2011 European Pairs Championship

By Alexandra Stevenson

Free Skate

"If we had known about the temperature earlier, we would have prepared for it at home in St. Petersburg by skating naked." Ė Alexander Smirnov, after losing gold by 2.59 points.

"On the first first lift, I had no feeling in my fingers and in my legs. I couldnít do anything to prevent it." Ė Daniel Wende, giving the reason for their first lift collapsing.

1Overall .206.20; 2.Free Skate 133.89 (64.22+69.67) Savchenko, who turned 27 on January 19, & Szolkowy, 31, performed to two versions of music from the Pink Panther, the first by Christophe Beck, the second by Henry Mancini. She was dressed in a pink cat suit, and he in a blue police inspector outfit. The opening poses showed a lightness, in both of their facial expressions indicating a fun attitude. Savchenko revealed, "The music was my idea. It was hard to find something new. Our coach, Ingo Steuer, also thought about it a long time and gave us time to find something ourselves, and then I came up with this idea."

They began with a great throw triple flip quickly followed by a sequence of two side-by-side triple toe loops. His landing on the second jump was a little strained. Their back outside death spiral was Level 4 with +0.90 GoE. But then, in their flying camel spin, she came unglued almost immediately. She said, "I donít really know what happened. Somehow I felt suddenly nervous. Then I tried to continue but didnít manage to gain speed and didnít know how to proceed. I got stuck and I didnít know what to do. It was a new situation for me. I thought, ĎShould I stand or should I try to start up the spin again?í This can happen to everyone. The important thing is to continue the program which is what we did." Szolkowy explained, "It was gone. You get zero points for something like this but there is no additional deduction for it."

However, they got back in stride with an interesting choreographed spiral sequence. After a Level 1 triple twist, as they were approaching their side-by-side triple Salchows, Savchenko said something to Szolkowy and they both did doubles, although his wasnít good. The next four moves, three lifts and the pair combination spin, all got the maximum Level with good GoEs. They finished with a very impressive throw triple Salchow. Two of the nine judges were moved to award the maximum GoE of +3.

They had a long wait to hear the result. Szolkowy said, "If you have missed an element, as we had, and your advantage in points after the short program is slim, then you know the door maybe is open for your competitors. I watched their performance (of Kavaguti & Smirnov, who skated last) and they skated very well. They skated clean, without any major mistake. Maybe there was just a wobble because of the cold, but everyone had this. I thought it would be close. The twominute wait for their marks was even worse. I can deal with the pressure before the performance, when it is loud in the rink or when nobody is clapping, but Iím not made for this nervewrecking situation. Itís better to skate a clean program and to make everything clear than to live through this once more. Obviously, I was shaking because we wanted to win."

Although they were second in this portion, it was only by a marginal 0.23. Overall, they won by 2.59. They won this title three times before but were dethroned last season by Kavaguti & Smirnov. Savchenko said joyfully, "Weíre back." Szolkowy said, "It is a huge relief. I felt the cold even more than yesterday. I was afraid to end up like (his teammates) Hausch & Wende, who missed a lift. (Wende didnít get Hausch fully up to the locked position and she collapsed onto his shoulders.) Suddenly you make a move and you canít because you feel too frozen. Under the circumstances, we are satisfied with how we skated. Weíll go home and work hard. We want to improve. We know what we have to do now." Asked what makes their fourth title special, he said, "Maybe the temperature. The conditions are the same for everyone, but they were not good.

2. 203.61; 1 FS 134.12 (65.62) Kavaguti & Smirnov performed to Claude Debussyís Claire de Lune. They received slightly higher technical marks than the Germans, despite their death spiral gaining only Level 1 compared to the Germansí Level 4 with a higher GoE. On this move alone, S&S earned 2.20 marks more than the Russians. But their overall component scores were slightly lower.

Kavaguti said, "We skated well, but Iím a little disappointed with the result. The cold did affect me." Smirnov said, "I think today we did our job in the free skating by executing all our elements cleanly. It was tough. Maybe because of the cold and the atmosphere in the rink we were not able to show the choreography fully. That was a minus. The performance didnít become a whole. The impression of the program was affected. This is something weíll work on."

The routine was choreographed by Russian born, US ice dance champion, Peter Tchernyshev. Kavaguti said, "The cold did affect me. I felt like my muscles werenít ready. It is a little strange that a competition of this level would be held under these conditions. But the conditions are the same for everyone."

3. 188.24; 3 FS 125.35 (64.89+60.46). Bazarova & Larionov, who were fifth last year in this event, skated to the soundtrack of The Man in the Iron Mask by Nick Glennie-Smith. The young pair, who won silver in both their Grand Prix events and were fifth in the Final, skated first of the top four. Some skaters donít like this position because you canít use the full six minutes of your warm-up to push yourself because there is so little time after the warm up to recover. However, this is not so with this couple. Bazarova explained, "This was not at all a problem. Actually, we prefer to skate in this position. Weíre very happy with our performance today. We were very well prepared for this Europeans. Weíre thrilled with the medal. We canít describe our emotions. We still donít believe it. Beforehand, our coach Liudmila Kalinina, said to us, ĎJust believe in yourself and donít be stressed.í"

Larionov said, "This competition we focused a lot on the jump elements and if we go to the World Championships we hope to perform even better." Asked about conditions, Bazarova said, "There has been a lot of talk about the cold. Everyone told us it will be very cold and it is hard to bear. But it actually wasnít so bad. We didnít feel it too much. At home in our ice rink in Perm, it can also be very cold so we are kind of used to it. There are a lot of emotions right now and weíll remember this moment for a long time."

4. 169.95; 4. FS 112.45 (59.23+54.22 -1) Gerboldt & Enbert skated to Rhapsody in Rock by Robert Wells, climbing from fifth to fourth, overtaking the Italians. They began very impressively with a three jump combination of triple toe to double toe to double loop and later did +1.40 triple Salchows. But, in their Level 1 triple twist, they had a collision on the landing which saddled them with a negative GoE of -1.20. Their first throw, a triple loop earned +1.40 GoE. But, later, on a throw triple flip, she landed but then went flat on her hip. Nevertheless, it was an impressive European pair debut for a woman who, less than a year ago, had never skated pairs.

He said, "We are very pleased with our debut at the European Championships. We did almost everything we can do. As a new team, each competition is a very valuable experience for us. When we get back home weíll analyze everything. We are still lacking experience. The throw triple flip isnít consistent yet and we still need to work on it. We donít know what comes next, but for now we are happy with how we did at these European Championships."

5. 164.83; 5. FS 104.75 (53.35+52.40 -1) Berton & Hotarek performed an audience-appealing routine set to Nino Rotaís Romeo & Juliet. They were a little disappointed to drop a place. He said, "Skating in the last group (of the top four pairs) was very exciting for us. We are happy with the performance. It has been a great event. We have gained a lot of experience, which is what we needed. And we improved our seasons best by quite a bit. But we could have done more. We still need more experience and practice."

She said, "It was hard to wash away the emotions from yesterday. But we didnít give up. Standing in fourth place put us under more pressure. It might have intimidated us a bit, realizing that we are there, that we could do it. I canít say what happened on the fall on the triple Salchow. I didnít expect it."

6. 164.83; 6. FS 96.11 (46.40+49.71) Hausch & Wende, who are coached by Karel Fajfr, skated to the soundtrack of Prince of Persia Harry Gregson-Williams. They were ninth in this event last year and were pleased to place higher this go round despite a collapsed lift. The lift was a high-point earning move and to get nothing for it was a definite low point. He explained, "Already after the first minute, it was like I was frozen. On the first lift, I had no feeling in my fingers and in my legs. I couldnít do anything to prevent it. The pain disappears, but the disappointment lasts, especially after starting our performance so well. It was very annoying; such a mistake has never happened to me before, but now I have to handle it." His partner said, "You just go on and pretend nothing has happened."

7. 139.94; 7. FS 91.49 (47.91+44.58 -1) Kadlecova, 15, & Bidar, 19, of the Czech Republic, climbed up one place, despite her fall on their throw triple Lutz. They performed to Nostradamus by Maksim Mrvica. She is the youngest competitor in these European championships.

8. 128.04; 9. FS 79.58 (41.90+40.68 -3) Kemp & King performed to the soundtrack of Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim and did not have a good showing. Still, even though they were penalized for three falls, they dropped only one place. She fell on the throw triple loop and they both went down on their final move, a lift.

9. 125.34; 8. FS 82.32 (42.08+40.24) Canac & Bonheur skated to music from the Pink Panther soundtrack. He said, "We havenít been skating together for a long time. It is hard to do everything, but we didnít have a fall in the two programs. We made errors and we need to continue to work." She said, "It was a premiere for us, our first ISU competition. There were some good things but there is also a lot of work left to do. I am a little disappointed."

10. 120.72; 10 FS 79.21 (42.39+36.82) 10. Bakirova & Kamianchuk skated to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer

11. 118.06; 11 FS 77.36 (42.24+36.12 -1) Gierok & Just performed to the soundtrack of The Holiday by Hans Zimmer. Gierok said, "It was a lot of fun to skate here; I hope to be able to skate at the Europeans again. It was a good experience to compete at such a big event. I especially learned from more experienced skaters how to cope with difficult situations concerning the emotional level." He said, "We are very pleased we could be her. Thereís a lot to do, but for the short time weíve skated together, it was ok. In the next days we have to sort out our coaching situation. It is very difficult."

12.115.53; 12 FS 75.42 (39.02+36.40) This was their debut in this event for the Italian Junior champions, Carolina Gillespie & Luca Dematte, who got through their four and a half minute routine without falling.

13. 106.47; 13 FS 71.46 (37.81+34.65 -1) Zabijako, 16, & Kulbach, 18, who are trained by Pavel Dimitrov & Stanimir Todorov, skated to Yanniís Tribute Nostalgia and Until the Last Moment.

14. 104.16; 14 FS 67.75 (35.07+32.68) Hoolin & Safranek skated to the Theme from Wanted by Danny Wright.

15. 100.87; 15 FS 66.13 (35.66+30.47) Martini & Kiefer, skated to The Addamís Family.

Short Program

Experience holds off the youngsters; 10 given.

One member of the judging panel, on which there are no Germans, presented the leaders with a 10 for the componentsí category, Performance, for their dynamic Short Program set to Korobushko performed by Bond. At Skate Canada in 2009, Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy received the first ever 10 given under the new system. Now they have the first this season.

1. 72.31 (37.92+34.39) Skating next to last, dressed as Russian peasants, she in white, he in a red top with knee length black boots, Savchenko & Szolkowyís SP was dynamic, executed with great energy and a playful exuberance. The 7-time German champions first competed in this event in 2005 when they finished fourth, the only time they have not been on the rostrum. They held this title in 2007, 2008 & 2009. In 2006 and 2010, they were second. The previous German holder of the European title was their coach, Ingo Steuer, who won in 1995 with Mandy WŲtzel. Steuer was obviously delighted with their performance.

Savchenko said, "We are quite satisfied. It was a good program, maybe even a very good program considering the circumstances. We showed what we can do. We didnít do anything new. We prepared well. I thought the cold would be worse. We pushed through. We are happy to be first after the short program. We plan to ask why the Levels were so low." This season, Specialists have been miserly with Level 4s, and the requirements are continually getting higher. S&S received the maximum Level 4 for their lift and the spin but only Level 1 for their triple twist and Level 2 for the back inside death spiral and their straight line steps.

Szolkowy said, "The first three elements, the throw, the twist and the triple toe, are the hardest, although you also can make a mistake in the footwork. But, when the first three elements are done, you almost can let it flow. Obviously, it is a relief to have those moves completed. Iím a little worried, because I felt cold halfway through the program, in the step sequence, and tomorrow, in the longer free skating, weíll have the triple Salchow, the other throw and three lifts still to come."

2. 69.49 (37.57+31.92) Yuko Kavaguti, 29, & Alexander Smirnov, 26, the reigning champions, skated first in the last group of five, demonstrating a great deal of power and speed. They earned three Level 4s. Their back inside death spiral and the triple twist gained Level 2. Kavaguti said, "We are happy with tonightís performance. I think we showed what we prepared for this competition, and tomorrow we also want to show what we prepared. I feel pressure in any kind of competition, but I need the pressure to skate really well." About the April operation on her shoulder, which forced them to withdraw from their first Grand Prix event, she said, "I must still be careful with it." She also said their music, said their music, Richard Straussí Also Spach Zarathustra, "was our coachís idea and I didnít like it in the beginning. Now I do very much. It reminds me of the Big Bang in outer space and thatís just the explosive feeling I want to give to the audience."

Their coach, Tamara Moskvina, competed in the European championship three times, placing sixth in 1967, second in 1968 and third in 1969. She and her partner, Alexei Mishin, finished their career after beating the famed Protopopovs and taking second place in the 1969 world championships in Colorado Springs. She chose this music also for her then pupil and now associate, Artur Dmitriev, for his and partner, Oksana Kazakova, when he won the 1998 Olympic gold. Smirnov complained, "Itís really freezing in here, just like the Russian winter! There were not so many spectators but their applause warmed our hearts. It was a good performance but you can always something you could have done better."

3. 62.89 (34.21+28.89) Vera Bazarova, who turns 18 on January 28, & Yuri Larionov, 24, skated 11th, to Secret Gardenís Adagio, and gave a splendid showing, although she two-footed the landing of the throw triple flip. She said, "We are upset about the throw. We usually donít have problems with this element." He said, "Itís too bad about that throw. We rushed it. Thatís why the mistake happened. But nothing is lost yet. We try not to think about placements before a competition, we want to focus on our strengths and on our programs." She said, "This isnít the final result yet. We still have to fight and do better, to show our best performance. We donít want to get too emotional right now."

They began with triple toe loop and did a great lateral triple twist. Their back inside death spiral had both of them changing hand holds. Their coach is Ludmila Kalinina in Perm. Last year, in their debut in this event, they finished 5th followed by 11th at the Olympics and 8th in the world championship. They have now earned bronzes in the past two Russian championships, after sitting out his suspension for taking a diuretic.

4. 60.08 (33.97+26.11) Stefania Berton, 20, who is from Milan & Ondrej Hotarek, who turned 27 on January 25, and is from Brno in the Czech Republic, were delighted with their performance. The duo, who trains in Oberstdorf in Germany, teamed up in 2009. They were second in the Italian championship last season and took the title this year. Although they were 11th in the 2010 World championship, this is their first entry into the European championship together. He competed with Laura Magitter and they were 9th in the 2007 European championship and 11th in 2008. Berton was 16th in the 2009 European championship as a singles competitor. They had the unenviable task of skating immediately following Yavaguti & Smirnov, but put up a fine show, interpreting Astor Piazzollaís Invierno Porteno. They are coached by Karel Fajfr.

Despite executing only a double twist, and not a triple, Hotarek said their performance was "absolutely good." It was that way "because of repetition. We have skated this routine over and over. The final position (after the throw triple loop) was a highlight of the performance. The last element we had in our routine was hard, so the final position was a highlight, after we had completed everything." Berton said, "The performance was good. We practiced every day. Even when we didnít want to we stayed strong. We want to stay the way we are and to show it to everyone. We want them to see our feelings while we are one the ice.

5. 57.50 (31.56+25.94) Representing Russia are Katarina Gerboldt, 21, who was named after twice Olympic champion Katarina Witt, & Alexander Enbert, 21. They are a new partnership, formed in spring of 2010. Gerboldt skated in a pretty pink lacey dress. Their music was a Waltz medley played by Liberace. She was a singles skater who was sixth in the Ladies 2009 European championship. They train in St. Petersburg with Artur Dmitriev, who won Olympic gold medals with two partners. With his former partner, Ksenia Ozerova, Enbert was 24th in the 2009 World championship.

Gerboldt said, "We almost did the maximum today. I enjoy pair skating so much more than singles. I didnít know that would be the case before I tried it. I especially like the throws. I always love to try new things and new challenges. It is nice to skate with a partner." They only teamed together in May 2010. He said, "We believe in our team and we feel very comfortable with our team therefore we were able to progress so much in a short time. We werenít pushed too hard. We need to really learn the triple twist. We did a triple today, but it wasnít well done (she crashed into him on the landing). After Europeans weíll start working on it very hard.

They finished fourth nationally and gained the third spot of the Russian team here because the champions must sit out a year because she is changing countries, from Ukraine to Russia. A smiling Gerboldt was obviously pleased with their overall routine, despite the twist and their triple Salchows, which were not synchronized

6. 53.86 (31.46+23.40 -1.0) Maylin Hausch, 22, & Daniel Wende, 26, of Germany, skating immediately following the ice resurfacing, to Tango de Roxanne from the soundtrack of Moulin Rouge, in black and red, with a large rose attached to her hair bun, gave a superior showing marred only by her fall on their throw triple flip. They teamed up in September 2008. In seven appearances in Europeans, two with Hausch, and the others with Rebeca Handke, Wendeís best place was 6th in 2005. Hausch & Wende were the 2010 German champions, a title gained in the absence of Savchenko & Skolkowy. They did not defend their title this season.

About falling on the throw triple flip, Hausch said, "That was completely annoying. It was higher than in practice and I wanted to push against it, in the landing." She also said, "I thought changing the color would be more authentic for a Tango so I dyed my hair at the end of summer. I liked it so I kept it. He said, "The fall was annoying. The jump was good in the air, but falls like this can happen. Other than that the performance was good. Our goal is still to end in the top 5, despite the fall. We will give everything tomorrow.

He said he felt no effects in the performance from being sick around the New Year. I would say we are at 95% of our capacity. We have been able to train normally for a week." They earned bronze in the Grand Prix in Paris. "That doesnít put us under any more pressure. We put ourselves under pressure to perform well. But the bronze was a highlight in our season so far."

7. 48.46 (27.61+20.85) Skating 12th, in striking black and white outfits, Stacey Kemp, 22, & David King, 26, who got engaged at the Olympics, skated to Clocks Tribute to Coldplay. The 6-time British Senior champions train in Torun in Poland with Dorota & Mariusz Suidek. This is their sixth straight appearance in Europeans. Their best place was 6th in 2008.

8. 48.45 (26.05+22.40) Klara Kadlecova, 15, & Petr Bidar, 19, who are from Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, drew to skate last, immediately following Savchenko & Szolkowy. Since they only paired up in 2009 and were 14th last season in the world junior championships, that must have been intimidating. He also competed in singles. This season they were last minute replacements in the Trophee Eric Bompard. Selection for the Grand Prix events is highly prized and is done on by ISU world ranking, which appears to be skewered too much on achievements made by juniors. They performed in black, to Libertango performed by Bond. They are coached by Eva Horklova & Otto Diabola.

9. 43.02 (23.11+19.91) Adeline Canac, 20, & Yannick Bonheur, 28, of France are both experienced pair skaters who teamed up last summer. Bonheur has now been French champion five times, with three different partners. In six entries in the European championship, his best placing was sixth, with Marylin Pla in 2006. Performing just immediately before the mid-competition ice resurfacing, to No Hay Problema by Pink Martini, in bright orange and yellow outfits, with him in black pants, they were clearly superior to the previous skaters. They train with Diana Skotnicka and Sergei Zaitsev.

Canac said about their performance, "We are happy but disappointed at the same time. We hoped to skate a little cleaner. Weíve worked very hard. Still, this program will give us confidence. For the Free, we want to enjoy it and we want the audience to enjoy it." Bonheur said competing with a new partner, "is less stressful actually. We are both relaxed and enjoy to skate. We did not have very good training conditions when we started. They have improved a lot but only about a month ago."

10. 41.51 (24.03+17.48) Lubov Bakirova & Mikalai Kamianchuk, who drew to skate first, are the Belarussian champions. They live in the capital, Minsk and are trained by Dmitri Kaplun. They finished 18th last year. They performed to Borodinís Polovetsian Dances from Prince Igor. Bakirova, who turned 18 on January 11, formerly skated in the 2007 Russian pair championship finishing 9th with Artem Patlasov. She teamed up with Kamianchuk, who is 23, in 2009. Last year they placed 17th in the European championship and were 19th in Worlds

11. 40.70 (23.50+18.20 -1.0) Katharina Gierok, 18, & Florian Just, 28, of Germany, who drew to skate sixth, performed to Dark Angel by Edvin Martin. She fell on their throw triple Salchow but she claimed, "It was fun to skate the short program. It was cool to skate in front of a bigger audience than usual. Just a shame the throw Salchow didnít work out. I wasnít really nervous, not more than usual. We have nothing to lose here, if we can skate a clean free program tomorrow we will be happy." In the 2007 & 2008 European championships, Just placed seventh with his previous partner, Mari Vartmann. Just said, "Weíve both had our share at the mistake, and in general we shouldnít blame each other for mistakes. We havenít skate together for a long time, therefore, mistakes can happen."

12. 40.11 (22.10+18.01) Skating fifth, in black and silver, first in the second warm-up group, Carolina Gillespie, 17, & Luca Dematte, 20, of Italy skated to The 20th Century. They teamed up for this season, competing in the Junior Grand Prix Series. With Daniel Aggiano, Gillespie was 15th in the 2009 World Junior championships. Their coach is Rosanna Murante.

13. 36.41 (20.67+16.74 -1.0 for her fall on the solo double flip) Making their debut in this event are GBís Sally Hoolin, 18, & Jakub Safranek, 23. The only other international in which they have competed was in the Golden Skate of Zagreb where they were able to establish the minimum point requirement to earn entry to this event. Safranek, who is from Prague, competed in the World Junior championship with Andrea Hollerova in 2007 representing the Czech Republic. Hoolin & Safranek skated to Wings of Hope by Danny Elfman. The fact that they are in this competition is a huge positive for Hoolin because she has been through a terrible time suffering from a debilitating illness which kept her sleeping for 15 hours a day.

14. 35.01 (19.74+17.27 -2.0) Natalja Zabijako, 16, and Sergei Kulbach, 18, teamed up in mid 2010. She is from Tallinn, Estonia, where the Europeans were held last year. Her partner is a Ukrainian from Dnepropetrovsk, Oksana Baiulís hometown. They train in Ashburn, PA, with Pavel Dimitrov & Stanimir Todorov. They skated 7th in royal blue and gold with her in pants and he in a bolero jacket. He fell on his solo triple toe loop and she on their throw triple loop.

15. 34.74 (19.39+15.35) Stina Martini, who turns 18 on February 7, & Severin Kiefer, 20, skating third to the soundtracks of Once Upon a time in the West, by Ennio Morricone, and Bonanza. They teamed up in 2009 and became 2010 Austrian Junior champions. At the world junior championships they placed 20th. This year they are the national senior champions. They are coached by Eva Sonnleitner, Rico Rex and Knut Schubert. She skated in yellow, he in black with a yellow string tie.

Danielle Montalbano, who turned 22 on January 23, teamed up in 2009 with Evgeni Krasnopolski, 22, are in their second season of representing Israel. Last year, they finished 18th in this event. But the pair, which trains in the United States in Hackensack, NJ, with Larissa Selezneva & Oleg Makarov, were forced to withdraw because of her shoulder problem. Krasnopolski was born in Kiev in Ukraine. Montalbano was born in Manhasset, NY. They were scheduled to perform second, to The James Bond Theme.

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