European Championships in Graz, Day 4
Turnaround in Free Dance. Sinitsin – Katsalapov take over Papadakis and Cizeron
Four-time World gold medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron had .05 point to spare before the free dance. Russia’s Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov emerged in first place with .14 point over the French, in what appeared as a major outskate through the rink in Graz. After five years at the head of European Ice Dance, Papadakis and Cizeron had to give up their crown.
The French lost a spot, and the Italians, Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri, had to surrender to a Russian team as well, Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, for third place.
Sinitsina and Katsalapov skated a delicious routine to Dvorak’s “Songs My Mother Taught Me”. All their elements were rated a Level 4, except for two step sequences which merited a Level 3. Their One Foot Step Sequence was so fluid, and their curve lift was particularly impressive. “After our Rhythm Dance, we really wanted to bring our program across and deliver a clean performance,” Katsalapov offered at press conference. “That’s what we did. But frankly,” he added smilingly, “we didn’t completely expect to be at the center of this podium!”
They amassed 131.69 points for their free program, a new Personal Best.
Papadakis and Cizeron danced to Forest Blakk’s poem with their usual amplitude, unique glide and dancers’ body movements. They managed to carry their spectators to a different world, where everything is always possible and even time seems endless. No wonder why, after they stopped, one could wonder whether four minutes had really elapsed!
All their elements were rated a Level 4 as well, except two step sequences, just like the Russians: but their One Foot Step Sequence merited a Level 2 (for the lady’s part) and a Level 3 (for the man’s part), compared to a Level 4 and 3 for the Russians, respectively. The Russians added 9.48 points to their tally with that element, when the French scored only 8.31 points for their sequence. The French’s slightly superior GOEs (27.94 points, compared to 27.34 points for the Russians) were not enough to compensate the point difference. Meanwhile, Sinitsina and Katsalapov’s components have caught back and passed those of the French team (58.14 points for the Russians, and 58.10 points for the French). They garnered 131.50 points for their free dance and 220.28 points overall.
“We will gain from it,” Cizeron explained. “This competition also feeds our own path”. “Maybe Gabriella and Guillaume didn’t skate as clean as they should have, but that also proves they still have a lot of potential!” Katsalapov added, quite sportively, during the final press conference.
Stepanova and Bukin skated their program to “Primavera” and “Cry Me a River” with an incredible balance between pure athleticism and strength, and the fluidity of their choreography. Their levels were about equivalent to those of the first two teams, but they didn’t reach the same GOEs and components. “Our program is really made of two parts,” they explained: “one is rather slow, and the other is much more powerful and fast. We work on our technique with our coaches, and then we have other coaches to work on artistic.”
Guignard and Fabbri, skating to “Space Oddity”, delivered a strong performance at great speed, with their trademark proximity as they are skating. Their levels were about equivalent to the others’, except for their Diagonal Sequence, which merited a Level 1 only. They ended in fourth place.
Great Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson moved up one spot to grab 5th place, exchanging places with Russia’s Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro, who ended in 6th place.
Ladies Free: the Moscow monopoly continues
Alena Kostornaia, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova confirmed their podium sweep in Graz. Kostornaia amassed 240.81 points overall, Shcherbakova won the free and garnered 236.76 points and Trusova, 225.34 points.
Kostornaia hit the stars again, with her program to “New Moon” and “Supermassive Nova”. She landed two triple Axels, a triple loop, and two impressive triple – triple combinations. She fell heavily on the last triple Lutz of her program, but didn’t let herself down to attack her two last spins. She amassed 155.89 points for her free. The 10 points margin she had from the short program allowed her to stay in first place.
“I didn’t think I would be the European Champion,” Kostornaia offered as she left the ice. “My free program had a few mistakes. I was thinking that I would award a C grade to myself, but I’m happy (I could win) on my first season. Falling on the Lutz, I imagined that I was going to lose by .03 point, so I just continued to skate my best!”
Shcherbakova won the free program by almost four points over Kostornaia. Her program, set to Erik Satie’s first Gnossienne and Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird, included an incredible quad Lutz – triple toe combination, then a quad flip (which was deemed underrotated), but she fell on her other quad Lutz, as she had through her morning practice session. She landed two more triple – triple combinations to amass 159.81 points for her free program, the best of the day. “I was surprised and upset to fall. I’m happy tonight but… I need to work more,” she said.
Trusova did not fare as well as her teammates. Not only did she skate slower, but she also fell while landing her opening quad Lutz, and later her quad toe. She managed to regroup, however, and hit two solid triple – triple combinations to garner 150.39 points for her free program. “It was really hard for me to bring everything together for these last two competitions. It’s mostly a mental question. Anyway, I want to keep on jumping all the quads whatever will be going on,” she offered.
At the end of the competition, European Ladies skating proved it was organized in two different categories: those three amazing gymnasts on ice would form one category, and the rest of the field, the other. Swizerland’s Alexa Paganini, who ended a brilliant and most entertaining program to “La La Land” and won a deserved fourth place, amassed 192.88 points, some 47.93 points behind Kostornaia! Azerbaijan’s Ekaterina Ryabova and Finland Emmi Peltonen, who ended 5th and 6th, respectively, garnered 58 points behind Kostornaia!
The champions’ image
Right after the entrance door of the official skaters’ hotel, you find a huge poster with Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron’s photo to greet you, in front of the picturesque city of Graz.
The regular bus line which brought the skaters from their hotel to the rink and back was just unloading its pack of stars after the last practice in the practice rink Friday. They all entered into the official hotel, and you could all at once witness Papadakis and Cizeron facing their own picture. You then kind of wondered: what were the poster stars and what were the human ones? Of course, the five-time European Champions didn’t even pay attention. The ice sheet acts like a mirror, especially when the ice has just been resurfaced. Sometimes, when you are a star, the world also offers you like a mirror.
Swiss watch… Shoma
The world has discovered around Christmas that Japan’s Shoma Uno had finally found his home: he is now training in Champéry, in Swiss great Stéphane Lambiel’s skating School. Stéphane Lambiel has very gracefully accepted to give Patinage Magazine one of his great interviews and talks about his plans for his protégés. You’ll find it in the next issue of the Magazine (N°161). Subscribe!
Alexandra Trusova (call her Sasha!) made an error on her double Axel in the short program Friday. “The double Axel is an easy jump,” she offered, “But I want to do a triple Axel so badly. Sometimes I land it, but not always. I want the hardest possible content, otherwise I make mistakes on the easier things,” she explained. Of course! Always shoot at the stars if you want to reach the moon!
Triple A pets
Alena (Kostornaia), Anna (Shcherbakova) and Alexandra (Trusova), a.k.a. “Triple A”, spent more time talking about their pets than about their skating during the press conference, Friday night. Sure you want to know? Alena has three dogs, one cat and a rabbit. “They are all fine and they get along well with one another,” she said. You’ll be happy to read that Anna’s “Boni had problems but it’s getting better, and the cats are in top fighting form,” she said laughingly. And of course, that Sasha’s “dog Tina has travelled with (her). Lana is at home with Chloe the cat. Lana is very funny, she wanted to come here as well. Chloe is a cat, so (she) thinks it doesn’t matter to her.” Those girls…
Huge thanks to the volunteers!
Those who think that volunteers are just there to enjoy skating… Are wrong. We had a definitive proof at these Championships, as only half of them could make the trip. The difference was most notable! Volunteers are doing an incredible job: they welcome the skaters as they leave the ice and get their first impressions, they publish those “quick quotes” quickly enough for us to use them in our articles, they copy the planned program contents in due time as well as the result sheets, and they always greet you with a huge smile to give you joy for the day. Thank you to Solène, Claire (the two French skaters from Asnières), Michèle and Victoria, Alexandra and all the others who make every effort to speak your language, under the supervision of Rüdiger (in the Mixed Zone) and our fantastic colleague, Tatiana Flade (for the Quick Quotes, among so many other things!). A thousand thanks to all the volunteers who made the trip to Graz. And to those who couldn’t, … Please come back! We need you!