by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
The women’s competition at the 2023 European Championships in Espoo, Finland had a mediocre level. Some top skaters were good, but nobody had more than 200 points. Many skaters in the middle of the field made a lot of mistakes. Anastasiia Gubanova, who is Russian but competes for Georgia since 2021, won the gold medal with 199.91 points. This first gold medal for a Georgian skater at an ISU Championship is a small surprise although she had been sixth at Worlds 2022. She had taken the lead in a flawless short program to oriental music. Her combination of triple flip and triple toe loop and the step sequence were excellent, the triple Lutz as well. The double Axel and two spins were very good, the layback spin good and her components reached an average of 8.0. She commented, “I didn't expect those scores as I did not skate ideally. It was nice to feel the audience support here in Finland.”
In her free program to Bollywood Indian music: “Latika’s Theme” and to “Ringa Ringa”, 11 of her 12 elements were at least good, including six triple jumps and the two step sequences. The spins were very good. Her only mistake came when she landed her first triple flip forward. Her components were around 8.2.
She explained, “I have not realized it yet, I am in shock. But work pays off. I was so nervous before my skate and mentally it was very tough. When all elements are done and this feeling that you did it, then the tears of joy just come out by themselves. Music Is always with me in my life. I can dance every day, it always cheers me up. I have wanted to skate to Indian music for a long time. My training group in St. Petersburg is like my second family, and they are really supporting me, especially Dmitri Aliev. He has been a European champion, he passed his experience to me and I used that.”
Loena Hendrickx from Belgium had been second at Worlds 2022, the best European skater in the Grand Prix 2022 and therefore was the favorite. But she missed three important elements and therefore won only a silver medal with 193.48 points. In her short program to the Latin style program “Si Mama” by Inna and to “Mi Gente” by Jose Balvin, her triple flip and the double Axel were excellent, the spins and the step sequence (all level 4) even outstanding. But in her combination her triple Lutz was wobbly and under-rotated (the show motion revealed that it should even be downgraded), therefore she could add only a shaky double toe loop and got only 4.26 instead of 11 or 12 points. Her components were around 8.5. She stated, “I'm disappointed about my skate today. I made a really big mistake. I know I can do much better, and this season I showed some very good short programs, and here it just didn't work out. The timing was just off and I missed the height of the jump. I think I will cry at the hotel. And then when everything is out, I can start all over again.”
She had changed parts of her music to emphasize the dynamic style, but still skated to “Heaven” and to Fallen Angel”, both by Karl Hugo. The student of her brother Jorik Hendrickx opened her free program with three very good triples and two double Axels. But in the second half she fell on the under-rotated second triple Lutz and again on the downgraded triple flip. Spins and steps were as excellent as usual. She admitted, “I am not happy at all. I wanted to show a good program and I didn't. I felt so confident because yesterday and today's training were just yeah, it couldn't go better. I did everything clean on practice and also on the warm up now. I am happy with the silver medal but I would be more happy with a better performance.”
The bronze medal for 16-year-old Swiss skater Kimmy Repond at her first European Championship was a big surprise. She is kind of wonderkid, plays piano, models, is an influencer and skipped two grades in her school during the pandemic. She plans to go to University this summer, two years earlier than Europeans normally go to study medicine. Her sister is her main coach. In her confident short program to a “Two Feet” medley, the triple Lutz of her combination got a q, but all other elements at least good. She commented, “I have been skating for 12 years now and I always dreamt about Europeans and Worlds, and it's like a goal come true.”
In the second-best free program to the “Exogenesis Symphony” by Muse, Repond performed seven triples, not spectacular but clean, and very good steps and spins. Her components were around 7.5. She explained, “It was the first time for me to skate in front of such a big audience. This made me really happy, also hearing the people cheer. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help from my team and the hard work every day. And from my sister who was coaching me since I was eight. I didn't expect a medal, I tried not to expect any certain place.”
Ekaterina Kurakova from Poland, who is originally Russian, came fourth with 186.90 points. Her combination in her short program to an Elvis Presley medley was a clean triple Lutz and double toe loop, followed by a good triple flip. Her spins and steps were very good and her components around 7.8. She said, “Skating last is more difficult psychologically because you have to wait until everyone has skated. Even if you don't want to, but still you hear all the scores, so it is hard.” In her free program to the soundtrack of “Up”, she had five good triple jumps and almost fell on the triple Lutz. Her interpretation was convincing. She said, “Skating in the last group shows that I am very strong, competitively, but that also gives me the obligations. You can't just come and relax, you must to fight till the end to show that you deserve to be there.”
The second Belgian skater and national Junior Champion Nina Pinzarrone finished on fifth position with 185.92 points. Skating to the classical music “Meditation” by Jules Massenet, she had five good elements in the short, an outstanding layback spin which got one GOE of +5 and a combination of triple Lutz and (under-rotated) triple toe loop. She commented, “In the summer I had a stress fracture in my hip. It took a really long time to be completely over, so I had a little bit less preparation.” In her free program she had seven triples, but not all of them were clean.
Niina Petrokina from Estonia placed sixth, earning 183.74 points. In her short program, the triple Lutz was downgraded because she landed on the wrong foot, the rest was O.K. In her free, she performed five triples, but singled and doubled two more jumps. She explained, “My tears were tears of relief, all the emotions came out in the end. I am glad that next year Estonia will keep two spots for the European Championships. I want to perform a triple Axel in competition very much. Now I can do it in training.”
Janna Jyrkinen from Finland came seventh with 176.96 points. In her short, the triple toe loop after the triple Lutz was under-rotated, everything else was good. In her free program, she fell on the triple Lutz and two other jumps were a bit under-rotated (q). The layback spin was her best element. She explained, “I’m a bit annoyed about the fall, but otherwise it was quite good as a whole. The support from the audience was just great. It was even louder than in the short program.”
All women from eighth place to lower ranks were not good and made several mistakes. The Italian champion Lara Naki Gutmann is eighth with 169.29 points. In the short program, two jumps were not clean and the spins were mediocre. In her free program, no less than five jumps were not correctly landed. She said, “The goal for me was to be in the top ten to have the two spots for Italy for next year. The free program was not as clean as the last competitions. My next competition will be in Ljubljana in two weeks. I need to get the minimum points for Worlds for the short program.”
The multiple German Champion Nicole Schott placed ninth with 163.82 points. In the short program, she fell on both triple jumps and admitted, “I am shocked about how it went and I am very disappointed obviously. Sometimes there are no reasons. You don’t have to sugarcoat anything and look for excuses.” In her free program only three triples were good, but she doubled the flip and landed it on two feet and stepped out of the triple loop. Spins and steps were very good, however. She said, “It didn't go like I had wanted at all. The falls in the short program had left some traces in my hip. At 26 years it hurts a bit more than at 20. I'm mad because of the loop, it is actually my best jump.”
Julia Sauter from Romania, who lives in Germany and is married to a U.S. ice hockey player, finished on tenth place with 160.42 points, her best international result. In the short program, she fell on the triple Lutz, but her combination of two triple toe loops and everything else was good. In her free program, she fell on the double Axel after the triple Salchow and singled the loop. The other elements were more or less clean.
Olga Mikutina from Austria, who came from the Ukraine to Austria at the age of 12, ended up 12th with 159.08 points. After a faultess short program with a good combination of triple Lutz and double toe loop (a triple was planned), a very good triple flip and excellent spins and steps she was even fourth. She said, “After I returned from the NHK Trophy in Japan, I got chickenpox. Two weeks I was at home in quarantine and couldn't prepare for Nationals.” The 19-year-old skater opened her free program with a good sequence of triple Lutz, Euler and triple Salchow. But then she fell three times and stepped out and under-rotated two more shaky jumps.
Josefin Taljegard from Sweden tried to skate with more interesting choreography than others, but she missed several jumps in both program and is only 17th with 154.98 points. Anastasia Gozhva from the Ukraine placed 20th with 143.69 points after missing her combination in the short and three jumps in the free. She said, “Today it was very difficult to skate because there was a missile attack on my country. Unfortunately, my father was traveling through the country, and I was very nervous about his journey. I don't know yet if he is ok.” She fled to Estonia about six months ago.”
French champion Lea Serna, student of Brian Joubert, missed both triple jumps in the short, finished 26th and therefore did not qualify for the free program. Anastasia Gracheva is the first skater to represent the small country of Moldova at an ISU championships. She was 28th in the short program after making several mistakes.
The men’s competition at the European Championships in Espoo, Finland, had a good level, there were several very good performances. New European champion is Adam Siao Him Fa from France with 267.77 points, 12 years after Florent Amodio was the previous French skater to be European champion. Siao Him Fa was born in Bordeaux, France, and his parents immigrated from the island of Mauritius (where a lot of East Asians moved) in the Indian Ocean in the 1980ies. His father is a doctor. Their son had won the Grand Prix in France and Nationals, but was only fifth in his second Grand Prix in Japan and therefore was not in the Final. In the summer he had changed coaches and now lives and trains in Nice with relatively unknown coaches Cedric Tour and Rodolpho Marechal. He works with choreographer Benoit Richaud who moved to Nice (to work also as main coach of U.S. skater Bradie Tennell). Siao learnt from him to lose his shyness and skate with more emotions. Richaud had asked him to improvise extreme and crazy movements in his steps in practice and included some in his programs.
In the short program to “Rain, In Your Black Eyes” by Ezio Bosso, Siao got in the lead by ten points (96.53 points) .His combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop was good, the quad Salchow as well and the triple Axel relatively clean. His three spins and his step sequences were excellent, the step sequence even getting three GOEs of +5 and his components were around 8.7. He commented, “I am really happy about my performance today, it is my first clean short program of the season in an international competition. For all my technical elements I have to stay very calm and focused. When the music goes higher on the steps, I let myself go. I give everything I have, I want to reach 100 points for the short one day.”
He opened his free program, mainly to music by Woodkid, with a good triple Lutz, followed by an excellent combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop, a good triple Axel without much flow after landing and an overturned quad Salchow. Then he fell on the second quad toe loop, but added three more very good triples, three very good spins and two outstanding step sequences, with even some GOEs of +5. His components were around 8.6. He explained, “I am good at hiding my emotions, but I am very happy. It is something to be European Champion. At the end of the program I told myself it was really fun. It was not perfect but I thought at the end I did my best.”
The Italian champion Matteo Rizzo took the silver medal with 259.92 points. Skating to ”La parole lontane” and “Zitti e bueni” by the Italian Rock band Maneskin, his first element was a good combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop, followed by an under-rotated quad loop. His triple Axel and the step sequence were as excellent as two spins, the change foot camel spin was good. His components were around 8.3. He said, “It was very hard for me because the short program is always like a big wall that I need to crush. I love this music of Maneskin and I like the group, I always want to bring something Italian with me around the world. This season I'm trying to put more quads in my programs.”
Rizzo, who is coached by Franca Bianconi and his father and dance coach Valtter Rizzo in Bergamo, opened his free program, the best of the day, to two Rock music pieces by Bruno Mars, with a quad toe loop, but landed it on the wrong foot. His quad loop was clean, six triple jumps and two of the three spins very good and the two step sequences excellent. He generally excells with very good skating skills. His components had an average of 8.7. He explained, “I really worked a lot for this and I’m happy that I proved myself that the work that I did was good. It was also because this is a long-term job, it ends in Milano-Cortina Olympics. There were mistakes, but overall I was happy.”
To the surprise of many people, Lukas Britschgi from Switzerland won the bronze medal with 248.01 points after being fifth in the short program. He has trained in Oberstdorf, Germany, with Michael Huth for years and had been 23rd at the Olympic Games of 2022. He had broken his collarbone at the end of November when he fell from his bike on the slippery road while driving home from practice. But he was fit again. In the short program to “Another Level” by Tyrone Wells, he fell on the quad toe loop, but the triple Axel, the combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, and the four other elements were all very good. The first two elements in his free program to several rock music pieces were very successful quad toe loops, the first one with a double toe loop. Later he performed two good triple Axels, three more very good other triples, a double loop, two very good step sequences and two excellent spins. His last spins only had the basic level because he was exhausted, but happy. His components were around 8.3.
He stated, “I’m just really relieved. Such a program with only four weeks of training. I was completely dying at the end, I had no energy left, but it’s even nicer that I was able to do it. I was off the ice for 4 or 5 weeks, until Christmas. I was practicing hard to get back in shape. Honestly, I never came here with an expectation to medal. My goal was top ten.”
French skater Kevin Aymoz, who mainly trains in Florida with Silvia Fontana and her husband John Zimmerman, finished fourth, earning 240.92 points. He began his short program to “Still Don’t Know My Name” and to “Nate Growing Up”, both by Labrinth, with an excellent quad toe loop, the first quad in competition after his leg injury from early October. His combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop was very good, but then he popped the Axel. The other elements and his skating style were stellar and he was very emotional at the end. His components had an average of 8.8. He said, “I'm really happy. This one is one of the programs supposed to be on the podium of the short. I'm really sad, but that's okay. I just love to share things that I do.”
In his free program, mainly to the soundtrack of “Gladiator”, Aymoz stepped out of his opening quad toe loop as well as of the first triple Axel. His double Axel after the triple Lutz was nearly under-rotated and his triple flip got an edge call. Four more triple jumps were very good, his steps and spins and his style excellent. He commented, “I felt good in the program. I have no regrets about my performance. I am grateful for everything. I’ve been fighting for the podium for four years and I think I have the ability to get there.”
Deniss Vasiljevs from Latvia placed fifth with 236.35 points, skating to the music “Englishman in New York” by Sting in the short program where the student of Stephane Lambiel was even third. He has an exciting way of interpreting, with excellent steps. After falling quite often on the quad Salchow in practice, he preferred to perform an excellent triple flip in the short program instead. The triple Axel was very good as well, but in the combination, the triple toe loop after the triple Lutz was not clean. In his free program, he landed the quad Salchow forward and his choreographic sequence got no points because he had not fulfilled the rule requirements. He also made several jump mistakes, therefore he dropped to fifth place. He said, “It was not the performance I was hoping for. I still don't fully understand the Salchow because I can do it under normal circumstances at home in practice. I still struggle this season to land even one in competition.”
Daniel Grassl from Italy, only fourth at Nationals, finished sixth with 230.83 points. He trained in the Tutberidze team in Moscow for four weeks and two of her coaches came to work with him (and with the Georgian skaters). But he did not want to say if he was allowed to continue in Russia because he is a member of the Italian police. Therefore no coach was officially indicated and no coach was sitting in the kiss-and-cry corner, only the Italian team leader. In the short program, he doubled the Lutz. The triple Axel, the triple-triple combination and everything else was excellent. In the free program, he fell on the quad Lutz, stepped out of the under-rotated quad flip, under-rotated the second triple Axel and got two small edge warnings for his triple Lutzes. Only three triples were clean. He said, “I felt very good in Moscow and my motivation came back. But I felt a lot of pressure because of all the negative comments I got after I went to Moscow. Many people are against me and my decision.”
Nika Egadze, a Georgian-born skater without Russian citizenship, trains in Moscow and came seventh with 220.65 points. In the short he fell on the quad toe loop, but the quad Salchow and everything else was good. In the free, he succeeded to land a quad toe loop, a quad Salchow and five triples more or less clean and only fell on the second quad Salchow. Mihhail Selevko from Estonia is eighth, earning 218.30 points. In his short program combination, he singled the second toe loop after the quad toe loop and stepped out of the triple Axel, but landed a good quad Salchow. In the free, he missed both quads. Andreas Nordeback is the new Swedish champion and came ninth with 212.95 points. He stepped out of the triple Axel in the short, but everything else was good. In the free, six triples were more or less clean, but he doubled two more jumps. He collected a lot of points with his style.
Gabriele Frangipani from Italy came tenth with 211.62 points. In the short, he performed a good quad toe loop combination, but the quad Salchow and the triple Axel were not clean and he fell on the step sequence. He began his free program with a soso quad toe loop, but later fell three times. Valtter Virtanen from Finland is 35 years old and works an as emergency doctor. He has no quad nor a triple Axel, but says this is the best season of his life. He placed 14th with 188.28 points. In the short, he succeed to land a very good combination of two triple toe loops (“the best of my long career”), in the free he landed five clean triples. In his house he and his wife give a home to the Ukrainian skater Kyrylo Marsak who had fled from the Ukraine to Finland after the war started. It was an act of solidarity with the Ukraine. Marsak competed as alternate for Ivan Shmuratko who was injured. He said, “I live there for six months now, we are already like one family.” He finished 21st with 181.98 points after learning the morning of his competition that his former longtime Ukrainian coach had died of cancer.
The competition of the 13 pairs at the European Championships 2023 in Espoo, Finland had no very high level. Nobody had more than 200 points because there were no Russian teams and most pairs made several mistakes.
Moreover, two very good Georgian pairs had split just before Europeans. Anastasia Metelkina & Daniil Parkman and Karina Safina & Luka Berulava (9th at the Olympic Games 2022) had left Russia in the summer very quickly because they also had Russian citizenship and the male skaters were afraid of being drafted for the Russian army. They went to Berlin in Germany and planned to train with Alexander Koenig. But the authorities in Berlin did not let them on the ice. Therefore they went to Oberstdorf, Germany, but this was too far from Koenig’s other job in Berlin. Finally the newly elected federation allowed them to go back to Berlin. But meanwhile, their visa for three months had almost expired and asking for a new visa would have taken too long. Meanwhile Karina Safina got ill and homesick and went back home to Russia. Metelkina & Parkman stayed with Koenig and he even went with them to train in Armenia over Christmas. Then the Georgian federation wanted both pairs to train in Moscow with Eteri Tutberidze, but the male skaters preferred to train with Nina Mozer in Russia. Finally this quarrel ended in a split.
Another good pair was missing, The Spanish female pair skater Laura Barquero had been tested positive for doping during the Olympic Games (she was 11th with Marco Zandron), but no verdict has been published. They were banned from the ice, for 11 months and until last week. They said she might have taken a similar hand cream as U.S. pair skater Jessica Calalang in 2021, who was finally innocent.
The competition in Espoo was a total triumph for the training center of Bergamo in Northern Italy; all three pair medalists train there. The gold medal winners with 195.13 points are Sara Conti & Niccolo Macii from Italy who had been third at the Grand Prix Final. They were the first Italian pair ever to win gold at an ISU championship. They were neither at the Olympic Games 2022 nor at Worlds. In Espoo, in their short program to the Tango Oblivion, six of the seven elements were at least good, including the triple throw loop and the side by side Salchow. The four level elements were even excellent. Only the triple twist (level 2) was not perfect.
Macii said, “We wanted to skate clean and had no big mistakes. We are happy that we made 70 points - the first time in our life in an international competition. Managing the pressure is very difficult because this is the first season that we are collecting a lot of medals. I can’t wait until we do our very best. Our success in the GP series and GP Final gave us really good motivation because we realized that this year we are really competitive. The audience was incredible. And I am really happy to be at this press conference with such good friends for a lot of years.”
They opened the free program to the soundtrack of “Cinema Paradiso” with a triple twist, which was a bit shaky, followed by their jump combination of triple toe loop and two single Axels. Originally they had planned double Axels, but both singled it after seeing that the pairs skating before them were not excellent. The side by side triple Salchow was very good, two lifts as well, but the third one a bit wobbly. The two triple throws (loop and Salchow) and the choreographic step sequence were excellent. Their components had an average of 8.0.
Macii commented, “We are happy about tonight, we had some visible mistakes, especially on the twist. We made a good program, and of course a gold medal. It was a dream to win any color of medal, so winning the goldis like going further. Last year we were seventh, but this year we had the chance of gold. Ice Lab is a Center of Excellence so it’s a very good ice rink, we have everything we need, we have a lot of sessions, we are a big team and we encourage each other. Actually the project of me and Sara started for Milano-Cortina 2026. We’ll try to improve every year, even if it gets tougher when the Russians come back.”
The silver medal with 186.96 points went to their Italian training mates Rebecca Ghilardi & Filippo Ambrosini. In the short program, their triple twist was very good. But they had no individual triple jump and Ghilardi even singled the Axel which was planned double (0 points). She landed the triple throw Lutz on two feet and Ambrosini fell on the step sequence. Therefore they were only 5th in the short. Their free program was better, it was even the best of the pairs competition. Their lifts were excellent, the throws (loop and Lutz) and choreographic steps as well. The twist was O.K., the double Salchow as well. Their only mistake came when Ambrosini singled the third Axel of their jump combination which was planned with three double Axels.
Ghilardi commented, “I think we can say that we are very happy about our performance. We felt the public in this arena and to us. We have already been here in November for our Grand Prix.” Ambrosini added, “We tried to skate with the heart, enjoyed the program and started feeling each other and followed the music.”
Annika Hocke & Robert Kunkel from Germany won the bronze medal with 184.26 points. They also train in western Europe’s leading pair school. In the short program to music by Abba, which was choreographed by Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, they had good speed and six good or very good elements, including a triple throw loop. But Kunkel landed the triple Salchow on two feet and under-rotated it and Hocke stepped out of this jump. Their components were around 7.7. Hocke explained, “We were also happy to see many Italian flags, but even more happy to see a lot of German flags.” Kunkel added, “We knew we were in very good shape. We know we can do all the elements, so it was just in our head to stay calm and show what we can. The audience was super motivating today.”
In their free program, the triple twist, two lifts, the triple throw flip, the combination spin and the death spiral were excellent. The twist and the third lift were good, but Hocke fell on the triple Salchow which was planned as a combination. She touched down on the triple throw loop and both skaters doubled the toe loop. Hocke said, “I am very happy to share the podium with our training mates. At first, I was, of course, a little sad because we couldn't show our best. But after all I had to realize that it's amazing to go home with a medal. Last season we were 13th at Europeans and it's a big step up for us.”
Alisa Efimova & Ruben Blommaert from Germany finished fourth with 173.66 points in their first European Championships together. Efimova is Finnish, but had competed for Russia until 2020 under Tamara Moskvina. Blommaert had competed with Annika Hocke until 2018. In Espoo, twist and throw loop were good, but Efimova touched down a bit on the triple toe loop and their lift was shaky. Blommaert said, “At the lift, she was a bit forward and in practice I would have aborted the lift as this is dangerous especially in the Axel Lasso lift. But here at Europeans I obviously tried everything to keep the lift above my head. It was a shame, but the base level for the lift is still a lot of points (5.40). It's actually my second time skating to Moonlight Sonata. I skated it at the European Championships as a single skater 15 years ago.” Efimova added, “My mom is here as a coach for a Finnish skater.”
They opened the free program with a good triple twist and their three lifts were good as well. But both throws were not clean, he fell on the Salchow, their jump combination was only double toe loop, double toe loop and single Axel. Their connection was not very good and almost no joy of skating was visible.
Maria Pavlova & Alexei Sviatchenko compete for Hungary but both skaters are originally Russians. They are fifth, earning 172.98 points and made no mistake in the short program. But being new the judges did not reward them enough, especially the components of 6.0 were too low. In their free program, she got a q for an almost under-rotated triple Salchow and the third lift was a bit wobbly, but all other elements were very good again, including two good triple throws, a combination of one triple and two double toe loops. The components moved up to 6.4, but this was still too low.
Camille Kovalev & her husband Pavel Kovalev from France came sixth with 169.94 points and competed although she had heavy pain in her leg. In the short program, Camille stepped out of the triple toe loop and the twist was a bit shaky, the other elements were good, the step sequence and the lift even very good. In their free program, the combination of triple and double toe loop was too close to the border and therefore not correct. The two throws were not clean but the other elements good.
The third Italian pair Lucrezia Beccari & Matteo Guarise have trained together only for seven months. Guarise (34) had successfully skated for many years with Nicole della Monica, who had finished her career after the Olympic Games of 2022 to become a full-time police officer. The new team was third at Italian Nationals and seventh in Espoo, earning 152.54 points. In the short program, Beccari’s triple toe loop was downgraded, in the free, he made mistakes on the jumps and she fell on the triple throw Salchow. He commented, “We are a bit disappointed because we can do clean programs. I hit my blade on the Salchow when I took off for the jump. At the moment we have no Russians, but one day they will be back, and for that moment we have to be ready.”
Nika Osipova & Dmitry Epstein from the Netherlands finished on eighth position with 148.94 points. In the short program, she fell on the triple toe loop, the other elements were O.K. In the free, both fell on the triple Salchow. Epstein said, “It's not bad for the first time. But of course we need to train, to work more. It's not my favorite rink, I skated here when I had some problems with my lungs after the COVID.”
Violetta Sierova & Ivan Khobta from the Ukraine placed ninth with 143.72 points. When the war destroyed houses and ice rinks, they fled from home with their coach. In the short program, Khobta fell after throwing his partner on the triple throw loop. In the free, Sierova went down on the same throw, but everything else was clean. Where are their families? Khobta said, “My mother and sister are now in Sweden, and my father is in Ukraine.” Sierova added, “My father is in Ukraine as he can’t leave and my brother went to Sweden.” Coach Pylyp Zalevskyi said, “We want to say big thanks to the German Skating Federation and the club in Chemnitz where we train now. They like to help Ukrainians and we have really good facilities.”
Anastasia Vaipan-Law & Luke Digby from Britain are tenth with 137.49 points. Federica Simioli & Alessandro Zarbo are both Italians, but skate for the Czech Republic. They are on 11th place with 134.02 points. Sophia Schaller & Livio Mayr from Austria are in their first season together. She had been a single skater and he had trained pairs with different girls in Canada. They are 12th with 132.30 points. The brother and sister team of Greta Crafoord & John Crafoord from Sweden had trained in Colorado Springs for some years and now work with Aliona Savchenko in the Netherlands. They ended up 13th and last with 125.86 points.
The level of the ice dance competition at Europeans 2023 in Espoo was high, there were many attractive and technically demanding performances. For the first time in their long career, Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri from Milan in Italy are European champions, this time with 210.44 points. They were proud that they are now in a row with other excellent Italian dance couples like their coach Barbara Fusar Poli with Maurizio Margaglio, Federica Faiella & Massimo Scali and Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte.
In their Rhythm Dance to a Samba, a Rhumba and a Salsa, all five elements were excellent and had mainly GOEs of +3 and +4. The synchronized twizzles and the rotational lift had a level 4, the Pattern Dance Type Step sequence and the Midline Step sequence a level 3. The Choreographic Rhythm Sequence gets no levels, but the Italians’ one even had three GOEs of +5. Their components had an average of 9.2.
Fabbri said, “It was a really nice performance for us, we really felt from the beginning really comfortable on the ice. The audience helped us a lot. We also hoped for a little higher score, but it’s okay. We made quite a few changes. We are a little bit disappointed because we thought that this rotational lift is more musical, it is underlining more the more dynamic music. The first big change was about the music, and it happened after the two Grand Prix. We felt that the last music we chose was not very strong to end a Rhythm Dance. So we've tried to find a new piece of music that could help us to finish the program in a stronger way. It is nice to make new experience every season. This year for all of us it was new to perform choreographic steps in the rhythm dance.” Guignard added, “Our goal is the gold medal. We are here for this medal. We know we are close to the British couple, but we try not to think about it.”
In their free dance, all elements, among them a combination lift, were excellent and had GOEs of mainly +3 or +4 and their components were around 9.3, with some 9.5 as highest ones. After the event, Fabbri commented, “I think the highlight was the Kiss& Cry when we saw the scores. We felt ten kilos lighter. We really felt that the audience participated in our performance. It was a really big help for us to finish the program today.” In the winner’s interview in the kiss and cry corner before the medal ceremony, Guignard & Fabbri said something which the Finnish public liked very much, After Europeans, they planned to take a one-week holiday in Northern Finland, in Lapland.
Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson from Great Britain came close to the Italians and won the silver medal with 207.89 points. They dance in a more modern way and therefore are more crowd favorites than the Italians. In the Rhythm Dance, all five elements were excellent as well. Both partners had a level 2 in their midline step sequence, the other levels were the same as for the Italians and their components were around 9.0.
Fear commented, “It was so electric out there. The crowd immediately got into the program, and we could feel their support and energy, and it was just so uplifting and an honor for us. We always love competing with such wonderful skaters all throughout the year, and we love it here in Finland. For me, it was how loud and supportive. Tthe crowd was very early on because usually it's like towards the end of the program where they really get into it. But right from the start they were clapping, and I just felt really supported out there. I think we're all going to have the same answer that the crowd was amazing today, so supportive and uplifting and I think to have such a positive environment really boosts the performance. So it was a lot of fun for all of us. I’m a huge fan of the new choreographic steps, so I really enjoyed this, and also to be able to stylize the steps and the choreography according to the Latin style, I think it has been a great opportunity to practice that dance and bring it onto the ice.”
In their free dance to the two songs “Born This Way” and “Million Reasons”, both by Lady Gaga, all elements of the British couple were excellent. Highlights were their lifts and the Choreographic step sequence for which they had some GOEs of +5. Their components were around 9.2.
Gibson explained, “It was really amazing to skate in front of a crowd like that. There was a mistake in the steps, and I'm not very happy about that. But it happens. it's competition. But as Lilah said, I think the way that we recovered was really professional and strong.” Fear added, “For me, the choreographic steps were a lot of fun. I think just with the crowd clapping and being able to really take that in and have so much fun ourselves, it's something that will stay in my mind for a while.”
To the delight of the home crowd, Juulia Turkkila & Matthias Versluis from Finland won the bronze medal with 198.21 points. Their speciality is skating in a way that everything, especially the steps, looks easy. They seem to hover over the ice. Their levels in the Rhythm Dance were mixed, but GOEs of +3 dominated and their components had an average of 8.4. Turkkila commented, “Wow! It’s beyond belief what kind of energy you get from the public. We have never skated in this kind of atmosphere before. Personally I was more nervous at the beginning of the week, but once I got here it began to feel better.”
In their free dance, the students of Maurizio Margaglio and Neil Brown used three romantic piano music pieces by Franz Schubert which underlined their elegant and easy-looking style. The lifts had several GOEs of +5 again, but the other elements were very good as well and the components around 8.8. Turkkila commented, “It’s an indescribable feeling. I’m still shaking. I think I’m losing my voice. Amazing, that’s all I can say.” Versluis added, “A highlight for me was during the combo lift when the audience went wild, that was really giving us energy.”
Allison Reed & Saulius Ambrulevicius from Lithuania had not been allowed to participate at the Olympic Games 2018 and 2022 due to the American citizen Reed not getting a Lithuanian citizenship. They had trained with Maurizio Margaglio in Finland for some time, moved to the Montreal school in 2021 and finished on fourth position in Espoo with 195.67 points. They danced to a Mambo, a Rhumba and a Samba, all by Yello, in their Rhythm Dance. Their levels were good, their GOEs were mainly +2 and +3 and their components around 8.4. In their free program to “Insomnia” by the British music group Faithless, all elements were very good or even better, GOEs of +3 dominated and the choreographic lift at the end had two +5.
The new French champions Evgenia Lopareva & Geoffrey Brissaud from France came fifth, earning 191.85 points. They had trained in Russia, Lopareva being Russian, and moved to Montreal when the war began. In their Rhythm Dance to a Rhumba and a Samba, they had the same levels as the Lithuanians, but a bit lower components with an average of 8.1. In their free dance to legendary songs by French singer Edith Piaf, they performed three short lifts instead of one short and one long combination lift, which many top couples had. All elements were very good and had mainly GOEs of +2 and +3.
Nathalie Taschler & Filip Taschler from the Czech Republic, who train in Bolzano and in Egna, Northern Italy under Matteo Zanni, placed sixth with 188.34 points. The brother-and-sister team always skates with a lot of power and speed. Their two Sambas by Shakira and the Rhumba by Enrique Iglesias had the usual levels and mainly GOEs of +2. Taschler said, “We did a little stumble at the end because you want to do more, but we are happy overall. The crowd was amazing.” In their free dance, all elements were very good and the components around 8.2.
The second French couple Loicia Demougeot & Theo Le Mercier of Villars de Lans in France is seventh with 179.96 points. Their elements in the Rhythm Dance were good, the levels as usual. In the free dance, they had a small problem in the combination lift, but all judges gave GOEs of +2 because the couple could improvise a bit. Everything else was fine. Le Mercier commented, “On the initial lift I throw her and I couldn't find the leg. Yeah, it’s an element really at the beginning. So it's hard after to refocus, but pretty okay.”
Maria Kazakova & Georgy Reviya from Georgia moved from Moscow to Italy half a year ago and placed eighth with 175.82 points. They dance in high speed, but sometimes a bit wild and not clean enough. Their elements were good and the components around 7.5. Reviya commented, “Our main hero was our coach Matteo Zanni. He is the person who inspired us, who guided us to the right working path and right thoughts.” In their free dance to “Mad World”, they had good levels and mainly GOEs of +2.
The German champions Jennifer Janse van Rensburg & Benjamin Steffan from Oberstdorf finished on ninth position with 169.17 points. Their levels were mixed, but they made no mistakes. After the Rhythm Dance Steffan stated, “I think it went well. I believe we both felt some nerves but it did not throw us off.” Janse van Rensburg added, “I was skating with the handbrake on in the beginning. But then it came off in the last minute.” In their free dance to “Age of Heroes”, all elements were good and they skated “without handbrake”. Janse van Rensburg said, “It was amazing to skate in front of the audience again.” Steffan, “We are very happy that we made the top ten, I think it means a lot for German skating.”
Mariia Ignateva & Danijil Leonyidovics Szemko, competing for Hungary, placed tenth, earning 167.08 points. She is Russian and he is Ukrainian, which is not easy today. But they finished their elements in good harmony. Victoria Manni & Carol Rothlisberger switched from Switzerland to Italy in 2022 and are 11th with 167.08 points. Mariia Holubtsova & Kyryl Bielobrov from the Ukraine now train in Montreal because the famous club found sponsors who pay their stay and coaches. They are on 12th place with 156.99 points. Ignateva said, “The last year was very chaotic. Now we can say that we almost adjusted our training process.” The second Ukrainian couple of Mariia Pinchuk & Mykyta Pogorielov now train in Austria and ended up 15th with 148.37 points.
At a meeting during Europeans the ISU Dance Committee said that the rhythm for the Rhythm Dance next season is music of the 1980ies. More detailed rules will come out soon.