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Pamela Moberg

European Ice skating championships

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The yearly period for sitting glued to the television has arrived. This year the championships are held in Bern, Switzerland.

As usual very badly televised - most of it on sports channels for which you need a subscription which I do not have. So far,

of the little I have seen, surprisingly Spain has become a nation to watch.They are very new to figure skating but seem to be coming on strongly. Russia is strong as usual with a lot of new talent. Looking forward to seeing the ladies, Finland has some really classical girls, whereas there probably wont be a Finnish guy in sight, they devote themselves to hockey.

The venue in Bern is a pure catastrophe - in the middle of winter it is not heated :angry2: Many people are huddling under blankets in spite of being dressed in thick jackets. The Swedish commentator made a joke: "No global warming here, polar bears will soon be knocking on the doors begging to be let in".

Will report more in a couple of days.

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Please keep us updated, Pamela. USFSA senior events began this afternoon, but I will not able to see most of the skates until this weekend when the networks televise the major competitors. Dance and the men's event look fairly strong, the junior girls have looked promising, and 11-year old Nathan Chen dominated the novice boys for the second year in a row, crushing his nearest competition by 35 points.

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The Free Dance was today, and the new European Ice Dance Champions are Natalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France, who train with former Olympic medalist (with Maya Usova), Alexander Zhulin in Moscow. Bourzat is one of the top male dancers; he reminds me physically of POB's Manuel Legris. Here is a link to their Chaplin Free Dance:

I didn't see the earlier groups, but among the ones I've seen, Federica Faiella's and Massimo Scali's Free Dance portraying themes of Manolete's story is my favorite, full of passion and wonderful music, and his unmatched expressiveness:

The top Italian team was not in contention for the podium, having been out all seasons and after a twizzle mistake left them in 9th place after the Short Dance.

The young team from Russia, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsaparov, who had a rough Grand Prix season and Russian Nationals, skated very, very well and finished in 4th. They are also coached by Alexander Zhulin. She's one of the most balletic ice dancers, but apart from music and her tutu, it's hard to find much ballet in their Free Dance to "Don Quixote":

This year there was a change to the rules in Ice Dance: both the Compulsory Dance (CD) and the Original Dance (OD) were eliminated and replaced with a single dance, the Short Dance (for Juniors and Seniors) and Pattern Dance (for novice and below). The Compulsory Dances were the backbone of Ice Dance, like school figures were to singles, a set pattern of steps and turns with specific placement on the ice, repeated at least twice, to a specific rhythm and with an individual character and degree of difficulty. The International Skating Union picked the music, usually five cuts, and the skaters skated the CD to whatever cut happened to match their place in the skate order. They were supposed to separate the men/women from the boys/girls, since everyone skated an identical pattern without any lifts, spins, or tricks, and style was meant to be extremely important, as well as the ability to maintain speed and flow and the size of the pattern through two circuits. Until 2003 teams had to skate two or three CD's in a given competition.

This year for the Short Dance, there was a set "CD" that could be performed anytime in the program, as long as it was skated without interruption, and in addition, for the rest of the 2'30" program, they had to perform a lift, a footwork pattern, and a set of twizzles. They could use any music that supported the rhythm of the CD, they could place the other elements where they wanted around the CD portion. The CD for the Junior Short Dance was the Viennese Waltz, and since it was a shorter CD, they had to complete the circuit twice. The Senior CD for the Short Dance was the Golden Waltz, a particularly difficult, intricate pattern that was based on a program done by 1992 Olympic Gold Medalists Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, and due to its length, it was only performed once.

Here is Pechalat and Bourzat's winning Short Dance, set to music from "Dr. Zhivago", which starts out with the twizzles, then goes to the non-touching mid-line step sequence, into the Golden Waltz pattern, and ends with the lift:

The podium, which matched the Short Dance and Free Dance results, is:

Gold-Natalie Pechalat/Fabian Bourzat (France)

Silver-Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev (Russia)

Bronze-Sinead Kerr/John Kerr (Great Britain)

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Thanks all for your interest. I have been glued to the screen all day, can hardly see straight any more! I am always on the look out for new fresh talent and there has been some. Florian Amadio (born in Brazil) but a French national is someone to watch. Likewise Artur Gachinski from Russia, a new marvel from St. Petersburg. And the lovely Sarah Meier (Switzerland)won the ladies, well deserved indeed. Kiira Korpi from Finland did very well, she has been one of my absolute favorites for a very long time, so composed, so elegant and so stylish :clapping: There were some young kids among the ladies doing well, showing great promise for the future: Gerli Liinamäe from Estonia (only 15), Svetlana Issakova, likewise Estonia, then Carina Johnson, actually an American girl skating for Denmark, and a very promising kid from Belgium, Ira Vannut, only 16.

I know there has been some youtube stuff, thanks, Helene! You could also try http:/svtplay.se/konstakning or for that matter any other European TV station. I have checked the Swedish one, it is not bad, though there are no translations, the commentators speak Swedish. But it is the skating that matters! Maybe the BBC would have some good footage.

By the way, dont get confused if you try the Swedish site, they might say "konståkning" or "konstakning", never mind, it is the same thing, just means figure skating. And tomorrow there will be a two hour gala performance, something to look forward to :yahoo:

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The story of the championships was Sarah Meier's gold medal winning performances. Meier has struggled with injuries throughout her competitive career, especially in the last couple of years. She stayed in competition to end her career at home, in Switzerland, and her combined 3rd place finish in the Short Program, to bronze medalist Kira Korpi of Finland and Russia's Ksenia Makarova, and 2nd place finish in the Free Skate, to silver medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy, earned her gold, after finishing with silver in 2007 and 2008 behind Kostner.

Here is a link to her Free Skate:

And to the medal ceremony:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvds4rblN7c

:flowers: to Ms. Meier, Ladies European Champion, 2011 in Bern, Switzerland!

Edited to add: Also :flowers: to Brian Joubert, who won his 10th straight medal at Europeans. Since his first Euros as a 16-year-old in 2002, he has not been off the podium at this ISU Championship. I'm sure he would have preferred gold, but a 7th place Short Program skate, with a fall on the triple Lutz, normally a great jump for him, left him several points behind France's Florent Amodio after the free skate, for which Joubert won the small gold medal.

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The Gala Performance was broadcast here this afternoon. As usual, it was a full two hours of wonderful skating - the skaters are not competing so they are more relaxed and they are allowed to do real show numbers. One thing amazed me: the wearing of glasses :D havent seen that since the days of Buddy Holly.

And the lovely Denise Bielman did a guest appearance, she is now 48, but looked like 28! So nice to see her again, she seemed to be in great shape. With the obvious risk of dating myself, yes, I have seen Sonia Henie live. But I was very young then and I cannot remember very much, except that I wasnt terribly impressed.

If you are interested I think it would actually be worth it to make some effort to see the entire show.

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Denise Bielman is a freak of nature who does not age. I'm convinced she will be feeding herself muesli from the Bielman position well into her eighties.

I am still trying to process everything that happened in at the USFSA championships this year. Coughlin and Yankowskas finally delivered the performance that many expected them to do last year, and will be going with Evora and Ladwig as the pairs contingent. It's the first halfway decent U.S. pairs group in recent memory. Defending pairs champions Denney and Barrett were edged out for a spot on the World team. They've made improvements, but I think their "upside" is limited. Two-time pairs champion Rockne Brubacker finished just off the podium with his new partner of 5 months Mary Beth Marley. (Yes, the U.S. pairs field is that shallow).

Davis and White won their third dance title as expected. I'm one of the few that actually really likes their tango program, but I'm an even bigger fan on their short dance which is fast, deep and strong. The brother-sister Shibutanis had an extremely promising seniors debut, and will also be going on to Worlds.

Now, on to the drama. Three former U.S. Ladies champions vying for two spots on the World team. Alissa Czisny, one of the best spinners in the world along with new European champion Sarah Meier, delivered an excellent performance, and Rachael Flatt fought it out, leaving Mirai Nagasu behind. Considering her coach Frank Carroll's comments to the press afterwards, I fear the Carroll-Nagasu relationship is not long for this world.

The men's event...well, the U.S. men have been a slam dunk for three slots at Worlds for almost a decade now, and I'm very concerned that they're only going to have one slot in 2012. Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon had terrible skates leaving the door open for journeyman Ryan Bradley to win his first U.S. title at the age of 27, followed by Richard Dornbush and Ross Miner. Bear in mind, Ryan Bradley finished 18th at the Worlds last year (his best finish is 15th), Ross Miner just competed at his first senior U.S. Nationals and Richard Dornbush has never competed as an international senior at all. Two need to have combined placements of 28 to secure two spots for worlds in 2012, and I'm very concerned about this inexperienced group, however talented.

I'm actually most sad that Jeremy Abbott will probably never give the great performance of his long program which it's worthy of. It's really so stunning when he performs it well, but perhaps it's just not meant to be this year.

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Denise Bielman is a freak of nature who does not age. I'm convinced she will be feeding herself muesli from the Bielman position well into her eighties.

She is! She had superb technical content throughout her professional career, and, nearing 50, she's as cut as ever.

I am still trying to process everything that happened in at the USFSA championships this year. Coughlin and Yankowskas finally delivered the performance that many expected them to do last year, and will be going with Evora and Ladwig as the pairs contingent. It's the first halfway decent U.S. pairs group in recent memory. Defending pairs champions Denney and Barrett were edged out for a spot on the World team. They've made improvements, but I think their "upside" is limited.

Two-time pairs champion Rockne Brubacker finished just off the podium with his new partner of 5 months Mary Beth Marley. (Yes, the U.S. pairs field is that shallow).

While I wouldn't call the Russian pairs program shallow anymore -- my favorites, Lubov Iliusheshkina and Nodari Maisuradze, had a horrible short program and Russian Nationals and came in fifth -- unlike new pairs Tatiana Volosozhar, who skated for Ukraine for the last Olympics, and Maxim Trankov, and his former partner, Maria Murkhortova, who teamed up with Frenchman Jerome Blanchard, fourth at Europeans were Katerina Gerboldt and Alexander Enbert, and Gerboldt, a former singles skater, only started to train in pairs last spring. These young women are unbelievable! Yankowskas and Coughlin are lovely, and I've always loved Evora and Ladwig, and I'm glad they've been able to stay in this long.

Considering her coach Frank Carroll's comments to the press afterwards, I fear the Carroll-Nagasu relationship is not long for this world.

Carroll announced some time ago that he's planning to leave his current rink as soon as the one in Palm Springs is completed. It's already been delayed months with the latest opening date scheduled for March. It would be a near-impossible daily commute for Nagasu, and if they don't have a solid relationship, the chances that she would move are very slim.

The men's event...well, the U.S. men have been a slam dunk for three slots at Worlds for almost a decade now, and I'm very concerned that they're only going to have one slot in 2012. Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon had terrible skates leaving the door open for journeyman Ryan Bradley to win his first U.S. title at the age of 27, followed by Richard Dornbush and Ross Miner. Bear in mind, Ryan Bradley finished 18th at the Worlds last year (his best finish is 15th), Ross Miner just competed at his first senior U.S. Nationals and Richard Dornbush has never competed as an international senior at all. Two need to have combined placements of 28 to secure two spots for worlds in 2012, and I'm very concerned about this inexperienced group, however talented.

Due to the new qualification system, based on placement at last year's Worlds, all three US Men advance to the Short Program automatically. 24 of the 30 men who skate the Short Program will make it to the Free Skate, and each skater in the Free Skate gets assigned 16 points for placing 16-24, or the actual placement if 15 or lower. If a skater doesn't make it to the Free Skate, s/he gets assigned 18 points. With three skaters, only the top two placements count. A total of 14-28 points earns two spots; a total of 13 points earns three spots.

In order for the US to be down to one spot, one of the following must happen:

1. None of the three finish the Free Skate. (18+18)

2. Two of the three don't finish the Free Skate, and the third comes in lower than 10th. (18+11 to 16)

3. Two of the three finish the Free Skate, and their combined total is > 28. (max of 16 + 13 to 16; 15th + 14 or 16)

Richard Dornbush is the reigning Junior Grand Prix champion and won one of his two Junior Grand Prix events this year. Ross Miner was the 2010 Junior Grand Prix final bronze medalist, and while he didn't take his first (senior) Grand Prix season by storm, his scores at Cup of China would have been top 8 (SP) and 10 (FS) at Europeans. While scores across events aren't directly comparable, since the judges and technical panels are different, championship scores tend to be higher than Grand Prix scores. Judges have been giving promising Juniors-turned-seniors their due; for example, Stephen Carriere was 10th at his first Worlds (2008), Brandon Mroz was 9th (2009), Adam Rippon was 6th (2010), and Evan Lysacek won bronze (2005).

Ryan Bradley was 15th in 2007 and 18th in 2009, but he was US #3, under Weir and Lysacek in 2007, and under Abbott and Rippon (at least internationally) in 2009, i.e., an afterthought. This year, he's going in as US #1. He's also the highest-ranked among the US Men, at least before Four Continents, and he should skate in a later group than Dornbush and Miner.

Three spots for men was considered a slam-dunk with Weir/Weiss or Weir/Lysacek, but when Weir and Lysacek didn't skate, three spots wasn't guaranteed, and we just got used of them.

I'm actually most sad that Jeremy Abbott will probably never give the great performance of his long program which it's worthy of. It's really so stunning when he performs it well, but perhaps it's just not meant to be this year.

I love both of his programs this year, and I'm sad he didn't skate them to potential at Nationals. He was, however, struggling with boots all year, and his latest were only three weeks old, not close to being broken in. He was, unsurprisingly, cautious and couldn't attempt the quad.

Abbott has another chance: he, Armin Mahbanoozadeh, and Adam Rippon are going to Four Continents, the Rest of World equivalent of Europeans, next month in Taipei.

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Carroll announced some time ago that he's planning to leave his current rink as soon as the one in Palm Springs is completed. It's already been delayed months with the latest opening date scheduled for March. It would be a near-impossible daily commute for Nagasu, and if they don't have a solid relationship, the chances that she would move are very slim.

Arcadia-Palm Springs is not that bad actually; the commute is probably on par with the commute they're already doing since that one requires driving through almost all of Metropolitan Los Angeles. Arcadia (where the Nagasus live) is way on one side of Metro LA and El Segundo (where Carroll is currently coaching) is way on the other side. The Nagasus and Carroll could make it work if they wanted to, since they've already made Arcadia-El Segundo work. I just doubt they want to make it work for whatever reason now.

In order for the US to be down to one spot, one of the following must happen:

1. None of the three finish the Free Skate. (18+18)

2. Two of the three don't finish the Free Skate, and the third comes in lower than 10th. (18+11 to 16)

3. Two of the three finish the Free Skate, and their combined total is > 28. (max of 16 + 13 to 16; 15th + 14 or 16)

I'm concerned because I actually think option #3 is a real possibility. Bradley will be going in as U.S. #1, and I think it's a very big question mark how he will react to his new designation. Dornbush and Miner have had very good results as juniors, but Miner's senior results this year have been so-so (9th in Japan and 7th in China) and Dornbush doesn't have any. I think they are both very talented, but it's unclear how they will stack up against the rest of the world.

I'll admit that I'm perhaps biased because I'm not a fan of Bradley's long program. I know Bradley was injured, but it's the same program that landed in 18th place at Worlds last year. I think the only things going for it internationally are the two quads. If Bradley misses on the two quads as he did at nationals, I can very much see him being well out of the top ten and leaving the U.S. depending on Dornbush and/or Miner.

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I love both of his programs this year, and I'm sad he didn't skate them to potential at Nationals. He was, however, struggling with boots all year, and his latest were only three weeks old, not close to being broken in. He was, unsurprisingly, cautious and couldn't attempt the quad.

I know! Whenever I hear rumblings of "boot problems" for anyone, I just start feeling total dread and shadows of the Kwan-Riedell debacle.

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I'm concerned because I actually think option #3 is a real possibility. Bradley will be going in as U.S. #1, and I think it's a very big question mark how he will react to his new designation. Dornbush and Miner have had very good results as juniors, but Miner's senior results this year have been so-so (9th in Japan and 7th in China) and Dornbush doesn't have any. I think they are both very talented, but it's unclear how they will stack up against the rest of the world.

18th place at Worlds is only 16 points though, and Bradley went in as US #3. At 16 points, one of the other two needs to finish in 12th or higher to qualify for three. Given Dornbush's record in Juniors this year, and the type of skater he is with a beautifully paced, expressive program, I think that's doable. Miner might have been in 7th at Cup of China, but his scores were solid. Two of the skaters who beat him will not be at Worlds, and Kozuka, Verner, and Joubert made a particularly strong Men's field. He also improved by 13 points between his first two senior GP events.

While possible, I don't think it's a probable outcome for the US to qualify one. There's always a worst case scenario, and sometimes it does happen, like at last year's Worlds when Borodulin had to withdraw because his blade broke, and Voronov placed 14th, while if Borodulin had finished the competition, it is very likely Russia would have two spots instead of one this year.

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