by Alexandra Stevenson
(26 January 2013) Returning to the Zagreb Dom Sportova arena where she won her first European championship in 2008, two-time Olympian and reigning world champion Carolina Kostner, who is a huge star in her own country, Italy, in part because of her disasters as well as her successes, claimed her fifth European title despite placing second in both sections; Baby Russians, all three of whom were born in the second half of 1996, finish second, third and sixth.
1.Overall 194.71; 2.FS 130.52 (60.24+70.28); Carolina Kostner, the current Italian world champion, sneaked into her fifth title in the European Championship by the tiny margin of 0.99. All three medalists were a significant distance ahead of the rest of the field but, in a sport in which the technical prowess recently has escalated, it was notable that, while trying more than moves than ever, not one of the top nine fell in the Free.
Kostner said, “I had a wonderful first three (out of four) minutes of my program. I thought I was on the way to the skate of my life.” She began with a great triple Lutz which earned one +3, five +2s and 2 +1s, which translated to +1.20 over its base value of 6 points The following double Axel, on which she has had problems in the past, was more than satisfactory, earning an extra +0.79. Her triple flip to double toe loop received +0.80.
Next came two Level 4 (the maximum) spins. Her change foot combination received an extra +1.0 and her flying camel got +0.86 over its base value.
“Then I got slammed back down to earth and I realized my program is very hard and I need still to do a lot of work to do all the choreography I want. This is my challenge and the reason I skate,” Kostner confided. In her three-jump combination, she doubled instead of tripled the Salchow which was combined with a double toe loop to double loop. The change foot combination spin was Level 3 with +0.71.
After her Level 4 Straight line steps which earned seven +3s and two +2, which gave her a full two points over their base value of 3.9, she executed her choreographed sequence which received unanimous +2s. However, she finished on a low note when the final element in her four minute program fizzled into a messed-up double Salchow which got -0.17 taken off its base value of 1.43 (+10%). This was particularly unfortunate because she skated to Ravel’s “Bolero”, which builds up to a climax and the music ends just as she completes this element.
Her component marks ranged from three 9.50s down to three 8.00s. She explained that winning her now five European titles, “Somehow, have all been quite difficult but this was really hard. The two (other medalists) sitting beside me are very, very strong and I know that technically I may not be as strong as them. I have to do my best to be able to sit here. I was able to do that but it was a hard one.”
She did not compete earlier in the season in the Grand Prix series. “After my last season I knew that for 10 years I have been doing only figure skating. After (winning the 2012) World title, I finally allowed myself to have a break. I said to myself, you have reached a big, big dream of yours. You can take some time for yourself and your friends and family. But I kept skating because I like it. I worked with my choreographer on different ideas and on my technique.
“And it was hard to sit on the couch and watch the others skating. But it was important for my private life and important to be just a 25 year old person.
“Sitting between these two (medalists) and seeing them skate reminds me of when I was young and people told me ‘You have a big talent but no experience.’ I had ups and downs. I had a lot of downs but, especially, I learned to appreciate the up times.
About choosing music that is forever associated with Olympic ice dance champions, Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean, she said, “It was always one of my big dreams to skate to this music but I never had the courage. My choreographer persuaded me to do it because there would not be too many more chances. I’m so happy that she persuaded me to do it. It tears the woman out of me."
“I am a little overwhelmed, because I added new difficulty to my program and these elements went better than the easier jumps. But I’m aware that the program still needs practice to show all the difficulty. There are so many emotional moments in the program that cost energy, but this definitely is the way I want to have it. I put all my heart and soul into it.
“It was my first clean triple Lutz this season in competition, and it makes me really happy, because it has been two years that I have been struggling with it and it was my dream to bring it back into my program. So I just feel more complete. It was very important to me and the fact that it worked out so well, the whole first minute until after the footwork. Then I really felt it in my legs. I still have to work a lot on it.
“Now, I will meet with my choreographer, Lori (Nichol), and we’ll look at a few things (asking if) it is right for me, or if it can be done a little better, choreography-wise. Overall, I think the calmer I can approach it, the better it will be. This program is super difficult. I am still lacking endurance, but maybe that’s good so I won’t lose focus before Worlds.
“It is very exciting to be here and to win again, like in 2008. This is my eleventh European Championships and I think it was my hardest. I know that it will be difficult to defend my title at Worlds, but I will try my best and I will try to skate with a smile.”
All the medalists performed in black.
2. Overall 193.99; 3. FS 126.38 (62.39+63.99); Adelina Sotnikova, 16, the 2011 World Junior champion, had been in the lead after the Short Program. The Russian said, “This is my first European Championship in my life and I am very happy with it. I won the Short Program and, after the free skating, I stood on the podium. I am extremely satisfied with myself and my performances."
“I can’t really say anything about the experience I have gained. It’s just another competition. It’s the same people, the same ice rink, just another name, European Championship. I can’t say anything about (whether this will give her confidence for the Olympic season) right now because this season isn’t over and Worlds are to come. But it’s all the same, Europeans, Olympic Games, just the name is different."
Sotnikova, who performed in a black long-sleeved creation with a cut-out back and feather-y skirt, said, “You could say I am fairly happy – I did everything I could except that horrible triple flip (her second element, which she singled)! I popped it again. But, apart from that, it was fine, there are things that could be improved but now isn’t the time to talk about that. It’s my first European Championships and I have a silver medal – it’s like a party day for me now. I might even have some chocolate to celebrate! It will be a little treat for me! The only mistakes I made were technical, I had no psychological problems. I was completely calm going into the program. I didn’t feel any pressure skating in the last group, I just forgot about yesterday and focused on today.”
Her opening element, triple Lutz to triple toe loop received an “e” for wrong edge takeoff on the first jump, and an arrow for under-rotation on the second. Her following move, a bad single flip, received only 0.47. But everything else gained was superior GoEs. All three spins and her steps were Level 4. One judge thought her layback spin deserved the maximum +3 GoE. Her steps were rewarded with two +3s and the rest +2s. Her choreographed sequence, which brought her routine to a close, received three +3s.
3. Overall 188.85; 1. FS 136.67 (70.02+61.65) Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who is the current Russian champion, won the Free Skate by the narrow margin of 1.15 over Kostner. However, she had been 4th in the Short Program, a huge 7.01 points behind the Italian who was second in the initial round, and almost ten points behind her teammate, Sotnikova, who held the initial lead.
Tuktmysheva performed her Free 19th of the 24 allowed in the Free Skate and set a standard the five others skating after her could not beat. However, it pulled her up only one place and, although she received the bronze medal, she finished a significant 5.14 points behind her silver medal winning Russian teammate.
Tuktamysheva performed in black to the famous Russian folk song, “Dark Eyes”. She was asked about drawing to skate first in the last group of six. “It can be hard (because you can’t go flat out in the warm-up, because there is no time to recover). But it can help, too. For example, it meant that I was fully warmed up when I skated.”
Her triple Lutz to triple toe loop was very, very secure and she earned an extra 1.10 over its base value of 10.10. That was followed by a second triple Lutz (+0.90) and then a less impressive triple flip which lost -0.30 from its base value. Her Layback spin and Step sequence were both Level 3 with 0.79 added. At the half way mark, she executed two jump combinations, double Axel to triple toe loop (+0.90) and a triple Salchow to double toe loop to double loop (+0.70).
After a flying sit spin (Level 4, + 0.50) and a triple loop (+0.70), she presented her choreographed sequence which earned two +3 Grades of Execution (along with five 2s and a +1 which resulted in +1.50 being added to its base value). She finished with a double Axel (+0.79) and a Level 4 flying change foot sit spin (+0.64). Her components ranged from two 8.50s down to a 7.00.
She said, “I am just incredibly happy right now. To be honest, I’m in shock. If I skated like that yesterday it would have been even better and I think it’s important to show that even if the Short Program isn’t so good you can fight back. I was in a different mood yesterday. Each competition means experience. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s the Europeans or the championship of your city, with each competition you gain more experience. I don’t know if it was visible but I was more sure of myself, more confident, my legs were stronger today, and I was much better set on my triple-triple. I tried to set the mood from the start and show more energy than yesterday. I was actually too calm yesterday, I was not nervous enough.”
4. Overall 171.06; 4. FS 112.84 (54.79+58.05); Valentina Marchei had been lying third, but didn’t appear too upset to drop a place. The 26-year-old, who has been through some disappointing years, said, “I am very happy with how I skated tonight. I showed everything I do in practice and whatever happens as far as medal goes, I am okay with it.” She trains at the Detroit Skating Club so her coaches, Yuko Sato and Jason Dungjen could not be with her. They were at the US Nationals in Omaha taking place at the same time as Europeans. She said that not a problem. “Whenever I come to Europe to train I am with the Italian team, with Franca Bianconi, and she takes good care of me.”
Marchei performed immediately following Kostner, her teammate. She has been in this event nine times and this is her best showing. She won the Italian championship back in 2004, and in 2008, 2010 and 2012. She performed to music from the movie, “The Artist” by Ludovic Bource. She began with a good triple Lutz (+1.20), and brought off a second one combined with a single toe loop at the halfway point when the bonus points click in. Her first triple Salchow earned +0.80 over its base value plus the 10% bonus for being in the second half. Her last jumping element was also a triple Salchow combined with two double toe loops and although the Salchow received an arrow for under-rotation, she still banked 5.45 for this element. but the second She brought off a double Axel to triple toe loop (+0.70). Her flying sit spin was Level 4 (with +0.50), although the other two spins were Level 3 and the steps Level 2.
5. Overall 155.72; 7. FS 100.95 (46.72+54.23); Viktoria Helgesson, the elder of the two Swedish sisters, matched her last year’s placing of 5th. She had been lying 6th after the Short Program and was only 7th in the Free in Zagreb, but that still resulted into 5th overall. She said, “I’m not really happy. I did some stupid mistakes (singling her first element meant as a triple flip and singling her last element meant to be a triple Salchow). I also missed a combination. Some parts were really good.” (The triple loop to double Axel sequence gained an extra +0.60, and two of her spins and the steps were Level 4.) But I can’t be satisfied. Skating last was a little bit hard because it is very warm here and so it took a lot of energy.
“I have Nordics (a Scandinavian international) next weekend when they will choose who goes to Worlds.” Viktoria is the six-times Swedish champion, but was dethroned by Joshi this season. Viktoria said, I think they (the Swedish Association) will look at how we did all season. Of course, we hope both of us will go but we work as a team so whoever goes is OK."
6. Overall 154.41; 5. FS 103.49 (50.52+52.97); Nikol Gosviani, the third Russian, had been 12th after the Short Program so, not surprisingly, she was in an upbeat mood after her Free Skate. The 16-year old had drawn to skate last in the second-to-last group of six, and surpassed the 17 who had skated before her. She performed to “Berlin Concerto” by Vladimir Cosma.
“I didn’t manage everything but I’m pleased,” she said. I was a bit nervous coming in to the free program but not noticeably more than usual. I knew what I wanted to do and I did it, I had no doubts in my mind. Mostly I just noticed the noise from the crowd in the tribune, they were making such a huge noise. Now we have to go back and work harder.” Will she be (On the World Championships) We haven’t thought about it yet. If it happens, then great.
Her coach, the 1992 Olympic champion Alexei Urmanov, said, “We are very happy. I think we can think about Worlds with some of those levels she received, but we’ll see.” However, it is more likely that the skating world will see Alena Leonova in London, Ontario. The 2012 world silver medalist did not do well in her nationals, but surely has earned her place at this year’s worlds.
7. Overall 152.29; 6. FS 101.2 (53.44+47.78); This was Sonia Lafuente’s sixth appearance in the event, and her most successful. The 21-year-old from Spain, had been 11th after the Short Program but gave an outgoing showing to “West Side Story” dressed a black top and green skirt, with only one major and one very slight error. At the halfway point, she had to execute a double three before getting airborne a second time in her combination of triple loop to double toe loop, which resulted in -0.90 being removed from its base value and earlier 0.1 was taken off her first triple Lutz. But everything else received higher than base value scores.
The Mens Final had taken place on Saturday afternoon, before the Ladies Final so she was swept along with the enthusiasm and joy for Javier Hernandez’s victory, Spain’s first ever win. LaFuente said, “It’s been a great day for Spain. I am so happy. I have had a hard time training for Europeans. I have had massive problems this Christmas. I had a stomach upset and couldn’t eat for a week and we lost a week’s training because I had no energy. But I recovered pretty well although I’m a bit tired. But I knew how to concentrate myself and where to save energy to have more for the end of the program. And I earned Personal Bests in both short and long."
“I was here in the arena for Javier’s performance. We were all crying. It’s a really, really good day. All of us on the Spanish team are pretty much the same age. We hope some small kids will see us and want to know more about skating and come and skate and then in the future they can substitute for us."
8. Overall 150.40; 9. FS 95.36 (44.10+51.26); Joshi Helgesson, the younger Swedish sister, dropped from 5th after the Short Program. The 19-year-old, who skated to “Burlesque”, “Express”, and “Blues in the Night” said, “I know I can do better but I’m happy with my Short Program.” Although she didn’t fall, she got straight -3s for two elements and arrows for under-rotation on four jumps. However, her three spins and the steps all received the maximum Level 4. She admitted, “I’ve had some issues with some of my jumps in the last weeks. Of course our goal is for me and Vicky to be at Olympics.”
9. Overall 147.52; 10. FS 95.24 (51.70+45.54 -2); Nathalie Weinzierl, Germany, who skated to “Havana” by Dave Grusin, dropped one place after the Short Program. She said, “Of course I’m happy to make the top ten, and I’ve qualified for the Worlds. I went into the program more tense than yesterday especially after I fell on the Lutz during the warm up. The first Lutz in the program didn’t feel right in the air but in the landing I managed to save it. When I messed up the (three jump) combination it was clear I had to catch up and repeat it somehow. You cannot waste points. Half a point could make a difference – and it did. In the past year I gained more consistency in my programs, which helped me correcting my mistakes. I am more consistent in practice and my conditioning has improved. I’m doing more run-throughs of my programs and all that gives me confidence for the competition.”
10. Overall 147.14; 8 FS 96.35 (49.37+46.98); Mae Berenice Meite, France, 18, rose three slots from her Short Program. This is her third entry in this event. She previously placed 9th & 13th. Of her performance, which was to Arab music, she said, “I love the program, but it’s very hard. The first two months my hand really hurt getting the exact position for the Arabian gestures. It was not so bad - not the best I can do, but it was certainly better than yesterday. I want to do it and enjoy it, and that’s what I’ve done today. Even if the points aren’t the best I’m happy to skate it. I wanted to show everyone the work I’ve done all these months and I think I’ve done that a little today. And now I must just keep working on it for Worlds.”
11. Overall 143.74; 14. FS 90.42 (43.69+46.73); Lenaella Gilleron-Gorry, France, 17, dropped four places from her place in the Short Program, skating to “Memoirs of a Geisha”. This was her debut in this event. She said, “I loved my experience here. It is a new world for me. The audience makes a huge difference for a skater. And I made my seasons best!
12. Overall 143.56; 12. FS 93.96 (51.73+42.23); Kerstin Frank, the Austrian champion, rose three places from her place in the Short Program. The 24-year-old said, “I am so happy to have performed so well again, but the best moment was when I realized to have gained enough points (total element minimum score) in the free program to qualify for Worlds. I’ve achieved the minimum score in the short several times but not in the free. I tried to skate relaxed and avoided thinking about any marks or placements.
I focused completely on my skating, and went from element to element not thinking ahead of it. And I enjoyed performing in front of such a big crowd, I haven’t had many chances like that before.
13. Overall 143.45; 13. FS 91.55 (45.05+47.50-1) Elena Glebova from Estonia who trains in Hackensack New Jersey dropped from 9th after the Short Program. She said, “I am disappointed. I came to Zagreb in good shape and ready for a good result. My warm-up was really good and I like skating 2nd in the group, but it did not help. I made mistakes on the jumps I usually find difficult, while triple/triple combination was smooth because it is easy for me. The beginning of the season was very good, I achieved good results in Salt Lake City and Oberstdorf. But today’s performance doesn’t fit into this plan.
14. Overall 142.71; 11. FS 93.96 (40.89+53.07); Elene Gedevanishvili who has represented Georgia competing in this event // times, and earned bronze in 2010 & 2012. But her showing in Zagreb was a disaster. Skating to Minkus’ “Don Quixote”, she climbed two places from her 16th place in the Short Program, but she brought off only three triples, two Salchows and a toe loop! The tie in the Free Skate marks was broken in Gedevanishvili’s favor (over Kerstein Frank) by consulting the Component score. (A tie is broken in the Short Program by the Element score.)
Gedevanishvili explained, “Today was really difficult. I’ve not been feeling my best all week. I’ve had some injuries and I’ve not trained as I wished. My shoulder dislocates a lot so I have a lot of strapping on it to make sure it stays in place. I have trained hard but it has been a bit unstable. Skating is one of those things which doesn’t happen overnight so I will take a bit of a break now then start training again. There is still a month till Worlds so I have some hope. I really want to get my triple loop into my program by then."
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