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2012 European Championships
by Sonia Bianchetti
The 2012 European Figure Skating Championships were held in Sheffield,
Great Britain, in the Motorpoint Arena, from January 24 to 29.
Sheffield is a well-known city in the skating world because of its famous
factory producing skate blades.
The championships were very well organised and the atmosphere in the arena
was very much appreciated by the skaters, thanks to the support of an
enthusiastic audience, even if the attendance was very limited except for
the final free skating on Saturday.
In the pairs event, unfortunately, two of the top European couples were
missing. Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia could not
compete because of Smirnov's health problems, and Aliona Savchenko and
Robin Szolkowy, the defending 2011 European champions, had also to
withdraw just before the event started.
The withdrawal of Savchenko and Szolkowy came as a blow on the opening day
of the finals. In performing a pair spin in practice only few hours before
the start of the short program, Aliona aggravated an injury to her left
thigh that she had sustained in a fall on a throw jump during a training
session in Germany a few days before.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov (Russia) won the European title.
They led a podium sweep for the Russian pairs and won their first European
title convincingly. Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov claimed the silver and
Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov took the bronze in their debut at the
European Championships. There has not been a Russian sweep in pairs since
Tatiana and Maxim performed a dramatic program to Black Swan, which
was highlighted by a fantastic triple twist, a throw triple loop and
Salchow, triple toe-loop/double toe-loop and very beautiful and difficult
lifts. The program is very well choreographed and their interpretation of
the music very intense and appealing. Really wonderful and pleasant to
Skating to Doctor Zhivago, Bazarova and Larionov put out a solid
performance that featured a triple toe-loop, high triple twist, throw
triple flip and loop, but Bazarova stumbled on the double Axel sequence.
Their classic skating and the interpretation they offered of their
beautiful and romantic music was very appealing and touching to me.
Stolbova and Klimov, skating to a modern arrangement of Alexander Borodins
Polovtsian Dances from his opera Prince Igor, executed a double
twist, difficult lifts and solid throw triple flip and throw triple
Salchow in their program. Their skating was fast and elegant.
Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek (ITA) came fourth with a beautiful and
elegant program skated to the "Adagio" by Albinoni which was much
appreciated by the audience in the arena. A great achievement, considering
that Ondrej had been seriously ill because of a muscle inflammation and
they got back to training only five days before the championships. It was
a kind of a miracle that they could make it.
The dance event was also very moving.
Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat (FRA) won their second European
title, Skating to a fast Egyptian-themed dance titled "The Pharaoh and His
Mummy", they performed an excellent program that was highlighted by strong
lifts and fast footwork. They captured the enthusiasm of the audience from
beginning to end.
Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (Russia), who had been unexpectedly
in the lead after the Short Dance, won the silver medal for the second
time. Dancing to "Walpurgis Night" from the opera Faust by Gounod,
they skated a good program overall, with difficult lifts, but made a few
errors in the twizzles.
Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (Russia), the 2010 world junior
champions, won the bronze medal, moving up from the seventh place in the
short dance. They executed strong lifts and footwork in their powerful and
touching free dance to "Ave Maria".
Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (ITA) were edged out of the podium by
just 0.03 points, finishing fourth. They gave a strong, very intense and
emotional performance to their touching music from the movie La
The men's event was definitely expected to be the most exciting event with
the comeback of Evgeny Plushenko, 29 years old, the so-called Czar,
two-time Olympic silver medallist (2002, 2010) and Olympic champion in
2006, as well as six-time European champion (2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006
and 2010) and three-time world champion. Plushenko, who was reinstated as
an eligible skater by the ISU in June 2011 on request of his federation,
was also exempted from having to qualify for the ISU Championships in view
of his previous outstanding accomplishments. The excitement was increased
by the internal competition between him and Artur Gachinski, who is
considered Evgeny's successor. They both are trained by the legendary
coach Alexei Mishin.
And the event was indeed exciting!
Plushenko, who placed second in the short program, gave a strong
performance to "Tango de Roxanne", which included a quadruple toe-loop and
seven triples, including two triple Axels. Evgeny's free program was the
only flawless program of the event. The fact he was able to execute a quad
was a kind of miracle because of the serious problems he is having with
his knee. He will have to undergo surgery again in the next weeks.
In spite of this, the Czar was able to give an explosive performance, at
great speed and full of passion. Evgeny was the only skater who really
filled the ice, who was able to communicate all the time with the
spectators in the arena, driving them crazy. Once again he proved to be a
great champion. Welcome back, Evgeny! But a question comes to my mind: why
do we have to rely on the comeback of an old champion to create such an
atmosphere in the arena? Why are the new talented skaters not able to
achieve this? Is there something wrong in the development of the sport?
Artur Gachinski (Russia) won the silver medal. Skating to "Interview with
a Vampire", he started off with a fantastic quad toe-loop/double
toe-loop/double loop combination, another quad toe-loop and five more
triples. His jumping technique is excellent and he had a sparkling
performance. Artur, who is only 18, is definitely a very talented and
promising young skater.
Florent Amodio, the 2011 European Champion, won the bronze medal, moving
up from 5th place in the short program. He performed to "Memories of
Sobral" by Sebastien Damiani Rio. Sobral, a city in Brazil, is where
Amodio was born. Florent doubled his opening quadruple Salchow, but
executed two triple Axels and four more triples. He skated a very
captivating and intense program which was very much appreciated by the
public in the arena.
With this competition, the Russians claimed seven out of twelve medals in
Sheffield. The way is wide open to Sochi!
Unfortunately, Kevin Van der Perren of Belgium had to withdraw before the
free skating because of injury. It was really sad since, as he had
announced, this would have been his last championship. All the best to
If in the men's event there was a Czar, in the ladies' there definitely
was a queen. Carolina Kostner skated in a class of her own both in the
short and the free.
Dressed in her new sparkling silver costume, Kostner placed first, giving
a stellar performance in both the short and the free. Carolina skated a
flawless free program to Mozart's Concerto No. 23 which included five
triple jumps. Her interpretation of the superb music was marvellous. Every
movement of her body, head, and hands was just perfect, creating a great
harmony between the elements she was performing and the music she was
expressing, creating a magic atmosphere. The public in the arena did not
even breathe during her performance and then exploded in a standing
ovation at the end of the program.
Kiira Korpi of Finland won the silver medal with a second place in short
and only a 4th in free. She opened her program to "I Got Rhythm" by
Gershwin with a shaky triple toe-loop/triple toe-loop and completed a
triple Salchow/double toe-loop, as well as strong spins, but the second
triple loop didn't count since she repeated three triple jumps in total.
It is not the first time that such a case has occurred in a competition or
championship. Makarova was faced with a similar situation last year at the
Worlds in Moscow. Although correct according to the present rules, one has
to wonder whether these rules make sense or if they should be
reconsidered. Is it appropriate that in the free program, which has become
everything but free, the skaters are expected to have a computer in their
head instead of a brain? How can we expect the competitors to interpret,
express and live their music with their hearts if their main concern must
be to count the number of positions or revolutions in the spins, or
remember whether they still have the right to repeat a jump or a
combination? Shouldnt the rules, in the free program at least, be a little
The bronze medal went to Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia. Skating to "The
Phantom of the Opera", Helene hit four triples and two double Axels and
was 3rd in free. She performed an excellent program, with good flow and
speed, interpreting with passion her beautiful music.
Polina Korobeinikova of Russia moved up from 12th to fourth with the
second best free skating of the night. She landed seven triples all very
well executed, but what is even more important to me is that, although she
is only 15, she is elegant and she moves beautifully on the ice. A very
young promising talent.
The next important event will be the World Championships in Nice during
the last week of March and the fight for the medals will become even more