2012 European Championships: Pairs Event

By Alexandra Stevenson

With the defending champions out due to Aliona Savchenko’s hip injury, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov had an easy path leading to a clean sweep of the medals for Russia in the pairs championship. Last year, they could not compete in this event because Volosozhar had not “sat out” a year as required by those changing countries. She formerly represented Ukraine and now skates for Russia.


After impressively winning silver in their first world championship together last April, Volosozhar and Trankov suffered a slight setback when Savchenko and her partner, Robin Szolkowy beat them narrowly in the Grand Prix Final in Quebec City in December. They were looking forward to another opportunity to get ahead of the Germans, who have won this European title four times.


Volosozhar and Trankov won gold in their first time skating together in this event. However, Trankov, 28, had previously won two bronzes, 2009 & 2010, and a silver in 2008 in this event with Maria Mukhortova. The best Volosozhar and her previous partner, Stanislav Morosov, had accomplished for Ukraine were three 4th places (2008, 2009 & 2010, and two 5ths (2005 & 2007). “Finally, a European medal and its gold!”, a very happy Volosozhar, 25, exclaimed on Thursday night.


Before pulling out, Sachenko & Skolkowy had drawn to skate 14th of the 19 pairs, just before Volosozhar & Trankov. When he heard this news, Trankov said, “First we want to say, we’re so sorry about Aliona’s injury (to her thigh after falling badly on a throw triple Axel a week and a half ago) and we hope she will recover very soon. When we first heard the news, we were very upset because if you want to be the European champion, you must really be the European champion. We tried to find some motivation to skate, because we are used to competing with Aliona and Robin and we know for them it’s the same, too – we push each other. It’s not going to be a full victory if we win, for sure, and we will wait for the next competition with them.”


Volosozhar & Trankov skated to an arrangement by Alex Goldstein of Bring Me Back to Life by Evanescence, choreographed by a set of modern dancers, along with Nikolai Morosov (no relation to Stanislav) in New York. They opened with Trankov throwing her spectacularly into the air high above him in a lateral triple twist which earned six +3GoEs and three +2s. Their side-by-side triple toes were good but coming down from their high throw triple flip, Volosozhar touched the ice momentarily with both hands. She explained, “Maxim threw me so high. I didn’t quite handle that as well as I should have.” Their lift, straight line step sequence, pair spin, and forward inside death spiral, all earned the maximum Level 4 with good GoEs.  For their SP, they earned 72.80 (37.94+34.86) to lead by 5.91 marks, which, after their FS, increased to 16.66 overall ahead of last year’s bronze medalists, who placed 5th in this event in 2010, Vera Bazarov, 18, and Yuri Larionov, 25, who were second in both sections this time.


Trankov said, “I'm very proud to see all my fellow countrymen in the top three positions. For Vera and Yuri it was not the first time to compete in the European Championships, but I'm really proud of Ksenia and Fedor, who had their debut today (in this event). So we will be fighting hard tomorrow and hope that the placements will be the same as today. I'm really proud we all represent Russia and we will do our best tomorrow.”


Volosozhar and Trankov presented a wonderful free to music from the Black act of Tchaikovski’s Swan Lake, in which he obviously enjoys himself playing the evil wizard.   He said, “Of course we are excited to win but we did quite a few mistakes, quite a lot actually. This was our first complete run through of the free program following the Grand Prix Final. We are basically pleased with ourselves. Physically we pushed through quite well, but the elements were a little messy, we didn't finish some moves. Our main goal today was to skate well and to receive a good score. We didn't chase after a season’s best, we just went out to enjoy skating, to show the choreography of the program. But we had some problems with some elements. Tatiana is still recovering from injury, it is hard on the body and for her as she constantly skates through the pain, sometimes more, sometimes less.”


Volosozhar said, “Maybe there wasn't enough time to prepare fully. I think each athlete is going through these (injury) problems. I don't want to look for excuses. For today I am happy with our skate and we'll see what comes next. They again opened with an awesomely high Level 2 triple twist which, this time, earned eight +3, with the dissenting judge giving “only” +2GoE. That was followed by +0.90 side-by-side triple Salchows and +0.60 triple toe to double toes. Their back outside death spiral earned the maximum Level 4 with +1.20 GoE, but their flying camel change foot spin was only Level 2 with -0.21 removed from its base value. 


At the point where the 10% bonus marks for jumps and throws clicks in, they executed a very high throw triple loop but it looked as if her free foot might have touched the ice for an instant. The judges seemed unsure, also, and the GoE was +0.10. Two Level 4 lifts both earned +1.40 over their base value, as did their throw triple Salchow. However, their Group 3 lift was only Level 2 with -0.36 removed from the base value. Their last two moves, the choreographed steps and their Level 4 pair combination spin received good GoEs. Their Free score was 137.65 (67.07+70.58) which earned them a total of 210.45. Trankov said, “Of course we are very excited to have won our first European Championship together.”


Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov, who won bronze in this event last year, moved up a slot earning 72.80 (37.94+34.86) for their Short Program set to music from Puccini’s opera Tosca arranged by Maxime Rodriguez, and 126.90 (63.81+63.09) for their Free to music from the movie, Dr. Zhivago which gave them a total of 193.79. For both sections they drew to skate last. After their SP, she said, “It was just the beginning today. We felt calmer than at Russian Nationals. Nationals is always a very important competition and especially hard. We felt good here, it is a nice atmosphere and we've competed in England (in Sheffield) before at the Junior Grand Prix, so we’re already familiar with the town. We had a long tour to see our favorite places again. We really like the ice, the audience, and all the people around here. We really appreciate this.” He said, “We won't relax now because there is another day to come.”


In the SP, they gave a strong performance. He said, “Unfortunately I had a little error on the jump (triple toe) today. It was a little scratchy. However, only one judge took note of that and gave -1 GoE. Their best move was their Level 2 triple flip twist, for which two judges gave +3s and the rest +2s. They received the maximum Level 4 for their pair combination spin and their lift. Their straight line steps and the forward inside death spiral were Level 3. All their overall GoEs were well above the base value.


Bazarova said, “We are extremely happy. We gave everything we had. It was a little hard to skate last as we had to wait so long and it was already late in the evening. We had practice in the morning and waited all day. We are glad that it's over now. We kill time by listening to music, going for a walk and resting.”


In their Free, they had only one major flaw. She stumbled on the second jump in their sequence of two double Axels. Their brightest memory from this event is “finishing second!” They said they dealt with pressure by, “focusing on the task that our coach had given to us and trying to fulfill it a 100 percent.” They finished a substantial 21.98 points ahead of the bronze medalist, Ksenia Stolbova,19, and Fedor Klimov, 21, who are the current World Junior silver medalists.


Stolbova and Klimov, who train with Liudmila Velikova, skated their SP to Bolero earning 58.66 (36.27+30.62). They did their Free to a modern arrangement of Alexander Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances from his opera Prince Igor, which was given 113.15 (67.28+55.87), their season’s best score. Their total was 171.81. “It’s great to get a medal on our debut,” said Klimov. “That was probably the best performance of the season and we are very happy with it. Obviously we were a little nervous, but not more than at other competitions. It is harder to compete here than in Juniors. There are stronger rivals and the programs are harder, but basically a competition is a competition and there are always rivals and we try to focus each time in the same way. It is a good experience for us to build on.”


His partner said, “I am so thrilled that we got the chance to come here (as short notice substitutes for Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, who withdrew due to his appendicitis.) It was a great opportunity for us. In general we are quite pleased with our skate. The jumps were a bit of a problem. For example, we had one toe that was a single. It is our first big international competition so we are very happy and we did not feel any pressure. Of course, we are very happy to have a medal.”


Klimov said, “I think we skated really well and our placement and the judges' scores reflect our skills. We were here a year ago for the Junior Grand Prix. The city center is nice, but this time we hope to get to visit London.


Although they took fourth place in both the SP and FS, Stefania Berton, 21, and Ondrej Hotarek, 28, the twice Italian national champions, who have been training at the Detroit FS Club, were upset. He said, about their SP set to Harlem by Earl Hagen and Dick Rogers Demasiado Corazon by Willy Deville, “During the preparation for this event we had some health issues. Stefania had the flu and I had a muscle inflammation due to overtraining so I had to go to the hospital to get it checked out. We just got back to training five days before the championships. It was hard. We're not prepared as we would like to but we're here to do our best. I fell on the footwork. I don't know what happened. I lost my balance. It happens.”


Berton said, “Our perfomance was not good. We know we can earn much more points. We're not thinking about our placement right now. The only thing we care about is our next performance.” And that was better. Skating to “Adagio” by Albinoni, they earned 158 points overall, 12.82 less than the bronze medalists, but four full points in front of Mari Vartmann,23, & Aaron van Cleave, 24, from Germany who pulled up from 7th after the SP to fifth overall, with a fifth ranked Free. Van Cleeve is a Canadian who moved to Germany to train with Vartmann.


Hotarek said, “It was the maximum I could have done. It was the hardest program I’ve ever done. This performance was a good achievement. Skating first in the last group was good, I think it helped us.” She added, “We just wanted to do our best and leave our soul on the ice.”


Russia (and the Soviet Union prior to 1991) is the only country ever to sweep the medals in pairs. Trankov said, “The last clean sweep of medal by one country was accomplished in 2005.” That was when Tatiana Totmianina & Maxim Marinin earned gold, Julia Obertas and Sergei Slavnov, got silver and Maria Petrov and Alexei Tikhonov won bronze.


The previous sweep was in 1994 when Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov; Evgenia Shishkova and Vadim Naumov, and Natalia Mishkutenok took all the medals. The first sweep in pairs was in 1969. And then there was a long period when only Soviet and East Germans got on the podium.  


Trankov was very kind to the host city. “We know Sheffield because the best skating blades are made in Sheffield – we are skating on them, so we are proud to be in this town, but we haven’t seen much of it yet. We have just been to the town center for 15 minutes and we hope we will see more later on. We like skating at the Motorpoint Arena because the quality of the ice is really smooth and it’s really helping us and pushing us to just glide on it nicely. We don’t like the practice ice - apparently nobody likes it. Everybody just tries to escape it as quickly as possible. But the audience is really warm and supportive, so we like entertaining them.”


He was asked about injuries. “As you get older you get hurt. Skating is a dangerous sport. I think all of us get hurt. But we don’t want to talk about this. We just want to forget our injuries. Now, we will go to Switzerland to skate in Art on Ice with Aliona and Robin and other stars.


“Then in Russia we will concentrate on our work. We have some ideas for the free program. We will try for triple toe-double toe-double toe combination. Then we will have more points. We did a lot of mistakes today and we will have to work hard to try to be in better shape for Worlds to show our best. We want to skate better than last year when we got silver in our first time together. We don’t want to go one step back. We only want to move forward.


“We are not close friends with Aliona and Robin but we have had good times together, on the podium, on ice and in shows. We are not enemies or anything. We are skating friends. Everyone wants to do something good. But I don’t think we should do something like triple Axels or quads or things. I don’t want to kill my partner. It’s my responsibility for the throw. I don’t want this responsibility. I care about Tatiana’s health. Pairs skating is a very technical sport and very dangerous. Now it’s at a high level and I don’t know where we will move to now. It needs to be more beautiful and lyrical. There should be more choreography. It needs to be theatre on ice. I don’t like it when it’s more like sport. For me it’s more like art. We try to do dramatic programs with roles. We take roles. We don’t only show technique. Pairs skating in my vision of figure skating should be art not just technique.”


Susan Lynch was the Technical Controller, with American Troy Goldstein the Technical Specialist, along with Alexander Kuznetsov.

Return to title page