by Alexandra Stevenson
(23 January 2013)
1.SD 69.42 (34.44+34.98) With the reigning two-time champions, Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat from France, sidelined due to his torn abductor muscle in his right leg, the three-time Russian national ice dance title holders, Ekaterina Bobrova, 22, & Dmitri Soloviev, 23, who have been runners-up for this European title for the past two years, established a small lead going into Friday evening’s Free Dance, with a mature, very controlled but relaxed demonstration of the Yankee Polka, which contains two of the five required elements.
Their Short Dance was set to “Put in a Good Word in for the Poor Hussar” and also contained a pleasant Waltz, depicting a romance set to music from “The Crew”, a movie about a plane crash made by a famous Russian director. “We have our own interpretation of the music,” Bobrova explained. “At the end, we are saying, ‘Goodbye’ but no one’s dead.”
For their twizzles, which they presented as the third of the five required elements, they were awarded only Level 3. All of the other top nine couples, of the 25 duos from 20 countries, who completed this section, earned the maximum Level 4.
Bobrova & Soloviev were not pleased about that situation. She admitted, “I wobbled somewhat on the twizzle, but I did them and the coaches said it shouldn’t affect the level. But, as you can see, you are punished for the tiniest things.”
Soloviev added, “It was one of our best performances but not the very best. We are not happy about the Level 3 for the twizzles. But, we are very pleased we got Level 4 for both Yankee Polka sequences for the first time this season. We worked really hard on the Polka.
“Twizzles are actually a very easy element for us. We usually manage 100 out of 100 attempts in practice. But, in competition, you start to think about them. Maybe, if we didn’t think about them, they would be fine.”
Bobrova & Soloviev also received Level 3 for their Non-Touching Midline Steps but no other couple in the competition was awarded more than Level 3 for this element.
Competitors acknowledge the Yankee Polka has probably the most effect on results because each half of this formerly called compulsory dance is classed as a separate Required Element. The steps were created in the 1970 season by then U.S. champions, Judy Schomeyer and James Sladky. Part of its difficulty is due to the unique half-beat steps, which are very fast, causing great centrifugal force which can be disastrous.
Bobrova wore a relatively plain, wispy, light pink, knee-length dress with shoulder “puffs”. Soloviev was in a military dress outfit with a blue top with gold epaulets and cream trousers, setting the routine up as a period piece.
The top ten ranked ISU couples drew to perform in the last two of six warm-up groups. The lower ranked competitors drew for a spot in the four groups of four couples which perform earlier.
Asked about the toe steps in the Finnstep for next season, Soloviev said, “This season isn’t over yet. It is too early to think about next season. We still need to think about the difficult turns and Choctaw in the Polka now.”
2. SD 68.98 (34.29+34.69) Elena Ilinyhk, 18, & Nikita Katsalapov, 21, who won bronze in this event in 2012, skated immediately before Bobrova & Soloviev, fourth in the second to last group of five couples. They now lie less than half a point behind this very experienced couple. Watching Ilinyhk & Katsalapov, twice Olympic champion, Evgeny Plato praised their twizzles as “absolutely fearless”. Two judges agreed, awarding them the maximum Grade of Execution, +3, for this element, while the other seven judges punched in +2.
Grinning, Katsalapov said, “I love twizzles. They are my favorite element. We have them first in both our programs. If they are good, then the rest of the skate will be easy and clean. There are some other small things I would like to perfect. Perhaps they were noticeable to the audience, perhaps not. It is very warm on the ice which makes it hard to skate but the ice is very good.”
They were dressed in outfits which were copied from those worn by a certain area’s folk dancers. Her hair was in pig tails and she wore a colorful shiny dress and a cloth tiara on her forehead. He was in a blue jacket with tails and gold trim and baggy maroon trousers.
Ilinyk & Katsalapov are the 2010 World Junior Champions. They were fourth in their debut in the European Championship in 2011. They skated together when they were very young but split up in 2005.
3. SD 66.53 (32.86+33.67) Anna Cappellini, 25, & Luca Lanotte, 27, skated 25th, with only their teammates to come, and gave a lively performance to music from “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”, “Barn Dance” and “Bless Your Beautiful Hide” and a Waltz to “Wonderful, Wonderful Day”.
She was in a cream knee length satin dress with over net underskirts, and a maroon bolero and matching belt. He was in a maroon waistcoat with cream shirt and cream trousers.
She said, “I am happy with how we skated today. We had fun. The crowd was cheering and that made the time go very quickly. We got a Season’s best (score) and we are very happy with that.
“The twizzles are difficult. You have to train 100 times because the balance is so delicate and, if you are nervous, you can get a bit disconnected from yourself.”
There was noticeable booing from the audience, when it was announced that Cappellini & Lanotte were only third, 2.89 points behind the leaders, despite the Italians receiving two +3 for their twizzles (along with four +2s and three +1s.) Their two +3s and Ilinykh & Katsalapov’s two +3s, plus the one for Riazanova, were the only maximum GoEs awarded.
In the Grand Prix Final in December, in Sochi, their own country, Cappellini & Lanotte had beaten both these Russian couples, pulling up over Bobrova & Soloviev after the Short Program. Cappellini pointed out, “Last year, in Sheffield, (where they finished fourth overall) our mistake in the Short Dance was very costly for our overall placement so we wanted to make sure that didn’t happen here.”
4. 64.52 (33.43+31.09) Ekaterina Riazonova, 21, & Ilia Tkachenko, 26, Russia, who train both in Moscow with Alexei Gorshkov, and in Novi, Michigan, with Igor Shpilband, have been third in their past two nationals. They finished sixth and fifth in the past two European championships. Here in Zagreb, they performed to music from “My Fair Lady”, earning one +3 GoE (out of a possible nine) for their twizzles.
He explained, “Since Nationals (held in Sochi at the end of December), we’ve been working hard on the Polka pattern, to make it the best we can, so we are very pleased with getting the two Level 4s for that. We have great memories of Zagreb (where they won the Golden Skate held here last year).
5. 60.93 (31.64+29.29) Until 2010, Julia Zlobina, 23, Alexei Sitnikov, 26, skated for Russia and rose as far as competing in two Senior Grand Prix events in 2007. But, because there is so much talent in that country, they decided to try out for Azerbaijan. Last year, in their first season of representing the new country, they were only tenth in the European and 17th in the World championships.
But their performance in Zagreb was far superior. Their Short Dance, set to “Valse Violente” by Caravan Palace, and the amusing “Dolly Song” by Holly Dolly, was well-performed and they edged ahead of the Britons by 0.34 of a point. It will be interesting to see what happens in the Free. He explained, “We chose our music because we wanted to be different.”
6. 60.59 (32.01+28.58) First up after the second ice resurfacing were Penny Coomes & Nick Buckland, who are both 23. They are the twice British champions, who train in the United States with Evgeny Platov. They achieved their Season’s best but being beaten by the Azerbaijan was unexpected. In last year’s European championship, which was in Sheffield in their home country, they placed fourth in this section and sixth overall.
In Zagreb, they earned Level 4 for their opening twizzles despite Coomes doing an extra turn. Their coach Evgeny Platov explained, “Doing an extra twizzles is not the mistake that doing one less would be.” They also earned Level 4 for the first part of the Yankee Polka and Level 3 for the second part.
Coomes explained, “I had an injury earlier this season dislocating my so it was a bit of a rush to get ready for the Grand Prix. We don’t concentrate on the scores and placings so much. We try to do clean elements because the technical score is so important.
Though the skaters arrived via London with their luggage, Platov, who travelled via Paris, had to operate without clothing because his bags did not arrive with him.
Withdrawn due to his illness, were Alison Reed, 18, the younger sister of the American born siblings who compete in this discipline for Japan, and her partner, with whom she teamed up last year, Vasili Rogov, 21. They represent Israel. The twosome train in Hackensack, NJ, with Galit Chait Moracci and Briton, John Kerr.
18. 44.94 (23.72+21.22) Reed’s former partner, Otar Japaridze, 25, with whom she competed in the 2010 Olympics placing 22nd, is now skating with a Russian, Angelina Telegina, 20, and representing Georgia, although they train in the United States with Evgeny Platov. They survived the cut after the Short Dance (only the top 20 couples are permitted into Thursday’s Free Dance). They gave a fun, upbeat performance dressed in traditional Alpine Polka outfits and Polka music sung in German for the entire performance.
Couples from Poland, Britain, Austria, Belarus & Bulgaria were unable to progress to Friday night’s Free Dance.
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