Of course, this is a personal, purely subjective list of beautiful, emotional moments in Budapest – as I experienced them, throughout an entire week spent in Syma Sport Centre, hosting this year’s edition of the European Championships. I’ve lived and breathed every second of the event – just like everyone in the arena, figure skating fans from all around the world. And those of you not having experienced a live figure skating competition until know, go get yourselves a present and buy tickets to one; the rest will follow…. Because, let me tell you that, figure skating might be quite addictive. Here’s my short list of joys from Budapest.
by Florentina Tone
1. Carolina Kostner skating on “Ave Maria”. I have rarely lived in a skating arena an emotional experience such as this. Carolina’s new short program, skated on “Ave Maria” and choreographed by Lori Nichol, was one of those moments when you feel blessed to be alive – alive and living something like this. I might seem pathetic – but I’ll take that risk. At the end of her routine – but why am I calling it a “routine”? It was more like a prayer – you felt the need of hugging those around you; and I might have done just that.
But I have to be honest with you: having found out about the change a few days prior to the Europeans – Carolina gave up her short program, skated on “Humoresque” by Dvorak, replacing it with “Ave Maria” – I wasn’t happy at all. I had been truly a fan of the “Humoresque” performance since the beginning of the season. But, my, oh, my, is this “Ave Maria” a masterpiece or what? Seeing it live in Budapest, you just couldn’t resist being amazed by it. So, there, I’ve said it: those were, for me, the most emotional 2 minutes and 50 seconds of the entire European Championships.
2. The happiest ice dancers in Budapest: Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland. You should have seen Penny and Nick at the end of the ice dancing event in Budapest: they were ecstatic about their bronze medal. And you should have seen their coach, Evgeni Platov – two-time Olympic champion with Oksana Grishuk: he was ready to leap out of his skin; that proud he was.
And he definitely had a reason to be that joyful and proud: three years after Sinead and John Kerr, his former students, won the bronze at the Europeans (their second continental bronze, actually), the skaters he now coaches, Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland, won another bronze for Great Britain in the ice dancing event. And Mr. Platov must have something to do with that… As for their free dance, performed on a Michael Jackson medley, Penny and Nick haven’t put a foot wrong; and the public in Syma Arena followed them with enthusiastic cheers all along the routine. One thing is sure: I’m glad I was part of their joy.
3. The most touching free dance of the entire event: Sara Hurtado and Adrià Díaz as Dora Maar and Pablo Picasso. You must know that by now: I’m a fan of Sara and Adrià’s free dance; their personal interpretation of the love story between Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar is absolutely wonderful – and one that I’m looking forward to watch again, at the Olympics. The music of their dance is particularly emotional: the soundtrack of the movie Surviving Picasso and “Le Di a la Caza Alcance”, sang by Estrella Morente. About this song, Sara said, in a interview for Inside Skating:
“«Le Di a la Caza Alcance» made everything possible. We were looking for a piece of music to finish the program strong; all the pieces we had heard were very soft and nothing was fitting the «going crazy» part of the story. One night, I was looking for pieces of music with voice, Spanish voice, and I found this. Something moved me inside when I first heard the song, so I said to myself: This is the song, this is the piece we should use. Next day everybody at the ice rink felt the same, so that was really the song! (…)
The name of the song is even hard to explain in Spanish; it comes from a very old poem from a preacher called San Juan de La Cruz. It talks about reaching for illumination, «After a leap of love, I reached the hunting», «hunting» meaning the looking for love, for faith, for light… And, in a way, the song suits the story very well, because she is looking for Picasso’s love again and she is trying to reach it…”
4. An imperial waltz: Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. You should have seen Maxim while heading for the ice-rink, before the pairs’ short program: serious, focused, wearing his gorgeous suit with confidence and trust; and, entering the ice with Tatiana, he had exactly the same attitude. And at 1.04 minute of the routine, when they successfully finished their series of jumps and throw jumps, they had already conquered the arena – and the Short Program event. Maxim was definitely great, imperial even; just like the king of the castle, leading the first dance of the season with his equally wonderful lady. I do have a soft spot for the Germans, Aliona and Robin, but the Russians’ short program is clearly a masterpiece. And I’m not the only one to think that. Having seen the program in Budapest, figure skating referee and former ISU official Sonia Bianchetti wrote on her analysis of the event:
“Their [Tatiana and Maxim’] short program was a masterpiece, one of the most beautiful programs I have seen in recent years. Skating to their famous «Masquerade Waltz», they executed all their elements in perfect unison and each of them was impeccable and of the highest technical quality. Their triple twist was impressive and their throw triple loop breathtaking. Each element was skated at incredible speed and perfectly in time with the music. Really a piece of art”.
5. The drama and the intensity of the Swan performance: Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov’ free dance. You have to trust my words: till disaster struck (Nikita made some mistakes on the twizzles and Elena fell), this was truly a golden program. Hadn’t she fallen, they would have had the gold medals around their necks. But this particular mistake cost them dearly, and this gorgeous, dramatic, powerful routine – one of my 4-5 favorites of the season – failed to be awarded the continental crown in Budapest. This second European silver must be really frustrating for Elena and Nikita – but I truly hope they’ll find resources to get over it and have the performance of their lifetimes in Sochi, on February 17, when the Olympic free dance is scheduled.
6. Carolina’s Bolero. Yes, you’re right: I’m biased. But, to me, these Europeans have been all about this wonderful Italian skater; and though I was numb with emotion during her performance, I was happy inside I was given another chance – after the Europeans in Zagreb, last year – to see with my own eyes this incredible long program, skated on the famous piece of Maurice Ravel, “Bolero”.
Of course, for the figure skating fans all around the world “Bolero” is forever connected with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean – and the British dancers will mark the 30th anniversary of their iconic “Bolero” performance at the Winter Olympics by skating it again in Sarajevo, on February 13 – but I’m pretty sure that Carolina’s “Bolero” will remain too in the history of figure skating. A powerful, sensual, beautiful Carolina – and a piece of music that suits her like a glove. As for me, I was deeply touched by Carolina’s embracing Adelina Sotnikova, the runner-up at this year’s edition of the Europeans. You should have seen Adelina – Adelinocha, for her friends – in Carolina’s arms; a warm, sincere embrace, as if Carolina had passed her an imaginary torch. And you should have seen me, a few days later, all emotional, congratulating Carolina’s mom, Patrizia, for the wonderful daughter she had raised. How have I recognized Mrs. Patrizia Kostner? Well, actually, from here.
7. Javier Fernandez did it again. Well, let me tell you just that: being a part of the joyful group of Spanish fans at this year’s edition of the Europeans – we shared the same area in Syma Sport Centre – made Javier’s second European gold even sweeter, even happier. You should have seen me – yes, again me – standing up at the end of Javier Fernandez’ long program, all happy and joyful, in a sea of Spanish flags, shaking a green, plushy frog, ready to be thrown on the ice. (I’m being very sincere here – don’t treat me too harsh; I’m a true skating fan, who definitely throws small and colorful surprises on the ice…) And being in Budapest, you would have definitely loved this talented – and very, very modest – skater from Spain, who, at the small medals ceremony, said simply and candidly: “Without the public, we would be nothing”. Fingers crossed for Javi in Sochi: a podium placement for him would be definitely well deserved.
8. A golden bronze for Konstantin Menshov. But the happiest of all, in the men’s event in Budapest, was definitely the Russian Konstantin Menshov. Overlooked by his own federation, who decided last season not to send him at the Europeans and at the Worlds, though he was third at the Russian Nationals, Konstantin had the time of his life in Budapest this year, winning a bronze medal – his first European medal; and, in fact, the most precious medal of his career.
Though he hadn’t been very present in the major ISU competitions – due to a lot of outside factors, as pointed out above – Konstantin and his programs are really loved by the public. In Budapest, the same Spanish group standing next to me raised a banner after Konstantin’s free program, a banner saying “We Love You”; and, actually, a girl from the group had said it previously, loud and clear: “Banner-up! This is the only Russian skater in competition which deserves to have the banner raised!”. As for me, I love Konstantin’s musical choices for this year’s routines: “Coultergeist” by Phil Coulter for the short, and “Allegro”, “Rose” and “Night Run” by René Aubry. And watching them live in Budapest, I’ll admit: I was touched.
9. Zoltan Kelemen’ joy after the short program: priceless. Well, this is definitely one of my dearest moments of this year’s edition of the Europeans: seeing Zoltan Kelemen, the skater representing Romania, all happy and excited after his short program, skated on “Rich Man’s Frug” from “Sweet Charity”. And Zoli definitely nailed a wonderful short program, choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo, in Budapest: he got 68.32 points, a new Season Best for him, and I was ecstatic, cheering and raising a Romanian flag. I’ll have to admit: my legs were shaking long after Zoli’s program had ended; that happy I was.
10. I’ll cheat on that one, listing, in a heartbeat, some of the other beautiful moments of the Europeans: Valentina Marchei during both of her programs – happy, serene, loving what she does; the golden debut of the golden girl (I have this image in my mind: Julia Lipnitskaia waiting for her scores in the Kiss and Cry, with a smile – she does know how to smile – and her hands clasped); the joy of discovering a brand new talented ice dance couple from Russia: Viktoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin; the fluidity, the softness of Aliona and Robin’ short program; the sureness of Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte during their free dance; the enthusiasm of the crowd when Brian Joubert took the ice; the wonderful free program of Pernelle Carron and Lloyd Jones; the elegance of Maxim Kovtun; the fresh-air brought by Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron… and I’ll stop here. Otherwise, this story will become… well, unreadable.