You know that by now: Julia Sauter finished 2024 Europeans in Kaunas with yet another historical performance for the country she’s been representing for more than a decade.
This 9th place in Lithuania, the best result ever at Europeans for a woman representing Romania, becomes an important part of Julia’s personal history, but more than that: her placement continues to offer Romania (for two years in a row, another first) the possibility of sending two skaters in the women’s event in Zagreb, next year, at 2025 Europeans.
And you know just how much Julia Sauter did in recent years in order to keep her skating career alive, personally, financially – and just how much she’s been doing for the Romanian figure skating since 2012.
We wrote about it in details last season, and if you haven’t read Julia’s story, please do. It’s enlightening.
Heading to Kaunas, in her 7th Europeans, with hopes of repeating her Top 10 placement, Julia did just that, and even more.
Her thoughts a month before?
“I think that European countries have really strong women coming into this competition, especially the younger ones, they’re really strong, but I know that if I skate clean I can be just in the mix for the Top 10 again.
But I just want to enjoy it, you know? I want to skate clean and I want to try my best”.
In Kaunas, she’d admit she felt the different emotions of being in a team with Ana Sofia, and she would end the competition with a beaming smile: “It feels pretty good to have made the Top 10 again. Considering I only came back to training after being ill two weeks ago, it went really well”.
It sure did.
ANOTHER STORY – AND WHAT WE SHOULD ALL READ INTO IT
The second Romanian representative in Kaunas this year, the 19-year-old from Bucharest, Ana Sofia Beschea, finished the continental competition on the 33rd place.
But this particular placement doesn’t really tell the story – and, most definitely, can’t be seen as a failure.
Quite the opposite: it should be seen as a personal victory.
What we should all read into it is that Romania has had, for the first time in history, two women at Europeans – and celebrate that.
What we should all read into it is that Ana Sofia is a skater training in Bucharest, Romania and getting the TES-minimums needed for Europeans. And not just qualifying, but embracing this opportunity offered by Julia’s placement a year prior, getting to Kaunas, performing on the big stage, taking it all in.
And these words, training in Bucharest, Romania, in relation with Ana Sofia, are emphasized for a reason.
The simplest way to put it: Romania as a whole, and Bucharest in particular, doesn’t offer any real chances to be competitive to its skaters.
There is no ice rink in Bucharest since March 2013 – and those athletes who continued to skate after “Mihai Flamaropol” ice rink was closed are nothing less than warriors.
These are the skaters that moved their training hours, their overall preparation on the ice of a mall in Bucharest.
These are the skaters that made shorter or longer journeys to other cities in Romania with a proper ice rink (like Brasov, Galati…), or even to nearby countries, like Bulgaria, to practice, before finally having a nearer ice rink in Otopeni.
These are the skaters and their parents and their coaches who made every possible effort to keep those skating dreams alive.
Skaters who struggled to find ice and ice time, who continued to tie their laces, get their programs ready, practice, go to competitions, spend the family’s money for a dream – even when all odds were against them, even when the wisest decision might have been to stop skating altogether.
(Just the other day, a Romanian coach getting ready for an international competition would tell us, as if it were a joke – except it wasn’t: “Ice or no ice, we go and we compete. What else is there to do?”)
And as a skater who made her first steps on the ice in the old rink of Bucharest, who trained afterwards in a mall, before finally getting, in 2017, to the rink in Otopeni (where ice time is still an issue), the 19-year-old Ana Sofia Beschea is really a winner. Both for qualifying and taking part in this edition of the continental competition in Kaunas, Lithuania.
Will Ana stay competitive until next Europeans? Will there be another Romanian woman, or more, challenging that second European spot?
It remains to be seen.
But for now, Ana Sofia Beschea can add 2024 Europeans to her resume, alongside Junior Grand Prix events, alongside her four editions of the Junior Worlds – and be proud she could do so much with so little she was offered, as a competitive skater, in Romania.
[Opinion by Florentina Tone
Photos by Alberto Ponti in Kaunas, Lithuania]