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Elite European Skaters Return to the Ice

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany

(6 July 2020) In Russia, some rinks opened in late May. One was in Novogorsk near Moscow, but all skaters and coaches who wanted to work there had to stay in a strict quarantine for two weeks in one hotel before being allowed to train. Coach Eteri Tutberidze had stayed with her daughter, the ice dancer Diana Davis (who was fifth at Junior Worlds 2020 with Gleb Smolkin), in Novi, Michigan (where Igor Shpilband works) between mid-March and the end of May. When she returned to Russia, she also had to stay in quarantine, like everybody who has arrived from abroad.

 The second rink for top skaters was in Kislovosk in the Caucasus mountains in southern Russia, near the border to Turkey. Some skaters from St. Petersburg and the school of Evgeni Plushenko went there in mid-June. Plushenko was afraid of infecting himself with the virus in a plane. Therefore he rented a small mobile home in St. Petersburg and drove more than 1,500 miles to the mountains. Some top skaters of Alexei Mishin came in early July. Mikhail Kolyada, one of Russia’s male top skaters, by the way, changed coaches and now also trains under Mishin. He had asked the federation if he could train with Rafael Arutunian in California, but the federation was not willing to pay this training.

 In June more Russian ice rinks opened again, especially far from Moscow because the capital still had many infections.  

In late May, at least two rinks in the French Alps opened again, mainly for national team members of the French federation.

The first rink is in Courchevel, site of the biannual Junior Grand Prix in an altitude of about 5,500 feet near Albertville. Coaches Brian Joubert and Laurent Depouilly came there to work with their students. Among them are Kevin Aymoz and Adam Siao Him Fa. Fa switched coaches, left Joubert and now trains with Depouilly.

The second rink was in the mountain resort of Vaujany near Grenoble where Florent Amodio has his international skating school. The new federation president Nathalie Pechalat asked renowned French choreographer Benoit Richaud to work with several French single skaters. Pair skater Vanessa James still is in Florida waiting to be allowed to train, but she does not know yet if the pair will continue to exist. Her partner Morgan Ciprès sits in France and has to appear in front of the new disciplinary commission of the French federation on July 9 after having sent photos of himself totally naked to two girls in Florida two and half a years ago.      

In Germany one of the rinks in Berlin opened in late April, at the beginning only for five skaters who are national team members and their coaches. The skaters were the two pairs Minerva Hase & Nolan Seegert and Annika Hocke & Robert Kunkel plus the single skates Paul Fentz. Those five skaters had been qualified fort he World championships in Montreal which was canceled in March.

The coaches had to wear masks and everybody was tested. The name and phone number of everybody was registered in order to be able to contact them quickly if one person was tested positive. Nobody else was allowed in the rink, neither parents nor judges nor federation people. Beginning from mid-May ten skaters were allowed, in June more, but not more than ten skaters on the ice at the same time.

In early May, another German training rink for not more than five national team members was opened in Oberstdorf, site of the annual Nebelhorn Trophy in September. This rink is in Bavaria where the rules were a bit stricter than in the rest of Germany. During the first weeks, pairs and ice dance couples were not allowed to train together but only separate with a distance of six feet from one another. Therefore they could not practice any lifts or pair spins, but only basic movements or side by side step sequences.

The mandatory entrance to the rink was different from the mandatory exit in order to avoid skaters coming too close while entering or leaving the rink. They had to change clothes at home because the changing rooms were closed.

In June everything was a bit less strict, because Germany had only a small number of new infections, Bavaria (with a population of 13.5 million) only 30 – 40 per day and between zero and four cases of death. But the border between Germany and Russia is still closed. Therefore the new couple of Elena Pavlova & Ruben Blommaert could not train because she was stuck in Russia and he was stuck in Germany.

The rink in Dortmund has re-opened again as well, therefore the German ice dance champions Katharina Muller & Tim Dieck and some other team members can train there. But Muller & Dieck hope that the border to Russia will open again because their main coach was and is Angelika Krylova in Moscow. They did not exclude that Krylova might come to Dortmund with some of her Russian students for some times if this is easier than travelling to Moscow for Muller & Dieck.   

In Austria, two ice rink were re-opened in early May for national team members: One is in Gmunden near Salzburg and the other one in Telfs near Innsbruck. Both rinks are far from the Austrian capital of Vienna hardly any top skaters live and train there.

Austria’s top skaters, the pair of Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer who were tenth at the World Championships 2019, trained in Gmunden, but during the first weeks without their main coach Knut Schubert. Normally they train in Berlin with him, but the border between Germany and Austria were locked from mid-March to mid-June. Normally there is no control at all at this border. Second problem: At the beginning,  they were not allowed to train together, but only in a distance of two feet although they live together and are a couple off the ice.     

In Britain, the rinks were closed longer than in Continental Europe because the United Kingdom had more cases of Covid 19 than the rest of Western Europe. But there were differences between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Some rinks in Canada opened in early or mid-June, especially the rinks of the Ice dance academy on Montreal. Therefore the dance couples could train again, though with some restrictions. From July 2 on, Canadian tourists were allowed to come to Europe again without two weeks of quarantine, but for Americans and Brazilians, the border remains strictly closed.