2011 European Ladies Championship

By Alexandra Stevenson

Emotional win for tearful Swiss miss who, despite injuries, delayed her plans for a professional career to compete in her home country celebrating the 100th anniversary of the creation of their skating federation;

Defending champion jumps from sixth after the Short Program to win Free Skate and silver overall, despite a fall on triple loop and no triple Lutz; Graceful Finn, in lead after mesmerizing Short Program, drops to third overall; American-raised Russian, second after SP, is fourth.

1:170.60; Short Program 3: 58.56 (31.56+27.00); Free Skate 2: 112.04 (56.02+56.02) They saved the best for last. In a day beset with by falls, "has been" Sarah Meier, 26, snatched her moment to become a Swiss heroine, skating gloriously performing last of the 24 allowed into Free Skate. She stayed vertical and won gold, a victory made even sweeter because it happened in her own country.

The Swiss Association, celebrating its 100th anniversary, had been devastated when the adored Stephane Lambiel became ineligible after the Olympics. They pulled an enormous amount of strings to get the ISU to go against its rules and allow him into Sundayís Exhibition program, and, having broken that barrier, also got permission for Switzerlandís only previous European Ladies champion, Denise Biellmann (1981), also to perform. They opened Sundayís Gala, gaining a huge reception. Both performed their wonderful spins. However, Biellmann, now 48, although demonstrating some remarkable positions including a pull up camel, did not execute the position which is now named after her. The strain on her back is just too much.

Meier closed the Exhibition program to the delight of the audience who cheered themselves hoarse. Missing was the normal level of clapping. You donít make much noise when your hands are tucked into gloves or woolen mittens, necessary to survive the cold conditions. It wasnít so bad for the first hour, but then the low temperature in the unheated arena starts to infiltrate. Spectators in the upper seats found their backs frozen from subzero air coming in from the outside. For those watching all the competitive events, the days became a survival feat of endurance instead of a pleasurable entertainment for which they had paid a lot of money.

The only other Swiss European Ladies medalist, in addition to Biellmann and Meier, was the very good school figures exponent who performed her own version of the Biellmann spin, Karen Iten. She earned bronze in 1973. In a unique situation, Sarah Meierís sister also performed in the Gala. She is a member of Starlight, the Swiss champion synchronized team, and they closed the first half.

Meier has competed in the Europeans since 2000 and in three Olympics. She was nearly European champion twice before. In 2007, she won the Short Program, was second in the Free and gained silver overall, becoming the first Swiss woman to medal in Europeans since Biellmann. The following year, she was second in the SP, won the Free Skate and received silver overall. In both cases, the overall result was close and the winner was Carolina Kostner. This time she was third in the Short, behind Kiira Korpi and Ksenia Makarova, and second in the Free Skate to Kostner, but earned gold overall, a clear 2.06 points ahead of Kostner, who got silver. Kostner said she was relieved to win a medal after being sixth in the SP, and was delighted by Meierís success, "Winning at home is a very special moment. It is, as she said, the perfect ending. I congratulate her."

After her two silvers, the Swiss people began to hope for great things from Meier but that did not immediately materialize. She was only fifth in the 2010 Europeans, 15th in the Vancouver Olympics and 26th in the 2010 World championship. It was time to move on. But with Europeans in her home country, she was tempted to stay. And it certainly proved to be the right decision!

Skating in a sleeveless black outfit with a cream halter neckline, second on of the last warmup group of six, Meier began well, earning third place in the Short Program and a "small" medal, performing to Michel Legrandís Samba Para Una Sola Nota. All her elements were solid, beginning with the triple Lutz to double toe and triple Salchow. Two of her spins were Level 4 and the third, her layback, Level 3, which she also gained for the straight line steps. She was delighted with her showing, explaining, "No, I certainly didnít expect this. My goal was to skate a clean program. I was focusing on my skating and I was not thinking about my placement. I have to say, even with the less good results, I still love skating.

"I wasnít pressured to be here just for this event. The summer went quite well so I decided to give it another try. I thought this would be a nice ending. But then I injured my foot in practice at Skate Canada." In Kingston, Ontario, Meier collapsed on the take-off of a triple Lutz. She is a reverse rotation jumper so she was picking with her left foot. "It has been quite a hard way back. Thatís the price every athlete must pay. We all have our pains and our ups and downs. Iím really happy that I decided to try to continue and try for this event. I feel pretty well. I didnít feel pain from my foot at all. There are my good and my worse days. But I was really nervous today. Iím looking forward to the free skating tomorrow and I hope that I can also do a good program tomorrow because this is my last competition.

The injury meant Meier missed all her other competitions this season and was pleasantly surprised to lie in third place going into the Free. At that time, she said, "I feel very good and very relieved. The last two days, I was very nervous. Even two days before the event, I was getting nervous. But I knew that in previous competitions I was able to skate very well under this kind of nervousness. I didnít feel very well on the trainings, but immediately before my skating I felt well. I didnít think about my foot or about the cold. I knew that this was just the first part of the competition. I had to stay calm and concentrated. My goal is to fight until the end. This is my last competition, my last chance to prove my skating."

As she took up her start position for the Free, she "tried not to think of holding on to the bronze and end up skating too safe. I went for everything. I didnít really think it was possible. I didnít want to be too cautious. It was a good strategy to go for all or nothing. I was quite calm, I almost feared being too calm. But it turned out to be the right mix calmness and the ability to attack. I donít know how I reached it. I felt good in my boots. That can make a difference. There is such a thin line between falling, landing and stepping out of jumps. I had a lot of luck on my side today.

She performed her Free, fittingly, last of the 24 competitors. It was set to White Suit from Love in the Time of Cholera. She began with a +0.70 triple Lutz to double toe. Her triple flip to double toe got an edge call for the flip, resulting in -0.90 being taken off its base value, her only negative GoE of the 12 required elements. Then came two double Axels and a Level 3 flying camel. At the time the 10% bonus for jumps clicked in, she brought off a second triple Lutz and a triple Salchow. A second triple Salchow had only a single toe loop added to it to show it was a combination, which is another new rule. Then came a Level 4 flying camel followed by straight line steps and a layback spin which were both Level 3.

At the end of her four minutes, Meier couldnít control the tears of happiness and relief. She had given one of her best performances ever when it really mattered. As she left the ice, she said, "I feel like Iím in a movie. It is an unbelievable feeling. I was so nervous, I thought I was going to die." Then, as she left the Kiss ín Cry area, she seemed stunned. "I havenít realized it yet. Itís still like a dream. When the marks came up, I didnít think it was true. I have been dreaming of this moment forever. But I didnít really think this could happen. I didnít come here with many expectations because my season hadnít been gone well."

"Of course is hard to say goodbye because I love the sport. But to retire at the top, is a wonderful feeling." She will not continue on to Worlds and will begin her show career right away. "I was so moved by the audienceís reception. During the warm up it was very emotional. It was amazing. It was so loud. I almost started to cry because I was so moved. But then I thought I could be emotional after the performance. My coach said to try to get the energy from the crowd. Somehow it worked and in the end it helped me. But I realized I had to keep all the energy inside me."

Now her amateur career has ended. "It is a lot easier now to decide to move on. Last season was so bad, I found it difficult to stop on that note, but also difficult to go on without knowing if it would be worse. Now, I donít have to think of ĎWhat ifs?í I have reached my limit. This was the competition of my life. That makes it a lot easier to move on. I want to enjoy every second, as I know that this moment is never coming back. I will always remember this but the world will go on. I regret that I didnít really enjoy the moment enough when I won the two silver medals. Now I will try to enjoy every second of this moment. There were also hard times but thatís the sport. Everyone has them. We are good examples of it paying off in the end if you donít give up when you lose or fall.

"Yes, afterwards, there was partly a flashback of all times it didnít work. But I donít focus on the hard times. It is hard to describe how I feel. It so it was emotional. There were so many people I know in the crowd. I am not expecting my life will change in a big way. I will be doing shows like Art on Ice. I am looking forward to skating for the crowd and not for the points. It is the right moment to stop. It is the perfect ending." Asked what she was thinking during the national anthem, when the flags were raised, she said, "I was saying to Carolina, ĎOh the Swiss flag is so small!í Meier comes from a skating family and is coached by her aunt, Eva Fehr.

2:168.54; Short Program 6: 53.17 (26.02+29.15 -2); Free Skate 1: 115.37 (54.27+62.10 -1.0) Italian star Carolina Kostner, 23, lost her chance of winning her fourth title in six years when she fell twice in her Flamenco SP. She handled the situation well. "Somehow, I have to laugh about it. All my last practices have been so good and easy. I was very nervous today, and Iím just relieved to be through with it." Skating 17th, immediately following the ice resurface, in blue with black lace and a red rose in her hair, she soared through the first jump of her combination of two triple toe loops but collapsed on the second which received an arrow indicating slight under-rotation but not enough to be downgraded to a double.

Next was a +0.57 double Axel and a Level 4 flying camel. But she fell again, this time on her triple loop. Her other three moves, the layback spin, circular steps and change foot combination spin all got Level 3 with positive GoEs. She left the ice shaking her head. "In the past, it wouldnít have been possible for me to pull myself together, and to pick myself up. Mistakes did upset me more. But Iím getting to know how to handle it." Amazingly, she still was awarded the eighth highest technical marks. Her component score was beaten only by the winner of this section, Kiira Korpi.

In the Free, for which she drew to skate second in the top warm-up group of six, she appeared in a light mauve outfit and performed to Debussyís LíApres-Midi díun Faun, a little more carefully. She said, "Yesterday, before I went to bed, I looked at the situation in a very realistic way and I knew it was going to be hard. So I focused less on the medals but more on skating my best. It helped a lot. I did wonderful practices before I came to Bern and really good practices here. So I knew I was ready. I knew it was just a matter of being focused. Iím very pleased and surprised with the result and so happy for Sarah."

Kostnerís opening jump, a triple flip, was very high but she stepped out of it getting a negative 1.10 removed from its base value. That was followed by a double Axel and then a second double Axel combined with a triple toe. A Level 4 flying camel spin and a Level 3 change foot combination spin were followed with a good triple Salchow. Then came bonus time. Her triple loop to double toe got an arrow on the first jump. Then she did a second triple loop and fell. She pulled herself together for the choreographed spiral, which has only 1 base value, but she earned two of the maximum +3 GoEs for her graceful effort, five +2 but only +1, which is still superior, from two of the nine judges. She finished with Level 2 straight line steps, a second triple Salchow to double toe and a Level 4 flying camel.

Kostner, who became the first Italian lady to win this event in 2007, said her main goal this season was Worlds. "I wasnít annoyed about my short yesterday as the practices had gone well. I am very satisfied with myself today, even though my performance didnít correspond with my performance in practice. Iím very surprised and pleased about my second place. After yesterday, I thought getting on the podium was going to be difficult but I never gave up my goal. It is a medal. After my sixth place yesterday, it doesnít matter which one. Iím very pleased to have it.

"For me, this is a step on the way to Worlds. Ups and downs are part of the passage. I hope I can hit my highlight in Tokyo. I can cope with a defeat here, although, of course, I am a bit annoyed about those stupid mistakes. We have to see how I can improve and do the flip better. Maybe Iíll do some different combinations. I will decide with my coach (Michael Huth). Iíve seen Sarah struggle through a lot of injuries and Iíve felt the same moments of not skating well and coming back. I donít think there is a real explanation. For sure we donít decide beforehand, ĎLetís all fall today.í Everybody tries their best."

3. 166.40; 1.SP .63.50 (33.18+30.32); 4.FS 102.90 (45.74+58.16 -1) Dressed in a sky-blue creation, Finlandís Kiira Korpi, 22, soared through her lovely Somewhere Over the Rainbow Short Program with breath-taking grace. The 22-year-old flew effortlessly through a combination of two triple toe loops and gave a performance that was pleasurably relaxing to watch. The jumps were secure and two of the spins merited the maximum Level 4. At the end, she scooped her hands to the ice to pick up the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The reality was that she actually did pickup gold, the next day when the "small" medals were presented. She said, "It was an almost perfect performance, but I was a little nervous. After succeeding with my combination and (triple) loop, I started to relax. My aim is to be amongst the medals overall."

"I expected a clean program because I have been doing really well this season and as well in practice. I am happy to have done a clean performance, although I was nervous. But I kept my focus. It was my goal to be in first place. I knew it was possible if I do a clean program. Iím trying to focus on my job tomorrow. I know it is always different when you are leading, but I have a good experience from Paris (Grand Prix Trophťe Bompard) where I was also in the lead."

She was not so successful in the Free. Skating 21st in a pink outfit with purple performing to music from the show Evita she stepped out of her first triple toe loop. On her second element, a triple Lutz, she had to put both hands on the ice to keep from falling. When she executed a Level 4 flying sit spin, the audience breathed a sigh of relief. But then she fell on a slightly under-rotated triple loop, and nearly went on her triple flip which also got an arrow for slight under-rotation. A triple Salchow to double toe, set when the bonus marks click in, was her only jumping pass to earn a positive GoE. She presented a three jump combination, triple loop to double toe to double loop which was given an arrow, Her final pass, after Level 2 straight line steps, a double Axel to double toe, was given a minuscule negative, -0.07. She concluded with two spins, a Level 2 layback and a Level 3 change foot combination. It was a disappointing showing all around.

It was quite remarkable that she stayed on the podium. "I feel happy with this medal," she admitted. "But I know I could have done a lot better. The program was quite a struggle. It didnít start out well and I fell very badly on my hip on the loop. I was surprised with my fall. I never fall on the triple loop, it is the easiest jump for me. It is an example of how hard this sport is at the top level. Little things can make a big difference in a jump. Being distracted for a second can affect the jump in a large way. I donít have any proper explanation for the falls. If something goes wrong it just happens.

Maybe this medal was a reward for the hard work Iíve done and for the fighting I showed today. My last medal was in 2007 at Europeans and it was a long way back. I was quite young. There were quite a few ups and downs since then, but Iím glad to be back on the top level although, of course, Iím obviously not happy with my performance.

"The crowd was very supportive, even with all the mistakes. I fought until the end. I have come a long way since my last medal (four years ago). Last year I was so close. I have been working very hard. I am also very happy for Sarah, she deserves this kind of ending to her career. And I am happy for Carolina that she could come back like this after the short program. It was very emotional on the podium with all the Swiss fans in the stadium and all the Italian and Finnish people watching."

4. 162.04; 2. SP 60.35 (32.98+27.37); 5.FS 101.69 (48.51+54.18 -1); Ksenia Makarova, 18, skated 21st, three after Leonova, her teammate and friend, presenting a SP to a Didulia Flamenco in black with silver. The routine was executed with a flamboyance and attitude which, while completely different to Korpiís classical style, was also very enjoyable. Makarova and Korpi were the only competitors to bring off an unflawed combination of two triple toe loops (base value 8.2), compared to a triple Lutz to double toeís base value of 7.40). Both received an identical trimmed mean GoE of +0.80. (Both received two votes of +2. Korpi got six and Makarova seven votes of +1. The remaining meaney judge punched in 0 for the Finn. Statistically, does that reveal the official who gave the 0 had his/her vote thrown out?)

Both received Level 4 for their flying sit and combination spins, and Level 3 for the layback. Korpi was awarded slightly better GoEs on the Level 4 moves, but on the layback both earned the same +0.50. Korpiís triple loop received 0.40 more than Makarovaís, and the Finn also gained 0.07 more for her double Axel. Korpi gained only Level 2 for her steps but a higher GoE, +0.79, which gave her 4.36 points, while Markarova put in more difficulty and received Level 3 but the steps were perceived collectively by the judging panel as slightly less well done, and awarded received 0.64. This is what the coaches of today slave over. Is it worth the risk? Technically, overall, they were only 0.20 apart, but Korpi earned 2.95 more on the components than Makarova.

Last season, Makarova had a great time. Not only did she win Russian nationals, she was ninth in the European championship, tenth in the Olympics and eighth at Worlds. However, this season, the situation has changed. She was only fifth in nationals in December behind three underage jumping beans and Leonova, the twice runner-up. Her parents represented the Soviet Union in pair skating, winning bronze in the 1984 European championships and in the Olympic Games in Sarajevo. They came to the United States when she was eight. She said, "I am very happy with my performance. I had fun. I knew I enjoyed it because at the end, the audience did. As long as everyone is happy so am I. My parents always told me when youíre first itís hard to top. I donít recommend to lose, but starting here being fifth at the Nationals somehow took the pressure off me. I felt very confident and strong on the ice."

Makarova, who was training with 1992 Olympic champion Viktor Petrenko in New Jersey, is now under the care of Evgeni Rukavitsin in St. Petersburg, where she was born. She explained, "Part of that was because the European championships were coming up so fast after Cup of Russia, where she finished seventh. Viktor couldnít stay in Russia because he also has students in America. I didnít want to have to adapt going back to the States and then again going back to Europe. It would have been too much for me, so I ended up staying in Russia and I will continue to stay on in Russia. My whole life changed and I love it. My new coach, (Rukavitsin) and choreographer (Olga Glinka) are great. At the ice rink in St. Petersburg everything is taken care of so I can just focus on skating. Nationals somehow took the pressure off me. I felt very confident and strong on the ice. I just focused on my skating.

"I gained more confidence about my programs. I realized I have to skate with my soul and have fun." On placing fifth at the Russian National Championships, she said, "It just happened, there wasnít really a reason. I guess I was nervous. I canít skate well all the time. But I came back and skated well here and I hope to skate well tomorrow. I gained more confidence about my programs. I realized I have to skate with my soul and have fun.

However, in the FS, skating 19th, first on of the top six warmup group, playing Evita, in a maroon outfit, she didnít perform with the same skill. Six judges thought her opening move, a triple flip, was OK, giving nothing added to the base value. One thought it was superior but two saw something wrong and punched in -1. On her triple toe to triple toe, she got an arrow on the second jump which means it was slightly under-rotated but not by enough to get a downgrade. Then she fell on a triple loop attempt which was only a double. Later she did a single loop. The only jumps that were not judged flawed were in the middle of the routine, a +0.50 double Axel to double toe to double loop and a base value triple Salchow to double toe. She ended, however, on a high note with a +0.71 Level 3 layback, +0.79 Level 3 straight line steps and a +0.50 flying sit spin. She said, "I really liked the performance. Mistakes can happen. I didnít get tired so Iím really happy about that. I will definitely be representing Russia in Worlds. There, I hope to skate clean with more emotion."

5. 154.31; 13 SP 48.40 (22.66+25.74); 3 FS 105.91 (55.34+50.57) Alena Leonova, from Moscow, is the twice Russian national silver medalist who was beaten this season by a young whippersnapper who is not old enough to compete at this level internationally, Adelina Sotnikov. She is the 2009 World Junior Champion. In her debut season in senior championships, 2009, Leonova placed 4th in Europeans and 7th in World Seniors. Last season, she was 7th in Europeans, 9th at the Olympics and 13th in Worlds.

She presented a light-hearted number to a circus polka by Alfred Schnittke from Nino Rotaís heart-rending movie La Strada with moments of mime and juggling. Her coach, Alla Piatova, said Leonova was doing very well in practice and she was well prepared. However, she felt the pressure. The skater refused to talk to reporters. She had begun with a basic combination of triple toe to double toe, meant to be a combination of two triples. Then, she couldnít check the rotation when landing her triple flip and was forced to do a double three turn. She executed a Level 3 flying sit spin but then singled her Axel. The change foot combination spin was "only" Level 3. Her circular steps were Level 2 and she finished with Level 3 layback.

However, her Free was on a different level and she advanced ten places with a Free which was ranked third best. Skating 7th of the 24 competitors to the Witches of Eastwick, in black but with lots of color, she soared through her opening element, the triple toe-triple toe. Apart from getting an "e" on her triple Lutz, doubling instead of tripling Salchow in her three jump combination which was her eighth move, and landing her final jump, a triple flip with a loop on the ice, it was a terrific performance.

"Today, I fulfilled the promise I gave to myself Ė to give a hundred percent, like I did (in the free skating) at Russian Nationals. Iíve already forgotten about what happened yesterday and I focused on today. I felt cold yesterday and I didnít feel my legs, plus I was nervous. Today I rubbed my legs with warming oil and I wore two pairs of tights. I like both my programs and they are very different from each other. Today, I thought about the criticism (from famed Russian coach of Tatiana Tarasova), who had said earlier that I canít deal with this (free) program, and I was determined to prove again that I can skate this program.

6 151.66; 4 SP 54.70 (29.39+25.31); 7 FS 96.96 (45.63+53.33 -2); Viktoria Helgesson, 22, from Sweden skated her SP to This is England from the soundtrack of Fuori dal Mondo by Ludovico Einaudi. All seven elements including triple flip to double toe, triple loop and double Axel jumps, gained significant positive GoEs. Her change foot combination spin was Level 4 while the other two spins earned Level 3 as did her footwork. She is the five time reigning Swedish champion, coached by Regina Jensen and her mother, Christina Helgesson. Her best previous place in this event was 11th. Her younger sister, Joshi, also competes and they hope that both of them will take part in next yearís Europeans in Sheffield.

After the SP, she said, "I am really pleased with the performance. It went well. A highlight for me was doing all the jumps well. My goal for this competition is to skate two clean programs. She started well in the Free, which was set to three pieces, The Drummer, Sad Romance and August Rhapsody, with a good triple Lutz, but was able to bring off only two other triples, both loops. She also fell although not on an element, and lost a point for a time violation. She said, "I didnít feel any pressure starting in fourth place after the Short. I donít know what went wrong. I was really pleased with the short program and the overall placement is better than last year. Overall Iím happy with my performance but I could have done better. I learned a lot at this competition and I will do better next time."

7 150.66; 10 SP 50.90 (30.67+20.23); 6 FS 99.76 (56.55+43.21) Ira Vannut, 16, is Belgian champion and the first skater from Belgium to medal in an ISU Junior Grand Prix event. She made an impressive European championship debut. She said, "My first goal was just to make it through qualifying and then I won! I didnít expect that. Then I had a really good short program and was 10th, and I hadnít expected that either. I just had hoped to make the top 24. I learned that I shouldnít be nervous. I was looking up to the other skaters that Iíve seen only on TV before. I especially like Jenna McCorkell (whom she beat) as Iíve been training with her before. She has a great performance style and I hope to get there one day. I also look up to Kiira Korpi. Today, I didnít feel so well. I think I was tired from the early practice this morning, so I didnít try my triple-triple. My next competition is Junior Worlds."

Trained by Silvie de Rijcke, she performed her SP to the music Eine Frau in Berlin receiving positives for all seven elements which comprised triple Lutz to double toe, triple loop, double Axel, three Level 4 spins and Level 3 footwork. Her technical score was the fourth highest. She performed her FS to music from the Sci-Fi Children of Dune. She was awarded the top technical score in this section. Of her 12 required elements, only one move failed to get a positive. That was a double Axel set when the bonus points come in. A later double Axel to double toe to double loop gained +0.43. She brought off five triples, two in combination. Two spins were Level 4. Definitely a prospect to watch in the future.

8. 147.96; 5 SP 53.68 (27.03+26.65); 8 FS 94.28 (43.52+51.76 -1) The now blonde Elene Gedevanishvili, 21, who represents Georgia but lives in the United States, training with Robin Wagner, won the bronze medal at this event last year, the first skater from her country to medal in an ISU championship. She executed her SP to Cell Block Tango from the soundtrack to the show, Chicago, gaining positives for six of the seven required elements. The double Axel was penalized with -0.64 off its base value. She admitted, "It wasnít as good as I could have done. I was fighting until the end. I donít know how I held on to the Axel, I was hanging on air. Doing the layback spin, my feet were hurting and I was barely hanging on.

"My goal for the rest of the competition is to skate a good free program. Winning a medal would mean a lot, not only for my country, but also for me as well as my coach who inspires me. It would prove that I can do it again. The music in the free program is Phantom of the Opera. It is different than usual as it is pretty and a bit slower." However, it was not to be. She singled her second triple Lutz and fell on a triple Salchow attempt which was downgraded to a double. She got credit for only three triples.

9 138.74; 7 SP 51.61 (29.41+22.20); 10 FS 87.13 (47.75+41.38 -2) Mať-Bťrťnice Meitť, 16, is the third ranked French woman making her first appearance in Europeans. Performing her SP to the soundtrack of Forrest Gump by Alain Silvestri, the pupil of Katia Krier began with a +0.30 GoE triple Lutz to double toe. However, the landing on her triple loop was flawed. All three of her spins were Level 4 and her steps were Level 3. She said, Iím very pleased with my performance. It was a great experience to be here. I really had to fight today and I did what was possible. I felt pressure. It wasnít easy.

For her Free, set to Concertino Pour Guitar and Hable Con Ella, she began with a triple Loop to double toe which earned unanimous +1s from the nine judges, but fell on both of her triple Lutzes. She said, "My skating wasnít perfect but Iím very satisfied with it. These are my first Europeans and I enjoyed it very much. I felt much more under pressure during the preliminary round, but the practice from there helped me to skate more relaxed today. (On being compared to Surya Bonaly) Iím very pleased because Bonaly is a great skater. She won so many titles. It would be great if I could do the same. (On skating with stars like Kostner) In the first training I was really impressed. To compete with the best skaters of Europe will help me to grow faster. Iím very ambitious to go to Worlds. My goal is to crack the top 20.

10. 137.44; 8.SP 51.24 (25.36+25.88); 14.FS 86.20 (40.70+47.50 -2) Valentina Marchei, 24, the 2010 Italian champion although Kostner took her title back this season, edged into tenth place by one 100th of a point. Now trained by Nikolai Morozov, she performed her SP to the soundtracks of Requiem for a Dream by Clint Mansell and Lord of the Rings by Howard Shore. She landed the first jump of her combination, a triple Lutz, but could only combine it with a single toe loop because, as it was clear to all to see, "I didnít realize I was so close to the barrier and there was no space to do the double." Her Free was to music from Straussí Die Fledermaus. She started with a good triple Lutz but fell on her second element a triple flip. At the halfway point, she again fell on a triple Lutz. Her best place finish in this event was 5th in 2007.

Then she had more bad luck in the Free. "I sprained my ankle in practice today so I was skating injured. I donít know why I fell on the triple flip. These are my seventh European Championships so I expected a lot more from myself. This competition was one of the goals I had this season and the World Championships are another one. I will keep working towards the Worlds, now even harder."

11. 137.43; 9.SP 51.12 (25.36+24.40 -1); 12.FS 86.31 (45.58+42.73 -2) Three-time German Champion, Sarah Hecken, 17, was 7th in this event in 2009 but 16th last year. After the SP, in which she tried a combination of two triple toe loops but got a -0.50 GoE, she said, "Iím so glad Iíve been skating well, although I havenít really been fit. Iím satisfied with my performance. Thatís enough for me. I canít judge the scores." She performed to Tango de los Exilados by Walter Taieb and Vanessa Mae, and received a time deduction. When asked why this occurred, she said, "I can only guess. At practices they announced my music is 2.55 (which is five seconds over the allowed time limit). But I start to move only after seven seconds and I never had a timing deduction in other competitions this season. I havenít been as calm as usual as I just started practicing halfway normal again this week. I started to be sick at Nationals. I had a virus and I was on antibiotics.

Going into the Free, she said, "My major goal for tomorrow is to skate clean, and to reach the top ten, to gain two spots for the German Ladies next year." But she fell on her first two elements, the second triple toe in her combination of two of these jumps and on her triple Lutz. Both of these jumps and her triple loop were saddled with one arrow for a slight under-rotation. Twelfth in the free brought her down to 11th overall. But, with only 0.02 of a point more, she would have got 10th.

12.135.82; 11.SP 49.10 (26.45+22.65); 11.FS 86.72 (45.44+42.28 -1) Sonia Lafuente, 19, the 2010 Spanish champion, was unable to defend her national title because of injury. Here, she performed her SP to Peter Gabrielís The Feeling Begins from The Last Temptation of Christ and her FS to Les Miserables. She was disappointed that 11th place in both sections still resulted in her finishing 12th overall. However, that was five places up from last year and 11 up from her 2009 finish. In 2008 she was 20th. She was the first skater from Spain ever to medal at a Junior Grand Prix event when she earned silver in the 2006 Cup of Mexico.

13. 133.73 Gerli Liinamše, 15, is the Estonian champion, competing in her first ISU championship. Skating to Harem sung by Sarah Brightman and One Fine Day from Pucciniís Madame Butterfly, she placed 16th in the SP but her FS, set to Raul di Blasioís Otonal, but rated ninth best, hiking her up three places.

14. 132.15 Jenna McCorkell, GB, 24, skated 28th of the 28 allowed into the SP and gained 12th place with 48.65 (25.54+23.11), after putting her hand down on her triple Lutz although she still managed to get airborne for the double toe. Presenting the same routine as last season, to Franz LisztísTotentanz, she substituted a triple toe for the triple flip, which was in her routine earlier in the season. She has had to have surgery on her big toe to remove the nail. That cost her three weeks practice in December and has made it extremely difficult for her to pick for the Lutz and flip.

She also drew to skate last of her warm-up group of six for the long. "That was the worst position," explained McCorkell, who is married to Kevin van der Perren. "I have to wear a size larger boot on that foot and take the boot off after the warm-up. Unfortunately, skating last means the foot has more time to swell and itís very difficult and painful when I put it back on. But Iím really surprised how quickly the nail is growing back." She was 15th in this section and dropped to 14th overall which was the same result as last year, when she lost training time due to illness. Unfortunately, that means Britain can only enter one competitor next year when Europeans are in Sheffield in her home country.

15. 131.38 Juulia Turkkila, 16, is the Finnish Junior Champion and this was her first ISU championship.

16. 122.33 Romy Buhler, 16, Switzerland, who was second in the Swiss championships, lay 15th after the SP which she performed to Summertime performed by Gene Harris and The Three Sounds. However, she dropped to 16th with a Free, set to music from Straussí The Gypsy Baron which was ranked 17th best. After the event, she said, "I felt different in the warm up today. I think this was because the audience was bigger. I was more nervous. In the beginning I was completely focused on my (triple) Lutz. It didnít work again! But after that I told myself, ĎCome on! Enjoy your skating.í It was so cool to compete here. It was unbelievable to skate in front of this audience. These were my first Europeans. I guess that on my next Europeans, Iíll miss all the Swiss flags waving. Right now, Iím just looking forward to my next training taking place this Monday. This competition motivated me so much. I canít believe my friends saw me on television! Iíll work hard until Junior Worlds in South Korea."

17. 121.63 Karina Johnson, 19, is the three-time National Champion of Denmark. Her mother is Danish and her father American. Both were skaters and met while performing in a European ice show. She is coached by her father, Kent, in Miami. Although she only just made the cut after the Short Program skating to Nobu Eumatsuís Fantasy Finale, her 16th place in the free, choreographed to Romanza by Bacarisse and the Fiesta Flamenco, was ranked 16th best and pulled her up to 17th, a significant improvement from her 35th & 32nd finishes in the past two years.

18. 118.44 Svetlana Issakova, 17, is the second ranked Estonian. She finished 18th in both sections and overall. It was not a bad showing for her first appearance in the European championships. She has grown considerably and was visibly tired after her Free, a common occurrence in Juniors who have to add an extra 30 seconds to their routine. You could see her heavy breathing crystallizing in the cold air as she finished her Free routine. For the SP she used Mendelssohnís Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E minor op 64.

19. 112.70 Viktoria Pavuk, 25, is the Hungarian champion. She has returned to the European championship for the first time since 2007. Back in 2004 she was fourth in this event but subsequently dropped to 12th in 2006 and then 18th in 2007. Her short, set to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, was ranked 19th and she held that place although she was 21st in the Free. However, 19th, 20th & 21st were all within 0.34 of a point. She is coached by her sister, Patricia.

20. 112.54 Dasa Grm is fresh up from Juniors. The 19-year old Slovenian was 21st after her SP set to Gypsy by Roni Benise and was able to climb one place with a 20th ranked Free.

21. 112.36 Alice Garlisi, 19, fell twice in the SP, on her slightly under-rotated double Axel and her triple Salchow meant to be her combination. But she moved up a place after her Short Program set to the Papa Can You Hear Me soundtrack with a Free ranked 19th best. She is third in Italy and is just up from Juniors.

22. 110.59 Fleur Maxwell, Luxembourg, 22, dropped from 17th after the SP, in which she earned 43.64 (24.25+19.39) for a routine set to Nothing Else Matters by Metallica. In the Free, she fell on a slightly under-rotated triple loop, singled her first double Axel attempt and aborted the second in her routine to Griegís Peer Gynt Suite. Maxwell retired from competitive skating after the 2006 season, when she was 25th in this event, but returned to competition last year and was 34th in the European championships in Tallinn.

23. 106.79 Hristina Vassileva, 26, one of the few married competitors, skated first in the SP, in her debut in Europeans. She earned 20th place with 39.11 (22.74+16.37). The Bulgarian was 22nd in the Free.

24. 105.86 Alexandra Kunova, 18, making her debut in this event, is the Slovakian champion. She was 23rd in both sections but finished below both Karina Johnson of Denmark, who was 24th in the SP but 16th in the Free, and Fleur Maxwell of Luxembourg, who was 17th in the SP and 24th in the Free. Trained by Petr Starec, she did her SP to Tango de los Exilados by Vanessa Mae and Walter Taieb.


SP 25 34.66 (18.60+18.06 -2) Anne Line Gjersem, 17, Norway, was making her debut in this event but, skating, to Hey Pachuco! she missed making the cut this time by a significant 3.64 points. Her twin sister, Camilla, is also a competitive figure skater.

SP 26 31.43 (14.52+16.91) Irina Movchan, the 2011 & 2009 Ukrainian champion, 20, was making her third appearance in this event. She was 24th in 2007 and 19th in 2009. Trained by Dmitri Palarmarchuk, she skated to Nothing Else Matters by Metallica.

SP 27 30.91 (15.22+15.69) Clara Peters, 19, who skated to The Giving by Michael W. Smith, is the first skater ever to represent Ireland at an ISU Championship, which she did in this event in 2009, where she was 38th.

SP 28 30.50 (17.59+14.91 -2) Birce Atabey, 18, Turkey, is coached by Rana Belkis GŲgmen. She skated to Tango Kore in her second appearance in this event. Last year, she finished 30th in this event.

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