2012 European Championships: Free Dance

By Alexandra Stevenson



1.164.18; 2.SD; 1.FD.99.29 (46.07+53.22) Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France came from behind to defend, by a very clear 3.95 points, their European title with a very dynamic Egyptian-themed Free in which he plays a grieving Pharaoh, who dreams of one last dance with his beloved, now mummified wife.


The 28-year-old Pechalat explained, “Tonight, it was very hard to skate because of the pressure. At the European Championships there is something to gain and something to lose. The title we won tonight was harder than the one we won last year because the program is very physical and we were second (by just a sliver - 0.17) after the short dance. But we enjoyed it and we have enjoyed being in Sheffield.

“A few years ago, we thought, ‘What can we do that is crazy for an exhibition that we couldn’t do in competition?’ And we came up with this theme. We loved it and thought we could do it again. But it was very hard to learn to make square shapes with your arms and legs so we worked a lot on the floor.” The music uses four pieces, starting with Passion by Peter Gabriel, which goes into In the Garden of Souls by Narada World and then morphs into Le Retour de Punt by Bernard Becker, and finishes with Alf Layla Wa Layla by Ahmad Sidqi.


In contrast to last year’s coldest-ever indoor Europeans, the arena was comfortably warm but that, and the very short re-surface time, meant there was water on the ice. They were asked what they thought of that. Pechalat admitted, “I saw some water in the corner but I just thought if I have to fall, then, not here! It’s so uncomfortable to skate when you’re wet. But I don’t think it was a problem. We’re so used to skating on wet and dry ice.


“We enjoy every program we do. We decide for ourselves. We don’t expect our coaches to do everything for us. We talk together and we decide. (They train now in the Detroit FS Club with Angelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo.) Getting what we wanted to match the music was hard. At one point we almost gave up the program. So we went to Philippe Candeloro for help. Tomorrow, we will still be at the Europeans, watching the Ladies and Men and supporting our team mates. Before working for Worlds we will have a break and take a rest. ”


They had been expected to retire after this year, after the World championships in Nice in their home country. They have taken part in Worlds every year since 2004 and have finished just off the podium on the past two occasions. Last year was particularly draining since they would have won bronze had they not both fallen in their Charlie Chaplin routine. Bourzat, 31, was asked what this win means for the future. “I told Nathalie that I will go to Sochi (the Olympic Games in 2014) if there’s a meaning for me (which he explained as winning four titles in a row). We will try every year to get better and keep the title.”


Skating 17th of the 20 couples allowed into the Free, they delighted the very responsive crowd. The Motorpoint Arena, which seats 9,000, was about three quarters full. Pechalat and Bourzat gained eight of the maximum +3GoEs, spread over their lifts (two short and one long). The lifts were all the maximum Level 4, as was their final move, the spin. However their twizzles were only Level 3 and their diagonal steps Level 2.


3.153.09; 6.SD, 4.FD 93.47 (45.36+48.11) Ekaterina Bobrova, 21, and Dmitri Soloviev, 22, from Russia, who had been unexpectedly in the lead after the Short Dance, drew to perform their very frenetic routine immediately prior to the French  and repeated as silver medalists. Their music is Walpurgis Night from the opera, Faust, by Gounod. Soloviev explained, “She plays the devil and she steals my soul. We really enjoyed skating this evening, but we especially enjoyed the short dance. We skated a bit worse in the free. But we’re pleased with the results with the technical elements and the performance. We skated with a lot of emotion. In international championships you win three medals, one overall, one for the short dance and one for the free dance. We are very happy that we won gold for the short dance.”


They chose to do four short lifts. (The other option is two short and one long. Both options have the same base value.) Like the French, they earned the maximum Level 4, for all their lifts and for their spin. But their twizzles and circular steps were only Level 2. Their diagonal steps were Level 3. Bobrova explained, “On Sunday we will skate in the exhibition gala which we are very happy to do. Then we will have a short break. I want to go to Russian Junior Nationals as I have a lot of friends competing there and I want to cheer for them. We don't plan major changes in the program.”  


Last year Sinead and John Kerr won their second European bronze in three years and promptly retired from competition. The Scottish sister and brother have been very visible at this event, promoting it, starring in the Opening Ceremony and commentating on television.


3.153.12; 7.SD, 3.FD 93.63 (45.15+48.48)  Stepping into that “vacancy” were Elena Ilinykh, 17 and Nikita Katsalapov, 20, who won the 2010 world junior championship. They were lying seventh after the Short Dance, although fourth through eighth were separated by a mere 0.38. Their Free was set to Spenser-Wortley’s Ave Maria.  Ilinyhk said, “We’re so happy with our experience tonight because we had a great feeling. We had nothing to lose. Nikita was talking to me before the program. He said we need to be together and we need to do it well. We’re happy with our third place. I didn’t think we would make the podium so I got changed. We didn’t know we were third until after the British couple skated, and they weren’t till last, and then I had to rush to get redressed.


He said, “Of course we knew that we had a chance because the difference in the marks was not great so we just tried to concentrate on us and the power between us and skate with our feelings tonight. We will have a few days’ rest and then start again to practice hard to get ready for worlds where we hope to skate much better in the Short Dance. After the short we were a little bit sad. We like our short dance very much and in our practice we did it very well and at Nationals, too. But here it was our worst performance. Our circular step sequence has always been a Level 4 but here it was Level 1.” In the Free, they received all Level 4s except for the Level 3 circular steps and the Level 2 diagonal steps.


4.153.09; 6.SD, 4.FD 93.47 (45.36+48.11) Anna Cappellini, 24, and Luca Lanotte, 26, from Italy, rose from sixth to fourth with a fourth best FD to the poignant music from the movie La Strada. They were eighth in the world championships in Moscow last April after not competing since August 2010 when he suffered a bad knee injury. They first competed in the European championship in 2007 when they finished eighth. They were 5th in the 2009 European Championship and sixth in 2010. He said, “Our performance was amazing. We always try to challenge ourselves and today we won.” She said, “In our previous performance we were perhaps too nervous and trying too hard. Tonight we promised ourselves to just feel the music and try not to worry about anything else. In terms of the points, I think it really paid off.” They earned Level 4 for all their moves except for their Level 3 circular steps and Level 2 diagonal steps.


5. 152.22; 3.SD, 5.FD 90.88 (45.28+45.60) Ekaterina Riazanova, 20, and Ilia Tkachenko, 25, Russia, dropped from third to fifth, with a fifth ranked FD set to Romance from the Russian movie, The Snowstorm. Skating immediately following the winners, they received all Level 4s except for both step sequences, which were Level 3. They were national bronze medalists this season after being second the year before. However, two weeks prior to that event, she suffered a concussion and a broken nose in practice. They were sixth in their debut in this event last year. He said, “I think we did quite well.”


6. 145.31; 4.SD, 6.FD 85.53 (44.22+43.31 -2) British champions, Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland, gave an energetic showing to music from Elvis Presley’s last television show which opened with the music from the movie, 2001. The two 22-year olds drew to skate last. They train with Evgeni Platov in New Jersey. The routine gained all Level 4s, apart from the two step sequences which were Level 3. However, they received two one-point deductions for going over-time on two of their lifts. Since they were 14th last year, they were absolutely delighted with their finish.


She said, “Being on the same practice ice with the top couples has been such a privilege.” He said, “We’ve worked amazingly hard and that’s why we’ve seen such improvement. And now we’ve got to do the same going into Worlds. The competition has been amazing. For a start, we’ve never been in the last group, let alone skated last! The crowd was fantastic.”


7. 142.27; 8 SD, 7 FD 84.87 (42.28 +42.59) Pernell Carron, 25, and Lloyd Jones, 23, France, who skated to a Gershwin medley, now train in the US with Natalia Linichuk. They gained Level 4s for their lifts but the other elements received 3.


8. 140.84; 9 SD, 8 FD 84.05 (43.00+42.05 -1). Nelli Zhiganshina, 24, and Alexander Gazsi, 27, Germany, Of her partner’s fall, Zhiganshina said, “It was probably my fault, I think I slightly bumped into him, maybe hitting his skate, I'm not sure. It was really, really, stupid. Especially at the beginning this is hard to deal with and skate with this kind of feeling for the rest of the program. But then everything else was good, our coaches were satisfied, and today we got everything we could. So we're satisfied except for that “little error.”  


He said, “Things like this are rather unexpected in ice dancing, and it's stupid this happened right at the beginning, too, but then again, after that the pressure fell off our shoulders and we just skated. All you can do is get up quickly and skate on. I just got caught on something when I fell. That little error probably cost us one placement. We could have probably beaten the French (Carron/Jones) I think, but who knows what would have been and could have been? Overall we're happy it's over now. It was a very, very long competition and we're very happy we did it.”

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