2012 European Championships: Short Dance

By Alexandra Stevenson

European Ice Dance Short Dance Brings Surprises – Bad for France, Good for Britain

Wednesday night, Prince Edward, the Queen’s fourth and youngest child, welcomed the British public to the event’s opening ceremony (starring Sinead and John Kerr, of course, who retired from competition after winning their second bronze in this event last year). The prince said that this event was special, coming as it did just a few days before the Queen’s Jubilee and the up-coming Olympic Summer Games in London. Hosting the event proved to be a great decision for the British Association, with the national dance champions, Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland, making a huge advance. They lie fourth. Last year they finished fourteenth!

Although only Europeans countries are eligible to send entries, American Linda Leaver was the Technical Controller for the Ice Dance event.

A different surprise was in store for the French defending champions, Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat. Their main rivals, Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, last year’s silver medalists, were the first of the top ten ranked couples to perform, and they ended up in first place with a tiny (0.17) but psychologically meaningful lead.

The Russians presented a Samba and Merengue to a Shakira Medley. Their twizzles and straight line lift were the maximum Level 4 and both sequences of the Rhumba and the non-touching circular steps were Level 3. Their score was 65.06 (31.93+33.13).

Bobrova said they were particularly pleased to be in the lead especially since they had drawn to skate first of the top ten ranked couples. "The score is just a little lower than our season’s best and it was MUCH higher than at the Grand Prix Final and in the Rostlecom Cup (the Russian Grand Prix)."

Soloviev, 22, said, "Being in first place is a big success for us. We are very happy with the way we performed today. Tomorrow, we'll rest a little and then we'll fight again (in the Free Dance)." His partner, 21, said, "It is our first time here but we've heard from our junior skaters that it is a nice place. (Sheffield has hosted three Junior GP events) I like the city."

When asked, "How does it feel to be in a country with such a long tradition in ice dance?", Bobrova pointed out that Russia had succeeded Britain at the top in ice dance and had produced many Olympic champions.

It would later be revealed that the Russians had the top element score, although the couples who would finish third, fourth and fifth, all received scores not far behind - between 31.85 and 31.14.

Pechalat and Bourzat skated next-but-one, using three very entertaining sambas, Mas Que Nada by Ben Jorge; Batacuda by Abacaxi; and Real in Rio by Sergei Mendez. Their component scores were the highest (34.53) in the Short, but their levels were low. They received Level 4 for opening curve lift and for their closing twizzles, but were given Level 3 for their second sequence of the Rhumba and, quite shockingly for a couple of their experience, only Level 2 for the other Rhumba sequence and their non-touching steps. Their technical score was only fifth best, 30.36.

About their Level 2s, Bourzat said, "I don't really know why we got them. The footwork felt good tonight. Maybe it was a jump in the bracket, maybe the edges weren't clean and deep enough." His partner was asked if the pressure of being the couple everyone was aiming to bet got them, but she said, "No, we don't feel pressure. Sometimes it is better to be the challenger than the leader and maybe it is good for us to be in second place, very close to the first place. We won't let our title go. We need to skate and fight (in the Free Dance)."

Ekaterina Riazanova, 20, who came back from a concussion and broken nose in a mid-December practice accident, and Ilia Tkachenko, 25, who were sixth in this event last year, lie third place. They presented a Rhumba called Bonga and some Salsa named Cuba. He said, "This is very surprising for us and we are very happy with third place. We have worked very hard after our Grand Prix events. After Nationals we worked hard on the Rhumba and the footwork, and maybe therefore that’s why our Rhumba here got a level four and three now. We didn't do anything special and we didn't make any major changes in the routine."

Asked whether they felt any pressure appearing in Great Britain where many in the audience were ice dance fans and some of them had actually done the rhumba compulsory, they said they didn’t even think of that. He said, "We don't feel any pressure because of that. Maybe it would have been different if Sinead and John Kerr would have competed this year. "

The current British champions, Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland, both 22 and from Nottingham, took advantage of the home crowd’s welcome and skated up a storm! In ice dance such big advances are not common. Coomes said, "To come up ten places – that’s unbelievable, even though we’ve worked really hard." Buckland added, "I think it was one of the best performances we have ever done. Doing an international in Britain is incredible. There was such an atmosphere in the arena. But we can’t get too excited. We still have the Free Dance to go on Friday night."

For Coomes and Buckland, their advance has been particularly rewarding. A few years ago, she crashed to the ice when a lift when wrong and hit her head. She was in a coma for a while and didn’t expect to return to the sport. She said, she was "shocked" and "delighted" at this placing. The two 22 year olds train in the United States with twice Olympic champion Evgeni Platov.

They received all Level 4s except for a 2 for their non-touching steps. Platov said, "The rhumba is hard because there are so few steps that you can really gather speed on, and you need speed today. And the chocktaw is difficult."

The Britons, actually, were very lucky. They are sitting on top of a virtual four-way tie. They were 1.56 behind Riazanova & Tkachenko but just a sliver, 0.12, in front of Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas, Lithuania. Tobias was beaming. "I thought we did a really good job. I think it was definitely our best performance to date."

In turn, the Lithuanians were only 0.04 ahead of Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, who are only 0.13 ahead of the Russians, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov. Katsalapov complained that the arena was "a little hot out there", a far cry from last year’s extreme cold in Bern!

France’s Pernelle Carron and Lloyd Jones, who are now taught by Natalia Linichuk lie eighth, 2.09 points further down, with Germany’s Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi ninth, breathing down their necks, just 0.61 lower. Jones said, "The program went OK but there’ still a lot to do on the technical side. Everything could be a bit sharper. We were very pleased with the crowd’s reaction. We changed coaches and moved to the US this summer and that left us behind schedule."

Gazsi claimed, "We had fun. Now, we just have to check why we got such low technical marks." His partner added, "We thought we did skate rather well and were very satisfied with our performance. I think we have never had such low levels."

It’s shaping up for a fine Battle Royale in the Free.

QUALIFYING ROUND (and top qualifiers result in the Short)

Nineteen couples competed in the Preliminary Round which was won by first-timers, who subsequently took 11th place in the Short, Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov, who represent Azebaijan. They are 22 and 25 and were so happy to have finally made it to this event. They won by a significant 7.21 marks over the second placed Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy, who were just 1.2 ahead of the third placed Siobhan Heekin-Canedy and Dmitri Dun, who represent Ukraine but train with Galit Chait Moracci in Hackensack, NJ. Heekin-Canedy and Dun finished 16th in the Short.

In the Short Dance the top two qualifiers swapped places, with Guignard and Fabbri earning 10th place, 2.79 points ahead of the Azebaijan couple, who were 11th. In turn they were just a sliver ahead of Spain’s Sara Hurtado and Adria Diaz, who were 12th in the Short Dance after being fifth in the Preliminary

The second British couple, Louise Walden and Owen Edwards, who were competing in their first Europeans, were overjoyed to be skating before a home audience. They were the fourth placed qualifiers, and then 14th in the Short.

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