Years and years from now, when thinking about 2019 Europeans, what will come to your mind first?
You know the answer to this one: King of Europe saying goodbye to his people, loyal friends and fans.
Goodbye and Thank you.
It goes both ways, of course, since we in Europe have lived a long and happy life during King Javier’s time.
We’ll remember our champion, and he’ll remember us. He said it best, in Minsk, when asked why he had chosen Europeans to be his last competitive event.
“The Europeans is more like my house”.
And our hearts were filled with pride and joy.
And everyone in Minsk – skaters, coaches, journalists and fans – understood just how special this farewell moment was.
And the excitement, the emotional turmoil of having Javier Fernández skate competitively for the very last time – undoubtedly, the highlight of the entire Championships – was surrounded by so many other heartwarming moments happening in Minsk.
It was as if a celebration required so many other celebrations, more like a multi-coloured bouquet of emotions: Sofia Somodurova’s genuine joy, enthusiasm, when knowing she has won the ladies’ crown, the layer of noblesse, the precious, beautiful patina of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the first ice dance team in history to win Europeans for five times in a row, the royalties Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès have become, their sureness, confidence while going for the gold in every competition they entered so far this season.
And here we are, adding up the layers, one after the other, to build a bigger story, encompassing them all. Remember though: emotions are subjective, and so is this recap.
Selection & story by Florentina Tone, with photos by Natasha Ponarina
At 16:41 local time, on Wednesday – the first official day of competition – Russia’s Sofia Samodurova takes the ice. She skates to “Nyah” by Hans Zimmer – iconic music for the ladies – and that’s a stunning skate. Plus: her jumps are textbook-Mishin, and by that we mean powerful, impressive.
And she looks a lot less cautious than in the beginning of the season, she looks freer – she got used to the big stage – and the thin-air of the heights, of major competitions, does her good.
At the boards, Alexei Mishin exchanges looks with somebody nearby – the “I told you so, I told you she is golden” kind of looks.
And a sea of Russian flags accompanies Sofia’s debut at the Europeans.
With 72.88 points, a season best, and with the highest technical score of the day, she finishes the SP segment of the ladies’ event on the second place.
And she is happy. Very happy.
“Right now I feel as if I’m still dancing on the ice, so I suppose I just need some extra time to calm down”. She’ll calm down alright – but, two days later, she’ll once again taste the sweet taste of euphoria.
Ladies SP. HONORABLE MENTIONS. What a debut from Ekaterina Ryabova at the Europeans. Representing Azerbaijan and training with Alexander Volkov and Evgeni Plushenko at Plushenko’s Academy in Moscow, she showed character and grit – and a great set of jumps, plus a Biellmann – while skating to “Puttin’ On the Ritz”. She finished the SP segment of the ladies event on the 7th place. * Bulgaria’s Alexandra Feigin is truly a revelation. Beautiful jumps, beautiful flow during her SP in Minsk, one that surely made her coach proud (Andrei Lutai), one that made her choreographers proud (Ina Lutai, Albena Denkova, Maxim Staviski). * And what a lights-out triple Lutz-triple Toe at the beginning of Viveca Lindfors’ program to “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” by Andrew Lloyd Webber. So much power, speed in her skate. *
We at Inside Skating have such a soft spot for Emmi Peltonen – such a gorgeous skater she is, with wonderful musicality and detailed, intricate programs, choreographed by Mark Pillay. The short one, to “Caruso”, is a joy, and she’s a giver, she’s so, so able to emote. * And Stepháne Lambiel’s dancing hair, while Emmi is dancing on the ice, is also a beautiful reward for those watching the event (and replays) on TV. *
Alina Zagitova’s short program is like a 100-meter hurdles run – that difficult it is, that fit you have to be to pull it through. And she is fit, she is prepared – and she leads the way in Minsk. “Alina, molodets!”, voices of young girls surrounds her, as the Olympic champion is heading to the Kiss and Cry. * Alexia Paganini’s short program flew by in a second. Technically flawless – but not just that: she embraced the character, Maria de Buenos Aires. And that short program at Rostelecom Cup last November gave her a world of confidence, and found its pair in Minsk.
A (VERY) PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT. You know what? Romania’s Julia Sauter really earned her place in the ladies’ FS with that excellent short program to (the very suited) “Earned It”. Powerful, in the character of the music (the dress, the smile, the lipstick, the attack), and with a great technique. And so ready, so well trained. Kudos to coach Marius Negrea as well – and hats off to them both for their efforts. She’s 14th heading into the free skate – and that’s a personal victory for Julia.
Plus: she did what she needed to do in order to qualify for the Worlds in Saitama – and student and coach are happy in the Kiss and Cry.
“To be honest, I have been doing that program in training for two months now with no mistakes. I just didn’t want to have that feeling again of not making it into the final because I knew I was capable of it, and it finally showed. It just took me five years to do it”.
She was 35th in 2015, 27th in 2016, 25th in 2017, 29th in 2018.
And she has now surpassed the barrier – and went flying into a part of competition she never knew before.
CLASS, POWER, COMMAND
Russia’s Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii have been one of the highlights of the season – and a proof Tamara Moskvina is still a pairs’ guru. And in Minsk Arena, in their first ever Europeans, they surely didn’t disappoint.
Their jazzy “Dark Eyes” short program is impressive – you knew they had it in them – and they’re here for a medal, no doubt about it. Their side-by-side spins even became a popular gif on twitter after the event – that good it was. And they had such a good ally in their European debut: the audience, who responded enthusiastically to their skate. Dmitrii: “The atmosphere was amazing, we felt like we were skating at home, with all the Russian flags in the stands”.
And Dmitri will also describe their short program – and the story of it: “Natalia Bestemianova suggested this music and, together with her husband, Igor Bobrin, she choreographed this program for us. The character is a bit different from the original gypsy idea [of this music]. In the program, I am not a gypsy, but an aristocrat. I’m having a good life and don’t really have too much to worry about, and I can allow myself all kind of enjoyments. On one party, I find some distraction, while the gypsy girl follows her own interests. So, in the whole program, Sasha seduces me and I’m not offering too much resistance”.
This is Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès’ eight Europeans – and you feel this one is theirs. They feel it too – ’cause they breathe power, confidence while skating to Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited”.
They might have been uninvited to the party of the best in the past – but it’s definitely not the case now: what they’re showing is sheer class, sophistication, and we’re addicted to their short program, we’re addicted to them, and this image of power they project.
The winning formula to their matching energy and speed?
Morgan: “It’s called practice and work, that’s it. We work hard every day. We know what we want, we know our goals, and today for us was a reflection of our practice at home”.
Don’t dare to count them out: Italy’s Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise look like a brand new team this season. So improved in all areas – and so confident – and we love their new (game) face.
Study-case: their short program to Joe Cocker’s “Never Tear Us Apart” – rightfully followed by a small bronze medal in Minsk.
Nicole: “We are very happy about our performance today. We were ready – we are ready for this competition, and we did what we were ready to do from our practice at home. Nothing special and nothing more”. Mateo will add a couple of details about the working process – it’s not that easy as it may seem: “We push every day to our maximum, every movement, with our choreographer screaming at us, Stronger, faster, stronger, faster, push, push!, and you keep falling and falling – then one day comes when you stay on your feet and skate a good program, when you can show not only good skating, but good emotions, and I think that is the only way”.
Pairs SP. HONORABLE MENTIONS. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov: not technically perfect, but coming back to last season’s short program was a good decision, and Rachmaninov really does them good. They just need to adjust to it – to the mood and overall composition – once again. Evgenia: “Returning to last year’s short program was a shared choice and the reason for it was that we felt the program was more powerful to skate – we really liked it more compared to the one from the start of this season”.
* When skating meets rhythmic gymnastics: we loved seeing Melitina Staniouta in the stands of Minsk Arena: the Belarusian gymnast is a three-time World all-around bronze medalist, and the winner of many other World Cup and Grand Prix medals. And the cameraman loved Melitina as well – and so we saw her in the stands, all beautiful and smiling, almost every single day.
’CAUSE THE GIRL, SHE’S HIDING HORNS…
Kévin Aymoz’s short program – to “Horns” by Lick Twist and Bryce Fox – has been a hit among the skating fans this season, and deservedly so. And that was a devilish performance from the French in only his second Europeans.
And we were SOLD. Because the level of energy in everything was just fantastic – with this young man, there’s no such thing as backing away.
“Imagine with the Axel…”, he says to Silvia Fontana in the Kiss and Cry, after seeing the scores (88.02 points, a season best). “For Worlds”, Silvia says. “You have to save something for Worlds”.
For now, he ran away with our attention. And with Javier Fernández’s attention as well: “Skaters are not just jumps, but they are about complete skating. There are some skaters I have seen – like this boy [Kevin] who I see is like this – and I am proud of them”.
Now that was a different Mikhail Kolyada, exuding confidence in Minsk, in his fourth Europeans. And he had never started Europeans with such a skate before, a statement of power and his intentions. A skate that was finally a match to his potential.
And people following him for years, and seeing him struggle in so many major competitions, were definitely thrilled to see him skate like that. And he was too. Happy, but, above all, relieved: he can do it, he can deliver a perfect skate under pressure.
And his face in the Kiss and Cry was more than telling.
And he scored over 100 points for the first time in his career – 100.49 points, to be precise – and became the overnight leader in Minsk.
But he doesn’t dare to jump with joy, it’s still very early for that: “It is important now not to let out the emotions, I need to keep them for the free”.
Men SP. HONORABLE MENTIONS. What a skate for Adam Siao Him Fa, Brian Joubert’s student, at Europeans. And he’s a cat – saw how he saved the landing of the Lutz? Plenty of energy, plenty of talent. “When I was little, I dreamed about being at Europeans, and now here I am. When I took the ice for the warm-up and saw the crowd, it was just a «wow» moment. And also during my skate I heard the audience clapping and cheering for me, this was extremely motivating”.
* We’ll only say that: remember this name: Daniel Grassl. Such a talent he is – and this peculiar short program, to music by Ezio Bosso, choreographed by Benoît Richaud, suits him like a glove. Like one of his sparkling gloves. Wonderful debut at Europeans, with a quad Loop atop of everything.
* Europe has plenty of talent(s), no doubt about it. Take Daniel Samohin as an example – what a passionate skate, with his heart on his palms. Matching the passion in Il Volo singers’ voices. * Landing of the Lutz aside, that was a feathery, beautiful skate from Matteo Rizzo in Minsk. And there’s a reason why he was one of last season’s revelations. With him and Daniel Grassl, Italy has gold in its hands. * Alexander Samarin: his skating has power ingrained in it, and it’s so, so visible in his short program this season. And the quad Lutz-triple Toeloop is a part of that power. * Sweet, buttery addiction – Deniss Vasiljevs’ short program, to “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone”, is like celebration of the beauty of skating. *
Javier Fernández’s competitive season was a blank page until January 24 – but he filled it with charisma, character in Minsk while skating to “Malagueña”. Not a perfect skate, but perfection lies in the eyes of those watching – and we in Europe love our champion. Good start of his 13th Europeans, good start of his campaign to win the seventh title. And to have such a skate after three weeks of training (you read that right) shows just how much champion material is in Javier Fernández. And just how much will miss him in future competitions.
“WE’VE DREAMT OF THAT FOREVER”
Watching them skate to “Wicked Game” and “The Last Feeling” in Minsk Arena, you know Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès are ready to take on the world. And not just the Worlds in Saitama, but the world of pair skating as we know it. They are special, they are royal.
With 149.11 points, a season best, for their free skate, and 225.66 overall, they go into the lead. They’ve done their part, and while the camera moves to the next competitors, Evgenia and Vladimir, you hear Vanessa in the Kiss and Cry: “Whatever happens…”
Whatever happens, they’re happy with how they skated.
In just a couple of minutes, they’ll know they had done enough.
And apart from making some personal history – this is their first European title – they also won a pairs gold for France for the first time in 87 years: Andrée Joly and Pierre Brunet took the title in 1932, in Paris.
Vanessa: “We’ve dreamt of that forever. I am so happy and proud, I can’t even find words to express how much”, with Morgan adding: “We’ll keep going, to hopefully win more titles”.
This season has been golden, has been theirs: gold at Autumn Classic, gold at Skate Canada, gold at Internationaux de France, gold at Grand Prix Final, gold at Europeans. Where will the road take them? Will see that at the end of March.
Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov might have not been able to defend their European crown this year in Minsk, but they finally had a free skate highlighting their lines, their elegance.
And them skating to “The Winter” by Balmorhea has been one of our personal highlights at this year’s edition of the Europeans.
And, on the long term, identifying their personal style, the music and the programs that really work for them – now that’s an essential step in their career, even more so than a medal.
You knew they had the innate qualities for the sport, the school of skating and Russian pairs tradition – after all, they had won a medal in every Europeans they had been a part of, with two gold medals in the last two seasons – but what they seemed to lack was their own voice.
And they did find it with this free skate – and, hopefully, they’ll stick to the discovery.
Pairs FS. HONORABLE MENTIONS. Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii are a sparkling pair. Literally and, even more so, figuratively. And apart from Dmitrii’s mistake on the combo, their “Nutcracker” free skate was a joy. Dmitrii himself will comment on it, especially when knowing they’ll leave Minsk with a bronze medal in their pockets: “It’s a miracle. Fate has forgiven me today – it gave me a scare and then it has saved me. It is truly a miracle. (…) I would like to say that my partner is amazing, she skated the program perfectly today and so overall we can be happy”. * With or without a medal at the Europeans (they finished on the 4th place), Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise look so confident and so improved – they leave Minsk knowing they put a good fight out there. And they are among the very best.
We’re just in awe of these two: Finland’s Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis. And we think they have a wonderful future ahead, bright and shiny. More like her red, embroidered dress, while skating to tango and flamenco. And have you seen her posture? She’s a star, really. And we know where this came from: at age 6, Juulia started studying ballet at the Finnish National Opera.
And we have an eye on her ever since she was a firebird.
In Minsk, in their first Europeans, Juulia and Matthias ran away with everyone’s attention. And coach Maurizio Margaglio looked really pleased: “Very nice, that’s what you’re working for”.
What a rhythm dance, as if they had wings, from Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson. Stunning performance, to tango and flamenco – and especially to Gipsy Kings’ “Volare” –, done with speed, power, character. And the coaches in Montreal really bring out the best in their students – just look at the British and their recent progress.
And this red dance really makes them stand out.
And they know it too.
Lewis: “We went for the flamenco and the tango for our short dance which is very high energy; in fact, our free is very high energy as well, they’re both very intense. We changed the first half of our music [in the RD] and then we just kept changing things and, by the end, actually all the elements were different. We found out from the reception to our free dance that, as a team, our strength is being very upbeat and lively, so we found another piece of music to reflect that so that we could get our personality across immediately rather than just in the last piece of music. It was so reassuring to have the crowd responding to it and behind us, especially at the end, where they really kept our energy up”.
This right here is the very definition of a tango, power and all – and Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri are finally where they belong: in contention for podium in Minsk.
We actually would have had them on second place at the end of the day (scores had them on third) – that impressive their rhythm dance was, that much they were involved in the music, the story of it.
From start to finish, that was thrilling, goose bumps-giver.
And Marco summarized well: “I think we skated our best performance. Scores don’t always tell the truth. Sometimes you feel you skated better, but you get less. Sometimes you feel you didn’t skate that well, and you get more points. This time we felt we skated our best. The best rhythm dance of the season and the best score, so it’s great”. And the Grand Prix Final bronze medal was definitely a confidence boost: “We realized we can compete with the best couples in in the world”.
The tension, the contrast between power and subtlety, the array of nuances. We don’t know how they do it, but Gabriella Papapakis and Guillaume Cizeron are better than they ever were.
And starting with this post-Olympic season, the French don’t look like a team that will ever lose a rhythm dance to someone else. This particular tango, choreographed by Christopher Dean and danced to the fingertips, is the best proof. And, performance-wise, maybe the best they ever skated.
And a bouquet of red roses found its way into Gabriella’s arms, “to match your lipstick”, Marie-France smiled while handing it.
They liked the rhythm dance style for this season, Gabriella would recall: “We were really happy when we found out that the Tango was the style for this year, and we took a lot of pleasure when putting together the choreography. I think it’s a style that works well in skating, with the speed and the glide. It also gives a lot of room to express ourselves with the dance and the mood, but also doing it with a lot of speed and fluidity. That’s how we like to skate”.
With 84.79 points – a season best, and also a World record – they flew into the lead, leaving a teal breeze behind.
Rhythm dance. HONORABLE MENTIONS. Now that was a surprising combination of styles in their rhythm dance at Europeans – with tango in the first part, and then street dance in the rest – but one that was done with a lot of energy, conviction. And Sofia Evdokimova and Egor Bazin’s place is really in the last groups. * Wonderful edge work from Adelina Galyavieva and Louis Thauron while skating to flamenco and tango in Minsk. And there’s Anjelika Krylova with them in the Kiss and Cry – they really learn from the best. And Anjelika, big smile on her face, seems really pleased: “It’s the best performance that we did, I really enjoyed it”. * Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz looked a bit more cautious than in the beginning of the season – quite understandably, there are a lot at stake at Europeans, including a trip to Worlds – but this tango is fire, it is. And one of our favorite rhythm dances this season.
* Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin: that was a display of power in Minsk, in their fifth Europeans – and an impressive score (81.37 points) to reward their efforts. Alexandra: “Ice dance is when you show your emotions, your theatre, your show and the technical part at the same time. This is what our sport is about”.
BURLESQUE: LET’S SHOW THEM HOW IT’S DONE!
We’ll call it now: artistry-wise, the most rewarding moment in the ladies event at this year’s edition of the Europeans was Emmi Peltonen’s free skate. She becoming one with Sayuri, in “Memoirs of a Geisha”.
The openness, the aura, the beautiful nuances in every move – and that Ina Bauer, with its dramatic ending, that made our heart stop for a second.
We knew her skating beforehand, but Emmi’s overall presence in Minsk has been our biggest discovery, our biggest joy. And she’ll be a podium contender once she solves whatever it might bother her, jump-wise, mentally-wise.
With her, the key-word is potential. The huge potential in her, her programs, her coaching team. And those might be the steps for a great future.
What a comeback free skate from Stanislava Konstantinova – she just put the short program aside, and came back to fight. And she did that with an emotional journey into Anna Karenina’s life and death. Receiving in return a well-deserved standing ovation.
“I wanted to skate calmly, feel the music” – and she did just that. And her free skate was, in terms of scores, second of the day. And Stanislava finished fourth overall.
Viveca Lindfors has fire in her eyes, you see it from the very start of her free skate to music from “Les Misérables”. So determined she is, and so focused.
She has great jumps, great attitude – and the ability to seize the opportunity.
And nerves of steel. And power to overcome a back ache giving her a hard time even in the six-minute warm-up before the free skate.
A package worthy of a European bronze medalist, we’ll find out minutes later – when Viveca closed a seven-year gap, between Kiira Korpi’s silver medal in 2012 and her bronze medal in 2019.
And she could have even got the silver – and, in our eyes, she might have done just that.
In any case, she’s happy: “It’s a big personal victory for me since figure skating has taken such a big step forward since our last medal. I feel that it was a big accomplishment to have been able to reach the top three at the European Championships. I will try to keep up with the level of technical difficulty of the top skaters in the world. I haven’t set a limit on myself. I will keep on working”.
Burlesque-style: Ok, Sofia, let’s show them how it’s done!
Sofia Samodurova had the skate of her life when it most counted. And she had a terrific season so far – and, as of January 25, she’s also Queen of Europe.
And her rising to the occasion was the big moment of the day – and one of the highlights of the entire Championships. And we still remember the noise in the arena when she stopped – the ending pose and the Hurray-s.
In the Kiss and Cry, when the scores show up (213.84 points overall), and then the confirmation, she can’t help but sobbing.
“I am overwhelmed by emotions now, I can’t find words to describe what I am feeling. I am European Champion and that’s so awesome. My coach told me to stop crying, but I can’t, these are just my sincere emotions”.
Ladies FS. HONORABLE MENTIONS. What an intricate, peculiar free skate by Ivett Toth at Europeans – the choreography by Benoît Richaud is such a good match to Ivett’s talent.
* So much to admire in Yasmine Kimiko Yamada – we liked both her SP and FS in Minsk. * Really, really proud of Julia Sauter’s free skate at Europeans. Romania is lucky to have her – such a beautiful, expressive skater, constantly making progress. And that was really a good edition of Europeans for Julia and her coaching team. She finished 14th, a historical 14th – the best performance of a Romanian (lady) skater at Europeans in the history of the country. Roxana Luca finished 15th in 2005.
ONE JOURNEY ENDS, ANOTHER ONE BEGINS
Such a revelation Vladimir Litvintsev is. Feel for the music, beautiful jumps, thrusting himself in the air and spinning like a peg-top – and talent in its purest, rawest form. A ballet dancer on ice – and one that kept the “The Nutcracker” program going, in spite of its mishaps, only through his presence.
We’ll definitely keep an eye on him – this young man born in Moscow and representing Azerbaijan was among our biggest discoveries at this year’s edition of the Europeans.
We’ll also leave this here: Vladimir is 17 and one of his coaches is Vladimir Kotin, four-time European silver medalist in the ’80ties.
Matteo Rizzo’s free skate in Minsk, beautiful, generous, heartwarming, to Freddie Mercury’s voice, was a #Europeansmoment we won’t easily forget.
First of all, because Matteo truly is a wonderful performer – we all lived and enjoyed his breakthrough season, and his catching enthusiasm in PyeongChang last year – but now he’s stepping up, as expected, adding a quad in his jumping arsenal.
And boy, oh boy, his quad Toe right at the beginning of his long program in Minsk was a beauty. And paved the way for what eventually turned out to be a bronze medal-performance.
“As I reached the end of the program I was really giving everything I had inside”, Matteo shared right after the skate. His father burst, eyes filled with pride: “Quadruplo spettacolare”.
[He’ll be even prouder an hour and a half later.]
But opening group 3 of men (out of 4), with 11 skaters still to go, a medal didn’t seem like a possibility.
Well, it turned out that it was.
And you should have seen and heard the enthusiasm among RAI commentators in Minsk, coach Franca Bianconi as a guest, dancer Anna Cappellini nearby – and a video with their reactions at the moment became viral on twitter.
Matteo was stunned too: “Going from 10th to 3rd place was kind of incredible, and I’m really proud of myself and the work me and all my team have done. There are no words to describe my emotions right now, just enjoying the moment and looking to the future”.
And then he added quickly, smiling to his ears: “I think I will enjoy my future, actually”.
When the final group of skaters enter the ice for their warm-up, eyes are naturally drawn to Javier Fernández.
His skating does that to people, keeps them glued.
But, apart for all tens of reasons to watch Javier, this day – January 26, in Minsk – bears a special significance, and everyone is so very aware of it: the Spaniard will skate competitively for the very last time, and so eyes, all eyes in the arena and in front of the TV-s around the world, don’t want to miss a thing. They just want to be filled with as much Javier as possible, to fight the forthcoming nostalgia.
They also need to fight the tears – one journey ends for Javier, for all of us, and another one begins.
For now, the cameraman looks for familiar faces in the stands of Minsk Arena – and there you have Javier’s mom and dad and sister and girlfriend waiting, smiling, waving flags.
It’s an emotional wait, hearts trembling, hands trembling.
And when he starts to skate, you know: this program to “Man of La Mancha” – a work of art choreographed by David Wilson and brought to life by Javier in his Olympic journey and now, during his farewell – represents the very essence of his skating.
A program that encapsulates all of his qualities, and shows him exactly as he wants to be remembered: a complete skater. “Man of La Mancha” is Javier’s apotheosis, if you wish.
And you don’t need to be a fan to see it, and acknowledge it. That obvious it is.
Brian Orser said it best a while ago, in an interview for Inside Skating: “Javi is like our poster child for what we believe in skating. I say we, I mean Tracy Wilson and myself”. And they believe – and so do we – in “beautiful skating, skating skills, effortless skating, transitions, choreography that makes sense, a blade that runs across the ice beautifully”.
And how lucky we have been.
And Javier will leave his thoughts on the table right after the free skate: “I hope people will think of me as a different type of skater, a more complete skater than the ones we are supposed to have. Skaters are not just jumps, they are about complete skating. I hope I have left something like that in figure skating”.
That, and seven European titles, two World crowns, an Olympic bronze medal – and tens of other medals in his 21 years of skating.
That, and continuously making history for Spain.
And his legacy will still be of use for a higher purpose: “I’m proud of what I’ve done, and I still have a lot of work to do to make it even better, in my home, for figure skating”.
Men FS. HONORABLE MENTIONS. There’s so much to admire in this young man representing Estonia, Aleksandr Selevko. We’ll hear more about him, we’re sure. * Such a glorious long program from Italy’s Daniel Grassl. Quad Lutz, quad Loop, flexibility, peculiar choice of music and choreography – and he moved up from ninth place to fifth in his debut. * Kévin Aymoz: all energy into his (contemporary) free skate at Europeans, and hearts on his palms. Coaches are proud, and we’re proud of him as well. And may this be just the start of a sensational road for him. He does have what it takes.
OH, LOVER, HOLD ON
This dance, this dance, like a sweet embrace, like a warm blanket to cover your heart with.
In their third Europeans as a team, Sara Hurtado and Kirill Khaliavin skate to Pink Floyd, Max Richter and Harry Styles – now that’s an intriguing combination of styles – and run away with our attention.
That beautiful they are, that emotional, and that convincing.
And they keep climbing the (European) rankings: from 13th in their first appearance, in 2017, to 8th last year, and now 7th. And that, combined with their National title, offers them the ticket to the Worlds in Saitama.
Still, their skate wasn’t about that, Kirill will point out right after the free dance: “We’re incredibly happy just about our performance, because it is not our goal to compete with the other Spanish team. If we had skated poorly and beat them – that absolutely would not have made us happy. I am glad that we skated clean, that we did what we’ve been doing in training”.
Now doubt about it, Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov have the perfect “vehicles” this season: one of the most intricate tangos out there (too bad about Nikita’s fall on the twizzles in Minsk), and a flowing, airy free dance to Bach and Kreisler, one that emphasizes their beautiful, long lines, the overall qualities of their skating.
And this free dance in particular was one of the highlights of the whole event – you felt free and happy while they skated, you felt grateful for them having a dance that showcases their potential, and, above all, for them finally skating to that potential.
The errors in the rhythm dance might have cost them a medal, but they left Minsk with a victory of its own: they became one starting this season and, definitely, a force to be reckoned with while going to Beijing.
Nikita commented after the skate: “We didn’t get held back by it [the mistake on the previous day] – in fact, the opposite, it pushed us on to be more motivated to fight today. We wanted to skate solidly and not give anything away. In my view, that was a season best skate and although, unfortunately, we didn’t get one, we are very happy and now we will be ready for Worlds”.
Watching Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron dance together till the end of time, you’re struck with something very obvious: that Olympic silver medal added them an additional layer of noblesse. And they are now legends.
And their heartwarming duet at Europeans – their sixth overall, the fifth they won – will most likely remain as one of the biggest moments of the entire competition.
And Rachael Yamagata’s voice is such a good and warm companion.
“Oh, lover, hold on
Till I come back again…”
Guillaume: “We are really happy, that skate was almost technically perfect. The crowd was really uplifting and we couldn’t be more grateful to them and to be surrounded by our amazing team”.
Gabriella: “Every medal for us is a great accomplishment. We always want to go to a competition and do our best, and that was the best we could do, so we are very, very happy with it”.
And they are definitely making an impact on ice dance overall, and their fellow competitors.
When talking about much needed progress, Russia’s Egor Bazin – he and Sofia Evdokimova debuted this year at Europeans – will have the French as reference: “We have a lot of work to do at the end of the season and after the season, as there are lot of things we can improve, to get our skating to the level of the top teams. Right now, we don’t have the ideal skating skills of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron”.
Free Dance. HONORABLE MENTIONS. This free dance, Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis skating to Mozart. We’re just so in love with it. And whoever paired them deserves a medal. A gold medal. Matthias: “I think this season we have really started to understand the concept of ice dance and how to work as a couple much better because we both came from singles. The first two years we had to learn very basic stuff and everything was so new for both of us, so it was very hard. We really started to progress in that we started to learn how to correct things by ourselves. We don’t always need somebody’s help all the time”. *
They say to trust your instincts – Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri wanted to skate to “La La Land” in the Olympic season, gave up because too many skaters wanted the same – to come back to the idea last summer, and skate a brilliant “La La Land” in Minsk. Here’s to the ones who dream – and win a European bronze medal in the process. Barbara Fusar-Poli was thrilled, “Bravissimi!”, and Charlène and Marco’s reactions when seeing the scores speak for themselves.
Charlène: “We worked a lot for so many years. Sometimes we skated very well, but we didn’t have good results. This year, we’ve had so many good results”.
Marco: “We’ve had to wait maybe a bit longer than other couples to get to this point, but we are finally getting what we worked for”.
* Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin’s free dance this season, to “Am I the One” by Beth Harth, is a collection of highlights. It is as if they put their most stunning moves, signatures included, in one dance. And they nailed them all in Minsk, adding a silver medal to their treasure box. Ivan: “For us it is really nice to get the silver medal after we had two bronze medals at Europeans. It is a big step forward”.