me. At 15, I was completely alone, and I wasnít interested in skating singles. I donít like falling! I was not very happy with Fabian initially. We had not been friends before the tryout, perhaps because of the age gap, which seemed a lot then."

The cocky 18-year-old Bourzat was the heart throb of all the teenage girls at the rink, where he had skated for three years and "knew the ropes". Bourzat thought Pechalat was, "not good enough for me. She was cool to me and I immediately hated her." Pechalat wasnít that impressed, either. "I felt the same way about him but I was smart enough to recognize that he was a good skater and would improve. And I didnít have a lot of choice. There were a lot of girls and not so many guys. I would take what came along and it was not long before I recognized that he was not so bad! Once we realized we had the same goals and the same vision for the future, I saw that, behind his flippant exterior, he was as ambitious as I was. He was willing to work as hard as was necessary and once we won the French Junior championship (which they did twice), I cast aside my initial reaction. We got medals on the Junior circuit but itís been a hard long climb in Seniors."

1.Total score 167.40 SD 1; FD 1 100.49 (48.85 Element Score + 51.64 Program Components) Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat, France

A French couple, Christiane & Jean-Paul Guhel, were the first the first to break the British stranglehold on the European Ice Dance title, winning the title in Geneva in 1962. It wasnít until 2000 that a half French-half Russian couple was able to get the French flag flying once more. Marina Anissina & Gwendal Peizerat took the European gold that year, were dethroned and gained the title back in 2002 in Lausanne. Peizerat was very much in evidence in Bern, as spokesperson for the Annecy bid for the 2018 Games. Pin anyone? Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder won for the European title for France in 2007, and now Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat are on top, after never winning a medal in this event before.

Bourzat, 30, agreed with his partner, "Weíve waited for a long time for this moment." While Peizerat said he wished Nathalie nothing but success, there, apparently, was some friction between Peizerat and Bourzat. There were hurt feelings when Pechalat & Bourzat abandoned Lyon after the 2007 season. In a ground-breaking decision, they broke loose from Lyon and moved to train with Alexander Zhulin in Moscow. Pechalat and Bourzat gave a long interview to the author in 2009 in Canada. She revealed, "It was a traumatic and expensive move. It was an unheard of decision. We had no friends in Moscow and we didnít speak Russian. From a personal point of view, it was horrible. We felt if it didnít work, we had burned our bridges. However, from a skating point of view, almost immediately, we knew it was the right decision.

"In Lyon, we were very much the second team. In Moscow, we had more ice time and were trained in a very different manner. Very gradually, we adjusted to cope with the outside conditions. We grew, not only as skaters, but as people. We learned Russian and so much more about life and coping. We got much stronger physically, mentally and in dealing with every aspect of life." They had made their debut in the European championships in 2006 when they were 11th. In 2008, they were 5th and then, very frustratingly, finished just off the podium in 2009 and 2010.

Appropriately, in Bern, they drew to skate last of the top six couples and they brought the proceedings to a wonderful close. Their Charlie Chaplin routine told an easily understood story set to the music originally composed by Chaplin to be played on the piano wherever his 1931 masterpiece silent movie City Lights was shown. The routine had matured significantly since its debut in September, when the story was not so obvious. She plays a blind flower girl, whose sight, for four minutes, Charlie, the tramp, is magically able to restore.

She is dressed in blood red. He is in an outfit similar to that worn by Chaplin in his masterpiece movie They began on a high note with a Level 4 lift for which all but one of the judges punched in +2 Grade of Execution. The exception gave +1. They received nothing but +2s and +1s for all their other moves with the sole exception of two of the maximum +3, which were for their third lift, a rotational. Their Levels were all the maximum 4 except for the diagonal and circular steps, which earned Level 3. None of the competitors received Level 4 for either of these two elements.

Pechalat said, "Weíve worked very hard. We have great coaches. This medal is for them, for us, our family, all the people that have worked with us." He said, "We had a great performance and enjoyed it and hope you did as well. We donít think now about next year. "We have a lot of work ahead of us now (before Worlds)." They are expected to stay on for at least another year since the 2012 Worlds are in France. (The approved location was Nice but there are rumors that it could be moved to another French city.) But will they also stay till the Olympics in Sochi in 2014? He said, "There is still a lot of time before that. We take it step by step but obviously it is a goal."

Before the event, Franceís very popular sports daily newspaper LíEquip, got Pechalat to comment on their rivals. This is a regular feature of this newspaper, and was published before the event as part of their preview. Pechalat pointed out there would be no French judge in Bern, indirectly referring to the belief that the cards are stacked against competitors without their own countryís official amongst the nine judges. (With the Technical Panel, the sport is so much fairer than in the ĎGood Old Daysí but the components are still very subjective.) She then pointed out that Bobrova & Soloviev, who would win silver, "are younger than us but have been skating for the same length of time. They are superbly matched but not that creative." She said the Kerrs, who piped them for bronze in 2009, "have a very good SD. In general, they are very creative and very energetic but she is too tall for him. She said they were friendly with the Kerrs. "We can be friends. We share the same emotions. Sometimes they are in front of us. It is a game. They have a lot of creativity in their programs." She also said that the Italians, Faiella & Scali, were expecting to retire from competition after winning the bronze in Worlds last year.

Pechalat & Bourzatís total score was an impressive more than six points ahead of Bobrova & Soloviev. Bourzat said that Zhulinís last remarks as they took the ice were, "Donít get too excited." Bourzat said, "I actually felt relaxed even though I didnít like the ice at all. I wasnít nervous. I was focused. I tried not to think of the title, but that was very hard not to do. Nathalie was a little more nervous, but calmed down. We did a good performance tonight but when we skate the program in sections, we can do it even better. We can improve our stamina." She said, "This is different from the Grand Prix. Itís a step up. Our coach said, ĎJust do it like in an exhibition, a very important exhibition.í I was nervous for the short dance, but I love our free dance and was less so for that. And we got the most beautiful medal!"

2. 161.14; SD.2; FD 2. 95.68 (46.92+49.76 -1) Ekaterina Bobrova, 20, & Dmitri Soloviev, 21, the Russian champions and 2007 World Junior Champions, performed immediately prior to the French champions to romantic music, Isaak Schwartz composed for the 1978 Russian movie Melodies of the White Nights, getting a point deduction for an extended lift. Bobrova said, "This is a great success and a big achievement for us. When we came here, I really didn't think about being on the podium. I just wanted to skate well. Now it is a feeling that I can't describe. Before, I didnít like to have a day off in between the competition, because once it started you want to keep going. This time, we were euphoric after finishing second in the short dance and we could breathe and calm down on this day off. Then, we knew that weíd be able to skate a strong performance worthy of the silver medal."

Soloviev, who, despite his youth, married another skater in 2006, and became the proud father of a son last year. He and Bobrova were ninth in this event in last year. He said, "Second place is especially pleasing as we are only competing in our second European Championships. Coming in as Russian champions, helped our confidence. I think it had a serious influence on me, but on the other hand it also meant a big responsibility. We havenít always done this well. I struggled with the twizzles earlier this season. We thank our coaches ( Elena Kustarova, Svetlana Alexeeva and Olga Volkov) for their help and psychological support. We were thrilled to beat Sinead & John Kerr. That is a big success. Weíve watched them on TV before and we always liked them and now we are able to compete with them. I donít talk about my dreams because, if I do, they usually donít come true. Medaling here wasnít my first thought. I know that there was talk about us being medal contenders, but I tried not to pay attention to it."

3. 157.49; SD 3. FD 3 94.62 (45.87+48.75) Sinead & John Kerr, GB. Many felt that the Scottish siblings, Sinead & John Kerr, should have placed second, at least in the Free Dance, in which they were only 1.06 behind the Russians. Sinead said, "We are definitely planning on going to the World Championships. It was nice being out here for the Europeans competing again. For us it is a step towards Tokyo.

"Our Free music, Exogenis Symphony by Muse, started off as an exhibition. (When they previously won bronze they also used music (Ruled by Secrecy) by the same band. We liked the piece a lot and we thought that if we were to come back this year to skate, that was the only music we would use as a free dance. We worked on it this summer with Peter Tchernyshev, who choreographed the piece with us. We wanted to show emotion, the feeling of joy and happiness that we had at the start of our career when we started to skate together.

"We were a bit disappointed last year (when they finished fifth in this event). We might have had a better shot at gold here if we had competed all season. It was a tough job getting any medal coming into this competition as the other competitors were great and we had lost a lot of practice time. We were tired towards the end of the performance, probably due to lack of experience this season. We hope to have more energy at the Worlds. I really enjoyed the short dance. I was relaxed for it but also excited as it was the first performance in a competition since Skate Canada. It feels great to have the medal."

Her brother said, "I am proud of her from coming back from her shoulder injury. I am pretty happy with the free skate. I got spooked on the first twizzle so the second one ended up being not so good but the steps were okay." Their twizzles still earned Level 3 as did both sets of steps. The Kerrs and Bobrova & Soloviev got identical Levels, five of the maximum 4 and three 3s. The Russians were slightly ahead on both element and component scores. Next year, the European championships are in Sheffield, in England. John appeared to be considering the possibility of them staying in competition another year to take advantage. But Sinead, who will then be 33, was adamant that this will be their final year of competition. She did say, "We will definitely do anything they want us to do to help promote the event."

4. 153.48; SD 4; FD 4 92.55 (46.13+46.42) Elena Ilinykh, 16, & Nikita Katsalapov, 19, are the Russian 2010 World Junior Champions. Skating 18th of the 20 couples allowed into the Free, they performed to the Grand Pas de Deux from Minkusí music for the ballet Don Quixote (used most famously by John Curry in his Olympic gold medal winning season). She explained, "Our coach, Alexander Zhulin, who taught the 2006 Olympic Champions Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov, picked the music and made the program. He wanted us to do something classically Russian, and only very few people have done a real ballet program in ice dance."

The highlight of this event for her, however, happened off the ice. She was asking everyone, "Did you see it on television? I got a hug from Stephane Lambiel! He is my favorite skater ever. I had not met him before in person but he kissed me and told me that we were his favorites! I could die of happiness!

"At the beginning of the season, we were criticized a lot. The coaches took notes and made changes. We took it in good stride. The changes worked. Just a month ago, we did not think about participating in the European Championships. Now, we have been told we will go to Worlds. We were just working as hard as we possibly could. We love our free dance. It is a real ballet. It was a risk. Even our costumes were made in the Bolshoi Theatre. I have a real ballet tutu. Zhulin came up with the idea but he got a lot of input from (former Bolshoi soloist) Ludmila Vlasova. She is our good luck charm!"

It did seem strange that she wore a black tu-tu. The dance is normally performed in white, or in red. She continued, "This competition has been an enormous experience for me and Nikita. We will probably make some changes to spins and step sequences for Worlds." Their last lift was a particular problem. Her leg almost didnít make it over his head. However, they showed great technique going into twizzles almost immediately after a lift.

Her partner said, "We wanted to give a strong and clean performance and thatís what we did. Weíve seen what a serious competition this is and for us and an endless amount of work is still ahead of us. Our goal is victory in Sochi. We will gradually try to reach it, getting better from one season to the next. Alexander Zhulin has his own system. He knows how to bring skaters to their best shape for the most important events." They placed higher than Riazanova &Tkachenko, who were runners-up for the Russian title. R&T finished sixth in Bern.

5. 142.92; SD 9; FD. 5; 88.74 (42.15+46.59) Federica Faiella, 29, & Massimo Scali, 31, Italy, won both the Original and Free programs in last yearís European championship and were only piped for gold overall by the skill in the compulsory of the then reigning world champions Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shablin. So it was a huge shock when they did so badly in the Short Dance here. However, she had suffered a back injury which kept them from defending their national title, and had had other illnesses.

In the Cup of China, they survived his tripping on her dresses in both sections of the event. They pulled out of their second GP event, the Cup of Russia due to her back injury. It was a sign that, perhaps, they had stayed too long at the ball. In Bern, in the Free, skating first of the top six, to Manolete Ė The Passion Within, a 2007 Spanish movie about the bullfighter, Manolete, Faiella & Scali attacked their routine with all their strength. They were fifth, good enough to pull them up four places to that position overall, but it was a far cry from their hopes of winning. Overall, they were only 0.87 ahead of Riazanova & Tkachenko and a huge 7.56 points behind Ilinykh & Katsalapov.

Scali said, "After last season many people suggested that we should finish our career. We had a great season winning the bronze medal at Worlds. I think we are such dreamers and all our career was about fighting and trying to fly as high as possible. We planned to keep going one more season. It was really hard as my partnerís health wasnít the best. The good thing is that we never stopped believing and fighting. We arrived here with high expectations. After the ninth place in the Short Dance, it was so hard to skate. We dedicate this program to ourselves, our fans, the people that were dreaming with us one more time. We are disappointed we wonít be on the podium but we are happy that one last time we fought for our dreams."

6. 145.05; SD 5; FD 6. 84.14 (40.68+43.46) Ekaterina Riazanova, 19, & Ilia Tkachenko, 24, Russia, who only teamed up in 2009, were making their debut in this event. They skated immediately following the Kerrs to the music Mexico, which was chosen for them by Tatiana Tarasova. They received only Level 2 for both their wobbly spin and their circular steps. Their coach, Alexei Gorshkov, was disappointed that they will not go to the world championships. Russia is entitled only to two entries. The Russian Federation decided beforehand that the top two couples here would form the team for Tokyo.

Gorshkov said, "However, there is plenty of time before the next Olympics for them to improve. The most important thing is for them not to stagnate. They do need competitive experience. Itís a pity that Katia put a foot down during the spin. We changed the element after Nationals, because it was inconsistent. And then Riazanova made a mistake at the new version too!"

Tkachenko said, "Today, it was difficult to skate. I donít understand what the problem was. Maybe we were tired. Iím not sure. We didnít feel light on our feet. We made a mistake in the spin. Iím not satisfied. Our goal was to skate clean and at our best." Their music is performed by Bolivian Symphonic Orchestra. No one has used it in skating before. I think the melody is very rhythmic. It uses some interesting musical instruments.

7. 140.69; SD 7; FD 7 82.87 (43.64+39.23) Nelli Zhiganshina, 23, & Alexander Gazsi, 26, have had an up-and-down career, winning two bronzes, two silvers and two golds in the last six German championships but not in that order. The golds came in 2007 and this year. In 2010 they were third, as they were in 2006. In 2008 & 2009 they won silver. Their 7th place finish means that, for the first time since Kati Winkler & Renť Lohse were fifth in 2003, Germany is entitled to two send two couples to next yearís Europeans in Sheffiled. They performed 11th to music from Lizstís Liebestraum and Vivaldiís Four Seasons. Gazsi said, "It was a tough competition for us, because the preliminary round is something we ice dancers are not used to. It is difficult to hold the tension for six days and we are happy that we were able to push through." They were 16th in their only other appearance in this event, in 2007. They had all positive GoEs with five Level 4s and three Level 3s.

8. 140.30; SD 6; FD 8. 82.30 (40.21+42.09) Nora Hoffmann & Maxim Zavozin (both 25), Hungary. Zavozin, who was born in Russia, competed internationally for the US and is now the Hungarian champion, said, "It was not our best skate, but it was better than in practice. The practice arena is too white, you get lost in it. But today the technical panel didnít like the performance too much. (They received three Level 2s.) Our free dance needs work and improvement. We will work hard before Worlds so we can prove we can perform it well. She said, about choosing to use the music Nagyidai Ciganok (Gypsy Witch), "We saw the show together and we both liked the music." Hoffmann first competed in the European championships in 2003 with Atilla Elek and, in four appearances, they finished from 14th to 10th. She is one tough cookie. Training in the US, just before the 2009 Worlds, she had a terrible accident. From an interview with Absolute Skating, the following quote was reprinted in Wikipedia:

"I was doing backwards crossovers, slipped and sat on the ice. But the gate was open and I fell into it, hit my head, lost consciousness and my ear was bleeding. I also cracked my skull and suffered three hemorrhages on my brain. I was immediately taken to the hospital and the doctors observed the hemorrhages because if they had increased, they would have had to open my skull. Luckily that didnít happen but I still had to spend a long time in the hospital. I was given morphine to ease the pain and after that I immediately wanted to skate! The next day I refused the morphine saying: Iím going to Worlds and morphine is classified as doping. Even after one day, I had withdrawal symptoms; I was cold, I vomited. And because of the bleeding I didnít hear on my left ear for three months. The skull was cracked exactly where the middle ear is so I also had problems with my balance. I had to learn to walk a straight line, I couldnít stand on one leg and my head was constantly spinning."

9. 135.41; SD 8; FD 10. 78.18 (39.81+38.37) Pernelle Carron, 24, & Lloyd Jones, 22, skating first on after the ice resurface, performed to Paint it Black and Angie by Rolling Stones. Jones stumbled on the Midline step sequence. He said, "For a perfectionist, our free skating was disappointing. Last year we were 12th and this Europeans we wanted to finish in the top ten. As it looks right now we will finish in 9th position. Well, rank nine is better than twelve."

Carron, who is very protective of her Welsh partner, said, "We were tired at the end of the program. (The Midline steps were their next-to-last element.) I think it was the cold affecting me. To be honest, Iím shocked about the temperature here for a European Championship. It was all right for the short dance but this here is a four minute free dance." With her previous partner she was twice 9th and 6th in the European championships.

10. 135.35; SD 10; FD 9. 80.98 (41.34+39.64) Lucie Mysliveckova & Matej Novak, both 21, are the Czech Republicís champions. Although they have competed in Worlds, this was their first Europeans. Last year, they lost part of the season because she broke an elbow. As in the short, she had trouble with her twizzles, and they received -0.35 off the Level 3 base value of 5 points. They performed to Let My People Go; Money; and Jessica Rabbit.

11. 123.27; SD 11; FD 11; 74.12 (40.64+33.48) Siobhan Heekin-Canedy & Alexander Shakalov, Ukraine, who train with Natalia Dubova in Stamford, presented an enjoyable Edith Piaf number, including La Vie en Rose; Padam, Padam and Je Ne Regrette Rien. "Itís music Iíve always liked," said Heekin-Canedy, 19. She and Shakalov, 28, teamed up in 2009. This was their first appearance in this event. Although he previously represented Uzbekistan in the world championships, he had never competed in Europeans.

12. 121.36; SD 12; FD 13; 72.36 (39.14+34.22 -1) Isabella Tobias & Deividas Stagniunas, represent Lithuania, but train in Canton. It was her first European championship. They presented a routine to Les Miserables, getting a deduction for an extended lift. He previously was 4-time Lithuanian champion with Katherine Copely. Their best placing in this event was 14th.

13. 120.86; SD 13; FD 12; 73.13 (40.76+32.37) Nadezhda Frolenkova & Mikhail Kasalo, Ukraine, two 21-year olds making their debut in this event, skated to the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing earning Level 4s for all but their opening +0.57 Level 3 diagonal steps and their base value Level 2 circular steps.

14. 116.47; SD 18; FD 14. 71.69 (39.26+33.43 -1) Penny Coomes & Nick Buckland, GB, skated fifth in the first warm-up group, performing very entertainingly to music from The Lion King. They skate with great energy and speed, but that sometimes leads to little mistakes. They got a deduction for an extended lift. Coomes & Buckland have been extremely unlucky this season. At Skate America she broke her nose just days before competing, and they had to pull out of the British championships because she injured a knee a couple of days before the event.

15. 115.81; SD 17; FD 70.97 (39.43+31.54) Sara Hurtado, 18, & Adria Diaz, 20, Spainís first ever ice dance couple at Europeans, opened this part of their championship and got the proceedings off to a fine start. Skating to Be Italian from the soundtrack of Nine performed by Fergie, they gave an exhuberant showing, with six of their eight elements receiving the maximum Level 4. However, both step sequences, diagonal and circle, were Level 2, and they were saddled with a slight -0.14 on their twizzles.

16. 115.35; SD 14; FD 18. 67.66 (36.29+33.37 -1) Lorenza Alessandrini & Simone Vaturi, Italy, had a deduction for an extended lift which cost them a place overall. Skating to the soundtrack from Nino Rotaís Rocco and His Brothers, they started with a Level 4 stationary lift but got a deduction for being too long in one of their other lifts.

17. 114.73; SD 16; FD 17. 67.87 (35.94+31.93) Alison Reed, 16, & Otar Japaridze, 23, who skated second to two pieces by Gary Moore, The Messiah Will Come Again and Pretty Woman, received Level 4 for five elements but their circular steps were only Level 1.

18. 112.64; SD 15; FD 19. 65.12(35.46+31.66 -2) Frederica Testa, 17, & Christopher Mior, 23, Italy, did a Charlie Chaplin number and he was made up with a fake moustache. They got deductions for two extended lifts. They are trained by Maurizio Margaglio.

19. 111.86; SD 19; FD 16. 69.51 (40.89+28.64) Ramona Elsener, 18, & Florian Roost, 21, from Switzerland were pleased with their free dance, set to Pirates of the Caribbean. She said, "Well, there were some shaky parts in the end, but we skated really well. In the free we even were above two other couples. He said, "It was just great when we came out and heard our names called by the speaker. The applause was like a wall. Thatís a great feeling. We want to carry this motivation into our further work."

20. 99.63 SD 20; FD 20. 57.94 (30.93+27.01) Brook Elizabeth Frieling, a flamboyant redhead, & Lionel Rumi, who are both 24, train in Aston, PA, with Natalia Linichuk and represent Israel. This was their first Europeans. He is French and formerly partnered Eloudie Brouille and Scarlett Rouzet. She is from Philadelphia. They earned level 4s for their twizzles and two lifts. However, their steps, both serpentine and diagonal, were only Level 1. They skated to three pieces by Maury Yeston, Finale, Unusual Way and Be Italian.

Short Dance

With the qualifying rounds out of the way, the championships got off the snowy-ground Wednesday in Bern where, inside the PostFinance Arena, the bone-chilling cold has been slightly modified because the outside temperature rose above zero and the wind, storming through the open spaces, lessened. The smiles on the competitorsí faces appeared a little less frozen in place than they had earlier. The threatened French protest Ė spectators, who were going to shout Chaleur! Heat! at the Opening Ceremony speeches failed to materialize.

Twenty one dance couples from 14 nations competed, comprising "direct entries", who didnít have to execute their Free on Monday to gain entry, and those who survived the qualification round, plus the host country entry. Only one couple from Wednesdayís Short Dance was cut from taking part in Fridayís Free Dance. The Swiss couple expected to be the ousted but they finished 19th, It was the Estonians who got their walking papers.

1Total score 66.91 (34.13 Element Score + 32.78 Program Components) Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat, France, presented a well practiced, mature, enjoyable, flowing, lilting routine to the main theme from Dr. Zhivago. It was a beautiful showing and their Grades of Execution for the five required elements were all +1 and +2. They drew to skate last and proved a fitting climax.

Pechalat said, "Weíre very happy that today is over. It was hard to do the first competition, the Short Dance. We are not used to skate as the leaders. There is a lot of personality in our dance. Itís important to give some feelings into this short dance. We donít forget about the judges. They are also people and have emotions. They are not just here to give some marks. Thatís why it is important to give some feelings. The technical part is about proving that we can perform the complex steps of the compulsory dance while putting it into the former original dance. If it works Iím glad."

Bourzat elaborated, "I think it doesnít depend on the steps youíve got in your program. Itís about the way you put everything together with the costume, music and theme. You need to get an idea and to bring it to life. I think itís more interesting for us to skate characters. It makes the Golden Waltz less obvious in the pattern. This year we didnít ask for a choreographer to do the steps on the floor first and then put on the ice. We tried to do more intricate footwork and make the transitions more difficult. The goal was to show that we can skate and build up speed with less crossovers than we used to do. Weíre quite happy with pur progress."

They werenít so happy when they made their debut this season at the Nebelhorn Trophy and finished up third after this section with two Level 1s. After leaving the ice, Pechalat ranted, how can we be fourth in the world in the Golden Waltz in Torino and then be rated so bad for the same steps?" On a scale of 1-4, 4 is excellent and 1 not desireable!

Pechalat did not challenge the Level 1 given because Bourzat stumbled in their non-touching steps, one of the five required elements, but because the second half of their Golden Waltz, which has the most difficult steps, was given Level 1. They entered a whole string of competitions after that, deliberately pursuing Technical Controllers to find out exactly what the problem was, and getting input into how to correct the situation.

As did Meryl Davis & Charlie White, they initially chose music from the charming French movie, Amelie. The Americans changed it before competing with this version. Pechalat & Bourzat took some time to change. At the Finlandia Trophy, Bourzat said, "We had invested a lot into that piece, and we didnít want to throw all that work away. But you have to be sensible. Youíve got to produce what the judges want and weíve been much more successful with the replacement."

Nevertheless, in Bern, in the last practice on Tuesday, Bouzat was having obvious problems. In the new hybrid, the steps of the Golden Waltz, the most difficult of the formerly called Compulsory Dances, are split into two, which can be executed back-to front, and is done to the skatersí choice of music, not set by the ISU.

Are they happy with the change in the program? Bourzat agreed he was "mainly because we are lying first here. But we didnít skate as free as we can be, because of the pressure of a possible title. It was not our best performance. Skating last was not a big deal for us. The training went good so we didnít take skating last into consideration. It doesnít matter whether we skate second or last."

Pechalat said, I am not disappointed with the performance. We felt pressure due to possible medals. But it was a good experience for the Worlds. Our goal is to win the competition and to skate a good performance. Here, the temperature is better for the boys as they sweat more. But as soon as the music starts, itís like home. I forget about the temperature, judges and everything else. I focus on the skating."

2. 65.46 (34.07+31.39) Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev changed their routine after winning their Russian nationals. Why? Soloviev said, "This dance is so much stronger. The other dance was nice and everyone liked it, but this program is more powerful and it is just better material for us. Our new Short Dance is to musical from Chess and Iím Dmitriís fate,".

3. 62.87 (32.00+30.87) Sinead & John Kerr, drew to skate 13th "The audience reacted really well to our performance," John said. It was set to At Last, sung by Etta James which flowed into a Quickstep. "After we finished all the elements, we could just enjoy ourselves." Sinead, who, at 32, is the oldest competitor in the Europeans, injured her shoulder in October which meant they had to pull out of their second Grand Prix, and the British championship. This is their first competition since Skate Canada.

"It has been tough, because our coach, Evgeny Platov, and choreographer, Peter Tchernyshev, came up with some excellent routines for us last summer and we were really looking forward to performing them on the Grand Prix circuit," John, who is a little more than a year younger than his sister, said. "But, from the outset, our main goal was to do ourselves justice at the Euros and the Worlds and we think we are on course to do that. We'll be disappointed if we don't get a medal and who knows how far up we can go?"

Immediately after Bern, the seven-time British champions, a record they share with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, although T&Dís had a gap of ten years between the last two, will join the "Art on Ice" series of shows, in the company of classical diva, Katherine Jenkins, and 70s soul icon, Donna Summer.

John said, "We took some time off at the end of last season, to decide whether we wanted to carry on. We quickly reached the conclusion that we were still improving and that we didn't want to walk away from the sport with any regrets. It's hard work, but it is also very rewarding when you earn the chance to take part in these big competitions. Even after all these years, we still get a big buzz when we go onto the ice and there are medals at stake."

With Lambiel and Biellmann being invited to appear in the exhibition program here, they hope that they will be asked to perform in the Exhibition in Sheffield, where the 2012 Europeans will be held. They insist, however, this year will definitely be their final year of competition.

"We donít feel it is always necessary for a routine to have an exact story. It is more about portraying the feeling and the mood of the dance on ice. All the couples had different moods for the Waltz and I think that in itself can provide something different for the audience. Portraying the emotions should be enough to show the difference in the dance."

4. 60.93 (31.79+29.14) This was their debut for Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov of Russia, in this event. She said, "I was a little nervous. After all these are the European Championships with the best couples competing. The whole level of preparation is different. You cannot compare it to other competitions." But her partner was not. "I wasnít nervous today. The performance was clean. It was strong, but we could give more. We were focused on the elements as this is such a serious competition. During the performance, we support each other. We look each other into the eyes and we know how the other one is feeling."

5. 60.91 (32.50+28.41) Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko, Russia, are also in their first Europeans. She said, "We are very pleased with our performance. Our goal was to skate at our best." He said, "I really felt nervous at Russian Nationals. To get selected there for this Championships was much harder that to compete here. We are used to compete on a high level in Russia. Therefore I felt quite relaxed. We donít care about the results of the other couples we keep the focus on ourselves. We knew about the cold and regarding this we laid a special focus on our trainings. Today, it was no problem because I wear a jacket. But I worry a little bit about the free dance on this Friday where Iíll wear a thinner costume.

6. 58.00 (29.79+28.21) Nora Hoffmann & Maxim Zavozin, Hungary. Zavozin, who was born in Russia, competed internationally for the US and is now the Hungarian champion, said, "Last year, we had to fight to fit into the top ten. We didnít have so much confidence. After we made it into the Grand Prix Final this season, it made us realize, we should be up there. Itís easier to skate knowing youíre one of the best teams and we even hope to improve for the free dance."

7. 57.82 (32.50+25.32) Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi, Germany. Gazsi said, "It was weird to have to do the qualification and do your free first. There is definitely room for improvement in our program." Talking about the cold, he said, "If you go out and skate your program, itís fine, but the 30 minutes practice felt long and it was chilly at the end." She said, "The first day it was very cold, but it is getting better now and we are growing used to it."

He added, "We got the maximum 4 for all our levels except for a 3 for the steps. Weíve skated better ODs, but technically it was top level today. This is the first time weíve been at European since 2007. The judges probably have forgotten about us and think, ĎOh, this is a nice new couple!í Seriously, I think weíve progressed since then." She added, "The Waltz is not necessarily my favorite dance, but I love our short dance as it is so funny and different from others. When I heard the music for the first time, which is from Cirque du Soleil, I had to laugh and we knew right away that weíd use it."

8. 57.23 (31.42+25.81) Pernelle Carron & Lloyd Jones. She said, "We are very pleased and we really enjoyed our program. Weíre absolutely happy that we got credit for the technical elements (three 4s and two 3s). We really worked hard on this one. (On the cold ice rink) We didnít prepare in a special way because we didnít know that it would be a cold rink in Bern. Actually, I found the temperature in the rink quite comfortable during this two-minute performance.

9. 57.18 (26.75+30.43) Federica Faiella & Massimo Scali, Italy. The result for the couple who were second last year and whom many thought at that event, they should have won, was shocking. She made a mistake right away on their first element, the Twizzles. He explained, "We donít know how it happened. We felt a bit more pressure this season, but we practiced so long. Every little bit can make the difference. I think the podium is gone but weíll try to enjoy our last Europeans. (On their back injuries) It affected our training the whole season, we were not ready. At the beginning of the season our Grand Prix wasnít the best, but we arrived here ready, we both felt better."

10. 54.37 (29.50+25.87Ė 1.0 for a fall) Lucie Mysliveckova &Matej Novak, the Czech Republicís champions. She said, "The performance was all right. We made some little mistakes in the twizzle and were slightly out of unison in the steps. The low temperature was quite challenging for me, because of my asthma. But I did not prepare myself in a special way for this situation. Although they have competed in the world championships, they have never competed at Worlds, they have never been in this event. He said, "I didnít feel so comfortable in the beginning because of the low temperature. But it wasnít so bad. We are used to train in a rink with low temperature at home in Prague."

11. 49.15 (26.93+22.22 -1.0) Siobham Heekin-Canedy & Alexander Shakalov, Ukraine, started with a Waltz, Desde el Alma and then went into a Tango.

12. 49.00 (27.22+21.78) Isabella Tobias & Deividas Stagniunas, represent Lithuania, but train in Canton She wore pink and he was in an old fashioned military outfit in black with gold braiding. Tobias said, "We did a great job. The ice is good quality. It was a little bit hard (to skate) with the cold, my muscles went numb half way through the program. (On the preliminary round) I think itís a really good warm up; there are not as many people watching and not as many competitors. It was a good occasion to prepare myself. It is right that we have to pay our dues as a new couple."

13. 47.73 (27.21+20.52) Nadezhda Frolenkova & Mikhail Kasalo, Ukraine

14. 47.69 (23.94+23.75) Lorenza Alessandrini & Simone Vaturi, Italy

15. 47.52 (26.29+21.33) Frederica Testa & Christopher Mior, Italy

16. 46.86 (26.58+21.28) Alison Reed & Otar Japaridze, the younger sister of the siblings who represent Japan, Cathy & Chris Reed, was saddled with a point deduction for an extended lift. They train besides each other with Evgeny Platov, in New Jersey, .but represent Georgia. The teamed up only last year, but seem to have benefited from Last yearís Olympic experience.

17. 44.84 (25.14+19.70) Sara Hurtado, 18, & Adria Diaz, 20, Spain, are making both their personal debut in this event and the debut for their country. Spain has has never before fielded an ice dance couple. This landmark has been produced because Britons John Dunn and wife, Joanne Conway, moved to Madrid to set up a school a few years ago. Hurtado & Diaz have competed twice in the World Junior championships. They skated in very circus-y outfits. He had one pink and one black boot cover. His gloves had pink on the inside and black on the outside. The routine was fun.

18. 44.78 (24.84+22.36 -2.0) Penny Coomes & Nick Buckland were very unfortunate. He fell and was penalized one point for that and another point for an "interruption in excess" for not getting back into the routine quickly enough. They had only Level 1 on their Midline non-touching steps. "Last year, we went to the Games and learned a lot from the experience," Nick said.

19. 42.76 (25.79+16.56) Ramona Elsener & Florian Roost, Switzerland, performed first to Violente Valse by Caravan Palace. He said, "The performance wasnít good. I stepped out of the twizzle) My foot got caught in a rut and my upper body continued to turn. It was very difficult because this happened very early in the program. We are very disappointed because the training went very well. Our goal was to get into the short dance without the wildcard. But it was great that the audience was calling out our name. She said, "We are used to skating like that, in the cold, but my hands were really cold. It was difficult to grab each other."

20. 41.69 (23.72+17.97) Brook Elizabeth Frieling, dressed in a long-sleeved black outfit, with her flamboyantly red hair flapping in the breeze, & Lionel Rumi, in a white shirt, performed to My Fair Lady

21. 38.76 (38.76+21.58 -1.0 for her fall) Irina Shtork & Taavi Rand, Estonia, used the Waltz, Once Upon a December and received a deduction for her fall. Since 20 are allowed into the Free, only this couple has been eliminated from Fridayís Final.

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