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European Skating championships

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The annual European skating championship started being televised tonight.

Held in Warsaw, Poland.

I suppose there will be Russian dominance (as usual). Tonight will be the pair skating and sadly the Swedish couple will not participate as they have come down with flu.

The Polish pair, Dorota and Mariusz Siudek, 31 and 34 respectively, normally live and train in Canada, but they have returned to skate for Poland.

There are a couple of promising French couples as well as a German one.

This will go on all week and I hope to be able to report. It is especially interesting if there are some newcomers of the younger generation and also some new countries. Hardly think so, though, the Eastern countries always dominate totally and then the English are good at ice dancing - the Torville-Dean effect, I suppose. :):jawdrop:

Anyway, I look forward to a delightful week in front of the television.

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The German couple I mentioned yesterday won gold - I suspected as much. And by the way, they skate for Germany but she is actually Russian, but they were real wonderful and I am sure they will do well in the next Olympics. Otherwise the broadcast consisted mostly of an interview with the only Swedish participant. It is always nice when some new and fairly unexpected skater wins the gold.

A very enjoyable evening! :wink:

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Thanks, Pamela! I also heard that the expected men's champion & seasoned veteran, Brian Joubert of France, was upset in the short program by up-and-coming Tomas Verner of Czech Republic. Joubert is in 2nd and Sergei Davydov of Belarus (but formerly of Russia) is in 3rd.

The French Delobel/Schoenfelder are leading the reigning World Champs of Bulgaria (Denkova/Staviski) in Ice Dance after the first of 3 phases. Bulgarians are only 3rd so far; new up-and-coming Russians in 2nd. It should be quite a fight for the gold.

Ladies don't begin until Friday, I think. Faves include Sarah Meier of Switzerland and young Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia -- who was literally thrown out of Russia this fall during the anti-Georgian troubles, then relocated in the USA to train. I'm rooting for Gedevanishvili...from the land of Balanchine, Ananiashvili, etc.!!! She has been through so much.

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It's late in Warsaw, but just some thoughts:

The Compulsory Dance (CD) was the Golden Waltz, which I read was based on an original set pattern, and IIRC, it was by Klimova/Ponomorenko. Unlike most CDs, which have a couple of higlight moves, like turns, this one is chock full of them: it opens on couple barrel-like turns from one corner, then some counter turns to a series of toe-pick assisted turns for the woman at the other end of the rink, around the corner with the man in attitude positions, to a dip where the man supports the woman under her shoulders, with one knee bent and the other free leg extended forward (with turnout and toe point when we're lucky), to a series where both are in attitude, where he has to stay on that one leg and turn and extend, then a series of turns where each alternately has one leg extended high, to a section where he lunges, then supports her in a dip in each direction, then a tricky turn in one short corner where his free leg is extended in arabesque, to a very tricky footwork section in the other short corner, back to repeat the pattern. It's considered the most difficult, and not just because there are at least five different kinds of turns, and the pattern itself is very intricate, but also because all of the lunging and dipping is a killer on the thighs, which are already building up lactic acid. It shows off many different aspects of the dancers, and it's my favorite of all of the CDs, even if the three musical selections of Strauss waltzes get to be a bit tedious by the end of 28 teams.

Denkova/Staviyski, the reigning World Champions, have been quoted as saying that they don't like the CD, and they skated it as if they didn't like it. I thought it looked perfunctory, but they are such professional-quality skaters with such great edges, that it isn't surprising they are in a virtual three-way tie. Domnina/Shabalin, the young Russian couple, weren't quite as fast, but they came to skate the CD, and I think they deserved to be ahead of Denkova/Staviyski. I can't be objective about Delobel and Schoenfelder: I think he is Fred Astaire, and that they have the most beautiful edges in Ice Dancing and are constantly under-scored. I am thrilled that they are in first; I wish it was by a larger margin.

There's a noticeable break between the three D/S's and the next three, Faiella/Scali, who are being pursued closely by Khoklova/Novitski, and the Kerrs, from Great Britain, who train with Evgeny Platov, two-time Olympic gold medallist with Oksana Gritshuk. I suspect Khoklova/Novitski will pass Faiella/Scali in the next two phases. After these teams there is a noticeable drop among the veteran teams, although I think that Fraser/Lukanini were overrated, as their "waltz" was a bit to Vegas in style for my taste. There are a lot of up-and-coming young teams, though, although I don't think they were necessarily given credit for where they were superb. For example, the lovely young Italian #2 team, Cappellini and Lanotte, were, in my opinion, the best at the lunge/dip/dip section of the skate, and quite wonderful in the rest of the dance. (Italy's #1 team, Faiella/Scali, were next best in this section.) Gruenberg/Rand, a young Estonian team, were more impressive than their 20th place would indicate, and he has superb extension, expression, and rhythm. Zhiganshina/Gazsi did very well and capitalized on the opportunity given to them by the German #1 team's, the Beiers, injury. The two Lithuanian teams were very nice to watch; both are pairings of American women with Lithuanian men, including former singles skater Aidas Reklys, who has a lot of presence and flair. Because Drobiazko/Vanagas competed at Europeans last year on their way to the Olympics and earned two spots for this year, two teams were able to compete, but there will be quite a competition for next year's single spot, with another American/Lithanian team also in the wings.

The Pairs SP was rough-going; I'm not sure there was a single clean program among them. Savchenko/Szolkowy's program was brilliantly choreographed, though, and quite well skated. The Siudeks skated nervously in front of their home crowd -- they postponed retirement in order to compete in Warsaw -- and they were lucky to be ahead of Obertas/Slavnov by a fraction. Sadly, the exquisite Volosozhar and her partner Morosov did not skate cleanly and trailed O/S by 4 points going into the long program, which they couldn't make up, after outscoring O/S in the long. Petrova/Tikhonov also have a lovely program, a re-working of last year's to Handel's "Sarabande," but they skated a little cautiously. There were only 14 pairs in the competition, but even with a relatively small number, there were no scary pairs -- as in being afraid she was going to be dropped -- among the younger ones. Pla/Bonheur, the French #1 team, are still getting back to form after being out with an injury that caused them to withdraw from the Grand Prix. The Number 2 team, Canac/Coia, has improved markedly from its first competition in Paris last fall. The young British team, Kemp/King, have a lovely, almost old-fashioned quality about them. The young Italians, Magitteri/Hotarek, we very impressive; they have a lot of spunk on the ice, an impression that was confirmed by their West Side Story long program tonight. German #2, Vartmann/Just, also skated well, with a lot of flow. The surprise bronze medallists from Russian Nationals, Efaieva/Menshikov have a lot of potential: although she is juniorish, he, a most unusual specimen Russian male pairs skater -- short --, is as fine an all-around skater as any of the men in the competition: beautiful technique on his jumps, lovely positions in his spins, and great strength in lifting her as if she were no heavier than can of beans.

The Siudeks skated first in the last group of four. Their program was gorgeous, to a series of pieces by Chopin, all of which were used by Jerome Robbins in Dances at a Gathering, In the Night, and Other Dances. They were not flawless, but they skated beautifully, with great flow, in a grown-up, classical program. Petrova/Tikhonov followed with their Moonlight Sonata free skate, also a mature program. I know that the Siudeks could only have made up the different from the short program if Pet/Tik had fallen apart, but I don't think it was correct that they were (slightly) ahead of the Siudeks after the long, especially since two of their lifts ended very slowly, one almost at a standstill, and he muscled out his jumps. But they had other elements of top quality, and she is a very beautiful skater. Obertas/Slavnov were on-again-off-again in their long program, and it was clear that the Siudeks would retain their lead, and win the bronze medal. However, O/S, skating 13th of 14th, had the first of only two synchronized side-by-side pairs spins, which was a shock, because this is usually a very strong element for Petrova/Tikhonov.

While I really could live without another Savchenko/Szolkowy program to another generic American movie score -- The Mission this time -- their program was choreographed brilliantly, and they skated flawlessly and with better line than I'd ever seen them before. They truly earned their medal.

It is true that the brilliant Tomas Verner of Czechoslovakia, who has had world-championship-level edges and ice coverage since he was a junior skater (and got little credit for it), beat Brian Jouber in the short program, bringing A-level jumps and spins, including a huge axel. His triple lutz was so easy, we wondered if he had doubled it. Joubert fell out of his quad in the combination and was unable to complete the second jump, but he did come back strongly for all of the other elements. His spins have improved 300% over the last couple of years, since the last 6.0 Worlds in Dortmund in 2004. Davydov had one of the few clean programs, although all but a couple of the 32 Men's SP's were very enjoyable. He is a terrific skater, and was top six at Worlds in DC in 2003. (He's been inconsistent since.) The young German skater Philipp Tischendorf, led off with a lovely program, and his score stood very well through three more groups. The crowd was unhappy with Kevin van der Perren's scores; he skated dynamically, but his levels of difficulty were all 1's. The young Russian #3 skater, Andrei Lutai is trained by Plushenko's coach, Mishin, and his style is similar to Plushenko's, but it suits his smaller proportions, and he is a better spinner than the Olympic champion. I can't wait until the Men's LP tomorrow night.

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Thanks for your insights from Warsaw, Helene. Wonderful stuff! I am thrilled for Verner, thus far. I'm also happy that the veteran Polish pair team (the Siudeks) earned a medal at home. I wonder how Elene G. is doing in practices?

I don't know why - I have this funny feeling that, in the end, the new Russian champs, Domnina/Shabalin, may win if everyone skates their best...and make podium at Worlds. They are wonderful but I wonder how 'politiks' may be helping them above & beyond thir skating. hmmm.... I don't know - it always seems that, in any given year, there MUST be a Russian champ in some discipline & they may be the 'annointed Russians' for the Road to Vancouver. Well, we will see.

Here in the USA (Spokane, WA), where we are holding Nationals, the big stories so far are:

* Junior Ladies - two tiny gals who will be 16 by the time Olympics roll around are the talk of th town, far more than Meissner & other seniors: Mirai Nagasu and Caroline Zhang. All expected Zhang -- world jr GP champ -- to win...but Mirai came out of nowhere & is even more incredible than Zhang.

* Sr Ladies pre-event surprises - Among seniors, Alissa Czissny & Rachael Flatt are outskating Kimmie Meissner (the world champ!) & Olympian Emily Hughes in practices so far. Emily, in particular, not looking too good.

* Sr Dance - Practices of Belbin/Agostos's gorgeous new FD to 'Amelie' are promising. Davis/White (new to seniors) beat Gregory/Petukhov (long-time #2s) in the CD but placs switch in phase 2.

* Johnny Weir - another great press conference in which he explains his 'Jesus' LP, among other topics. Will Johnny win National Sr title #4..or is it Evan Lysacek's time?

I'll be in Tokyo for Worlds this March, so am very interested in following all of these current events. May the best skaters win!

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Are you really in Warsaw, Helene? Great going!

I feel almost ashamed, I am living absolutely next door and I am not there...

Well, anyway, you wrote beautifully and like someone who understands what it is all about. I do not profess to do so, I have never been on ice in my life - in fact when I went to the theater school we were strictly for-bidden to skate.

But I enjoy watching very much and I view it as I do ballet, as something artistic, and I appreciate the ballet feel and the music and the beauty enormously. But I am not a sports fan, and it would never occur to me to watch hockey - of which there is a lot in Sweden - or football or any other sport. (Sorry, must confess to heavyweight boxing, but it is forbidden here).

Of course it is nice to see "golden oldies" doing well - and there were indeed some oldies in the pairs, some were verging on pension age I thought.

I am always on the look out for youngsters who look promising but are not yet perfect. Tonight I watched the men and there were three of them I liked a lot. 20-year old Andrei Lutai (Rus) somehow reminded me of a very young Nureyev. Alban Preaubert (France) was just my kind of guy, and Kevin van der Perren from Belgium was wonderful. My own Kristoffer Berntsson was not so lucky, he did his best but had a couple of falls.

Talking of Swedish skaters, there is Berntsson, and then the unfortunate Pylkina and Hogner of whom I have seen precious little, I somehow feel that there must be something wrong with Swedish skating. In a way most of them seem so tentative and almost look like they are apologising for being there - fault of training or what? Hope Kristoffer will inspire more youngsters in this country!

And tomorrow I will be glued to the set, my absolute favorite Gedevanishvili will be on. I think she is lovely, and that her first name coincides with that of my eldest daughter endears her even more to me.

Good night for now, youll hear from me tomorrow night. :) :huepfen024:

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I am in Warsaw, and I'm having a blast at this competition. And thank you for the US Nationals updates, Natalia!

Today was the Dance Original Dance -- an entire afternoon of tangos. This morning, a few of us went on the tour of the Castle -- more like a city palace -- which was built by the last king of Poland, who abdicated in the 1790's, about a decade after Poland was partitioned. (He was responsible for the first Constitution outside of the US.) This meant missing the first two flights. While I would have liked to have seen the young Estonians, Grethe Gruenberg/Kristian Rand and the two young Lithanian teams, Nicolette Amie House/Aidas Reklys and Katherine Copley/Deividas Stagniunas, I'll at least get to see the first and last at tomorrow night's free dance.

The OD wouldn't be so bad if the same music wasn't used over and over and over and over again. I can only listen to "Libertango" so many times. My favorite piece was "Tango" by Piazzola. (Kind of like saying "Waltz" by Johann Strauss, Jr. or "Lied" by Schubert.") The man wrote hundreds of songs. You'd think choreographers could pick more than the same three every single time.

I thought I was easily satistfied: a team need only point their toes, bend their knees, and perform the actual dance specified. (Among the younger couples, Kamila Hajkova and Nelli Zhiganshina, the women from the young teams from Czecholovakia and Germany, did so exquisitely, and the young Swiss, Bergen and De Fazio had wonderful tango quality.) I actually have notes on the start order lists distributed at the arena: a checkmark means I need to find a tape of the program, and "T" means it actually was a tango, which some teams -- and some of the men -- seem to confuse with flamenco. The best original dance tango, in my opinion, were the French #3 team, Pernelle Carron/Mathieu Jost. (Team #2, Pechalat/Bourzat withdrew after she broke her hand.) To three excerpts from Maria de Buenos Aires, they translated tango to the ice. Very close behind were their training partners, the French #1 team of Isobel Delobel/Olivier Schoenfelder. The only flaw I saw in Delobel/Schoenfelder's program was a noticeable slowdown in their last footwork pass, which was unfortunate, but the first 2/3 of their program was dynamite. Oksana Domina/Maxim Shabalin danced a real tango, and they were very good. She was a little distant, and not in a "come win me" way, but he smoldered, and it was a very impressive performance. I don't know what happened to make Denkova/Staviyski fall three points behind the Russians and four points behind the French. She had a mini-stumble right after the straighline footwook sequence, but that would cost them a point a most. The protocols aren't up, so I can't check levels, but in performance quality, they were quite convincing in the tango. But I do think that Domnina/Shabalin will overtake Delobel/Schoenfelder because...

I'm a very superstitious person, and I was rooting for Tomas Verner, who led after the SP, to win, while #2, Brian Joubert, did, so I fear a 1/2 swap in the Free Dance. Joubert much deserved his win. He was the only man to do a quad combination, and he landed a number of spectacular jumps, his spins were terrific, his footwork got the crowds roaring -- as if they needed an excuse -- and he gave a fine interpretation of a combination of Apolcolypta and a French version of a Romeo and Juliet score with great power and speed. Tomas Verner skated immediately afterwords, and he couldn't land all of his jumps, although he skated beautifully, with great speed and fine edges. It's the first major competition in which he skated in the final group, having just missed that group at last year's Euros, and he looked nervous during the warmup and while waiting for Joubert's scores. Joubert had a monster score -- his Long Program score was over 14 points above second-place Van der Perren's score -- and even though the ovation for Verner when his name was called was equal to Joubert's, I can't imagine that it wasn't a little bit overwhelming to hear the response for Joubert first.

Sergei Davydov started off the last flight, and despite a few mistakes, I was hoping his score would hold. He actually had a slightly higher technical score than bronze medal winner Kevin Van der Perren, but Van der Perren's greater speed and power won the day on the component scores. I didn't love Van der Perren's All-Testosterone-All-The-Time-style program to the soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean, but he had very solid elements, including a wonderful quad toe. Davydov's program to excerpts from Don Quixote was more subtle and varied, and demanded greater interpretive powers, but he did not get credit for that in the choreography and interpretation scores. And Davydov lost the bronze medal by .07, which was a heartbreaker.

Andrei Lutai skated to a loud, modern arrangement to The Four Seasons, and I don't think the music did him justice, but he was a joy to watch, with very expressive arms and a very flowing way on the ice, while at the same time skating dyamically. His blades were very quiet. I hope he gets to go to World Championships in Tokyo -- there's always the chance that they'll send him to Jr. Worlds instead -- and that he can improve his performances even more. The third-place member of the Russian Men's team, not ever expected to challenge Klimkin, Griazev, and Dobrin, he proved to be the strongest competitor among his teammates, and he deserves a berth.

Berntsson made too many mistakes on his jumps, but his program was a delight, and despite the mistakes, one of the most wonderful of the night. The camera isn't kind to France's Alban Preaubert: he tends to look sloppy and erratic on TV. While I wouldn't say he has the best posture or polish, live, not much of that matters: he's got power, a quirky charisma, and a unique sensibility that provoked a smile so long that my face hurt afterwords. You can't buy that ability to engage and delight.

But despite the wonderful skating by the top six, I think one of the best-choreographed Men's programs of all time was skated by Jamal Othman to Gotan Project's Lunatico. I'm not sure how much of the program is flattened by the camera, but this is modern dance translated into skating. He used every inch of his body to interpret the music, risking pulling off the axis by fully engaged arms and back. It is a stunning program.

Just some random notes:

* I haven't seen any of the practices, but tomorrow is the women's Short Program, and while we're not willing to sit through 38 programs in which the majority will be to tinkly piano music, if history repeats itself, we should get to the arena well before Elene Gedevanishvili skates. My little group is looking forward to seeing her program, which she'll be performing for the first time this year, after her mother was deported back to Georgia, and she moved the US to train with Galina Zmievskaya, Victor Petrenko's mother and Oksana Bauil's former coach.

* The opening ceremony was very moving, and featured, on a carpet that covered about 25% of one end of the rink, a professional Polish folk dance company, which performed several polonaises and mazurkas. There were young (6-10) children skating, as well as teenaged skaters carrying the national flags of participating nations and performing weaving patterns at the same time.

* It's a small arena, and the skaters are all over the place. After the short program where the young Polish skater Przemyslaw Domanski qualified for the LP -- as a member of the host nation, he would have skated in the long program anyway, but he earned his spot by finishing 24th, and he rose four places to end the competition in 20th place -- he signed autographs for almost an hour. He seemed genuinely delighted that people recognized him and wanted his autograph and to take pictures with him. Also after the short program Ukranian skater Anton Kovalevski took photos of a group of teenaged girls with Sergei Davydov, and a bunch of Russian girls had their picture taken holding flags of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Brian Joubert was mobbed, of course -- he's a rock star at these events.

* My friends and I found what we thought was a quiet corner in which to eat our dinners between events, and we met a very nice couple from Great Britain, who camped out in the same corner. It turned out that we were just off the stairs that the skaters used to get to and from their small area on the top floor, where the post event press conferences were held. We got to see the entire parade of dance teams. Olivier Schoenfelder is so tall that I was able to spy him over the entire mob, and Isabel Delobel is even more beautiful in person, as is Albena Denkova, who along with Maxim Staviski, was surrounded by fans. The young Italian team also passed by: Anna Cappellini looks like she should be in school, and Luca Lanotte looks like almost all of the men in my high school class, except without the bad 70's haircuts.

More tomorrow.

(And Euros is in Croatia next year...)

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Fantastic, Helene!

Well, a quick glance at the ISU site tells me that Elene G. did very well in the SP - 3rd so far, just behind Meier of Switz & Kostner of Italy! Looking forward to your report, Helene.

In the USA, the big news is that Lysacek and Weir are neck-to-neck 1 and 2 after the SPs. Both skated brilliantly, to standing Os. Weir is but a hundreth of a point behind Lysacek. May the best skater win tomorrow!

Emily Hughes delivered when it counted - in performance of the SP, after a week of horrendous practices. She is in 3rd going into the finals. As expected, the world champ Meissner is in 1st ...but the big shocker is Bebe Liang finally getting it together and skating the SP of her life, to land in 2nd. Actually, she skated more cleanly, with more fire-power and zing, than Meissner...but Meissner did a (supposed) 3-3 combo, which the ABC-ESPN cameras find suspicious, with marked cheating of a 3rd turn...last turn done on the ice & not in the air. *THE BIG BROU-HA-HA: tiny 14-yr-old Rachel Flatt -- by far the most elegant & lyrical on the ice, incredibly at her age -- also did 3-3 combo but THAT one was downgraded to 3-2 even though it looked clean to ABC-ESPN cameras. (You should have heard Dick Button & the rest going on & on...re-replaying both Meissner's & Flatt's combos in slo-mo, pointing out how Meissner -- not Flatt - who should have received a downgrade to 3-2 combo. Then Button&Co. focused on ex-US medalist Lisa Ervin, the 'technical specialist' (caller) who made that call from the judging panel...analyzing the angle at which she sits & how she made a big error. Flatt's coach & the Broadmoor Club have filed a protest...blah-blah. Hot stuff. No decision rendered yet. As it now stands, Flatt is in 6th place. Had it been called a 3-3 combo, she'd be 2 or 3 places higher - maybe 3rd, knocking Emily to 4th. Oh - it gets better - lovely Alissa Czissny popped a jump but is in 5th place, ahead of Flatt. Lots of boos.

So far, going into finals -

1. Meissner (clean skate but suspect 3-3 combo)

2. Liang (spectacular clean skate but only tried 3-2 combo)

3. Hughes (perfect, bubbly Carmen but tried only 3-2 combo & is still a bit rough in presentation)

4. Taylor (perfect skate for her, too! Another 3-2 combo)

5. Czissny (spectacular spins, edges, spirals but rough jumps, with one of those required jumps popped - barely up into the air & landing after a half turn)

6. Flatt (absolutely perfect, did 3-3 combo (downgraded by the caller to 3-2...being protested), not rewarded in the 2nd set of scores despite great musicality, edging, choreography,e tc.)

Tonight are finals for prs & dance. Pairs will most likely go to veterans/incumbents Inoue/BaldwinJr. Dance for sure to Belbin/Agosto with new Amelie program but there's a huge catfight for 2nd place between Gregory/Petukhov (who moved up to 2nd with OC...but barely) and newcomers Davis/While. Luckily, top 3 go to Worlds, I believe. Amazingly, former JrWorldChamps Matthews/Zavozin languish in 5th, with Bommetre & partner above them, in 4th.

That's it from the USA. Thanks again, Helene.

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Today we got to the rink in time to see the last 13 Ladies in their short programs. 38 we couldn't face, and we had a nice leisurely lunch at a wonderful pierogi restaurant directly across from the Cathedral in the Old Town, before taking a leisurely taxi ride to Torwar, the arena.

We'd been told by fellow members of the Figure Skating Universe board who were in attendance that the best performances up until that point were by Alexandra Ievleva, the Russian Nationals silver medallist, who is now in 6th place and will skate in the final group tomorrow afternoon, Israel's Tamar Katz, who is in 11th place, and Turkey's Tugba (pronounced like the instrument "tuba") Karademir, who has world-class spins and spirals, and about whom the consensus was that she was undermarked. (Or a handful of skaters who placed over her were overmarked.)

The start order groups are based on the ISU rankings, which measure results in international competition over the last few years, and, with rare exception, we did see most of the skaters with the strongest results so far. However, the only clean performance I saw among 13 skaters was Sarah Meier's lovely one to not the usual, overused cuts from Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. Carolina Kostner landed a beautiful 3Flip/3Toe combination after a shaky attempt in the warm-up, but then doubled the 3Lutz from steps, which is a required element. She has a horrible telegraph into her edge jumps, and in the past two seasons she's been pressing her arms stiffly against the side of her body on approach. As a result, there was a big gap between her steps and 3Lutz. I'm not sure why she changed from turning 3's into a 3Loop to the 3Lutz, which she has had a lot of trouble landing; the 3's into the Loop had been the finest among singles skaters in past four years. She could make up the point in difficulty in Grade of Execution. She is still fast and floats along the ice, and was the only Ladies' skater to earn 7's (4 of 5) in PCS. The doubled Lutz and the .8 factor on PCS in the Ladies' SP kept her in a virtual tie with Meier, who I think was underrated in PCS.

The rest of the top 10, aside from Ievleva, was the best of the flawed. All had at least one missed or shaky (under-rotated, double-footed, tight, etc.) jump element, and Sokolova was downright weak. Sebestyen skated very well, but only did a double/double combination, which set her back a great deal. With rare exception, like Sebestyen's Serenade (Schubert) program, and Idora Hegel's blues, the choreography was generally weak. Meier's Arunjuez choreography was okay.

To a program called "Two Guitars" (set to Russian folk music, I believe), Gedevanishvili opened with a strong 3Lutz, but then was tentative going into her combination. Her landing on the first jump was tight, and she was only able to tack on a low 2T to it. I'm not sure if it was a 3Flip or 3Toe; I'm sure it was meant to be a 3/3 combination. She linked three elements together: the spiral sequence to 2Axel to a great spin with clear positions, yet her transitions score was lower than Sokolova's, who had little more than crossovers. Her spiral was a fabulous supported side Y (almost an I) to back catch to an okay fire hydrant spiral. A couple of her spins were fast, but the positions were sloppy and a bit weak. Her straightline footwork was really superb, and the second half of the program was stronger than the first, which is promising. She has a lot of speed, but I don't think there's much air or breath in her movement quality, which lessens her impact as an interpreter, and makes her appear juniorish next to many of the seasoned skaters.

Idora Hegel, wearing a gorgeous costume of illusion fabric on top, decorated with pale sequins in garden colors and black pants, skated to Blues for Klook. With the exception of jumps, where there's little room for interpretation unless there's a "ta da" overhead arm movement that would have been inappropriate here, each of the other five elements matched the music perfectly. We know she double-footed her solo triple jump, but that shouldn't be as large a deduction as doubling or popping, and she may have underrotated the first jump in her combination. But she skated all of the other elements very, very well and in character. Then she was saddled with scores in the 5's for each component score, including choreography and interpretation components, while Sokolova skated a lackluster, empty program to an elevator music version of "Nessun Dorma" and received scores mostly in the 6's. (But I'm not bitter, no I'm not bitter.)

I can't say I'm really looking forward to the Ladies' Long Program tomorrow, but I hope to be suprised in a good way. Only 24 Ladies qualify for the Long Program. The start order in the final flight is Sebestyen (4th), Kostner (2nd), Korpi (5th), Meier (1st), Gedevanishvili (3rd), and Ievleva (6th).

Sadly, in the Ice Dance competition, Attila Elek suffered a broken ankle in practice, having caught his blade in a rut according to the ISU press conference, and he and Nora Hoffmann had to withdraw. (He was in the arena, in a rather large cast, and on crutches.) On the whole, the competition started out strong, with seven of the first 18 scoring personal bests, and in some cases, decimating their old score by 15-25%. My new favorite young European team, Estonia's Gruenberg and Rand, scored 71.23 in the Free Dance, with a lovely, dancy, old-school, waltzy program to Kalmann's Silva, and this score stood up through ten skates. There were some charming programs among the first nine teams; only in the middle ranks was there sturm and drang and some more sturm. Nelli Zhiganshina, who skates with Alxender Gazsi for Germany, continued to impress with very elegant lines.

In the middle to middle-top ranks, the teams generally have to choose between two styles: melodramatic and open, and thus easier, or more difficulty with less flow and drama. I'm not a fan of "Ice Theater" and there were a number of teams who chose the uber-drama route, and I'll never quite understand why they are so well-rated, especially in the component scores. Alla Beknazarova and Vladimir Zuev achieved a personal best with a 15th-ranked program to flamenco music that put me in a trance, and their fellow Ukranians, Anna Zadorozhniuk/Sergei Verbillo did a Morozov program to Cirque du Soleil's Dralion that I'm tempted to download in case I ever suffer from insomnia. The highlight of the middle group was Russia's Ekaterina Rubleva/Ivan Shefer. I was impressed with two young teams, Platanova/Maximishin and Mikhailova/Sergeev at Skate Canada, but it was clear in seconds why Rubleva/Shefer won the bronze at Russian Nationals: they skated with a combination of nice speed, flow, expression, and finish. Their program was most unusual: it was called "Aria of the Black Swan." It opened with an orchestra version of the big sweeping theme from the end of Act II of Swan Lake, with a rhythm box "oom-pah" underneath to give it "dance rhythm" according to the rules, but it then morphed into a Celine Dione-like Russian version with lyrics. It certainly wasn't trying to be ballet, but it captured the essence of the music.

With the exception of Kristin Fraser and Igor Lukanin's Carribean Guitar piece, an uber-drama attempting playfullness, the last two groups really picked up. Sinead and John Kerr performed a routine to the Last of The Mohicans soundtrack. Much was made of Maxim Shabalin's fur-trimmed costume for Domnina/Shabalin's Polovetsian Dances program, complete with small animals he had presumably killed, but that was at least program-appropriate. I'm not sure what John Kerr's costume designer was thinking, but he was dressed with pelts that looked more like some fantasy version of some forest in 14th century middle Europe than the American frontier. There wasn't a single dance rhythm for the first minute and a half of their program, because it was set to a rather generic American adventure film score. I like to see dance with my dance. They have a lot of difficulty packed into their program, but I find them erratic and sloppy, especially Sinead Kerr. It's nothing that can't be fixed -- they train with Evgeny Platov, one of the greatest ever -- but it needs to be fixed. The French #3 team, Pernelle Carron/Mathieu Jost, did a less difficult program set to Edith Piaf songs, but it had air, and romance, and a light touch, and was simply delightful. The young Italians, Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte, just up from Juniors this year, skated a light and charming program to several vocal versions of I Got Rhythm. Sadly, after a valiant attempt to stay on his feet, Lanotte fell in the middle of the straightline footwork series, and the judges seems to have decided that they are too juniorish to be taken quite so seriously this time around. Sadly the fall lost them four points and put them behind Fraser/Lukanin in 8th place, which means the Italians will only have two teams instead of three, because the top Italian team, Faiella/Scali, who were the last couple to skate, fell during a reverse balance lift, where she "lifts" him. (It looked like a pretty nasty fall, too.) That cost them at least 5th place, and a very good chance at 4th. The driving techno music that felt like an assault at Skate Canada, sounded much better tonight.

The competition came down to the top three teams, who skated first, third, and fourth in the last group. Khoklova/Novitski skated second to a lovely arrangement of the Rodrigo Arunjuez concerto called "Arunjuez, Mon Amour" with great speed, flow, and connection. They were so easy to watch, it was a pleasure. Four minutes went by like a flash. In an unscientific survey, among the fans I spoke with for whom Domnina/Shabalin are not favorites, they like Khoklova/Novitski the most of the Russian dance teams. (The same for Denkova/Staviyski fans, because of Khoklova/Novitski's great speed and flow.)

Of the top three, Isabel Delobel/Olivier Schoenfelder skated first, to The Untouchables soundtrack. Somehow, the choreographers found enough music in the score with a dance rhythm, although some of it was basic orchestral adagio. It was a Bonnie and Clyde story, where she is shot in the first third of the program, and then something metaphysical happens. They were powerful, with great edges and dramatic flair, using so much of their entire bodies in the dance, and forging a connection not through contorted facial expressions, but through body movement. The only flaw I could see was that their straightline footwork, after a great start, got bogged down a bit from the midpoint, which happened to almost all teams with any difficulty. But their score was more than ten points lower than their personal best, and they only led by about two points going into the free dance. After Khoklova/Novitski, Domnina/Shabalin skated to Prince Igor. I think this is the finest freeskate they've done since moving to Seniors, and they skated it with great smoothness; the only "pull and tug" moment was towards the end of the program. They are wonderful skaters, and I think they were better than Navka/Kostomarov at the same time in their partnership, because they are evenly matched, while Navka was much better than Kostomarov. Zhulin was wonderful at hiding Kostomarov's flaws and emphasizing his wife's best qualities. Gorshkov and Petukhov, Domnina/Shabalin's coach and choreographer, don't cut them a break anywhere, but challenge them constantly, which, in my opinion, makes their achievement that much greater. They won the Free Dance, again, by a good deal less than their personal best, but Delobel/Schoenfelder still led all three phases by a fraction.

It was up to Denkova/Staviyski to make up a 5-point margin. After seeing their skate, which looked flawless to me and was skated faster and with more power end-to-end than either Delobel/Schoenfelder's or Domnina/Shabalin's, I was sure they had gained at least the .6 per Component that, when factored, would have put them in the lead. Their personal best was four points over what they'd need to capture the title. I can't say that it's a great program -- I found the musical cuts dull and undifferentiated -- and, I'm not a big fan of what I consider the uberdramatic gestures they do, mostly when they are at a stop -- I think their restrained Baroque Original Dance from 2003 is one of the greatest OD's I have ever seen -- but I couldn't imagine that Staviyski's nervous reaction in Kiss and Cry waiting for the scores wouldn't change to elation, because they did an excellent job with a tried-and-true type program. But both the technical and component scores were lower than the two teams ahead of them, and their final score was ten points off their personal best.

The crowd was not happy, but did support the winners, at least in the arena. This event has a short live interview, in English, with the winners, with translations into Polish. The interviewer asked Delobel/Schoenfelder if the win was gratifying at the end of their career. As far as I know, they only said they'd take one year at a time, and have not announced retirement. (He turned 29 at the end of the fall, and she's 28, which is not old for dancers, who often compete until they are in their early 30's.) They looked quite shocked at his question, but said how happy they were to have won, and thanked the crowd for being so supportive. (There were two large groups who had travelled from France for the competition.)

I am so thrilled for Delobel/Schoenfelder, who have so often come out on the short end of the judges' stick. I wish I spoke French, so that I could have joined the Delobel/Schoenfelder well-wishers, instead of the shocked and dismayed Denkova/Staviyski fans I left on their way to another bar.

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Helene has already reported so perfectly that there is no need for me to add my two cents, well, here is at least half a cent!

I have just seen the ladies and I am pleased. Three Finns among the first six. Hooray for Finland, brother country. Kiira Korpi (3rd) as well as Susanna Pöykiö and Alisa Drei were just lovely. The Swedish girl, Lina Johansson, did not do too well, but she has also been injured, yet, a very good attempt and she has really improved since the last time I saw her here in Sweden.

Elene Gedevanishvili, whom I like a lot, did not quite succeed this time. Not to worry, she is still very young. Alexandra Ievleva - she looked very tall - was an interesting girl. More of her, please.

The Turkish girl who came 10th was not shown on Swedish TV unfortunately. But now a question - this was the European championships and actually a very small bit of Turkey is in Europe - the other side of the Bosporus is in Asia - so this is OK. But when did Israel move to Europe? Must have missed something in the news here... In all my maps Israel is technically and geographically in Asia (Minor).

To sum up, it has been a very enjoyable week and tomorrow I know will be wonderful. No nerves and the chance to do what they do best. I love those shows!

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The Turkish girl who came 10th was not shown on Swedish TV unfortunately. But now a question - this was the European championships and actually a very small bit of Turkey is in Europe - the other side of the Bosporus is in Asia - so this is OK. But when did Israel move to Europe? Must have missed something in the news here... In all my maps Israel is technically and geographically in Asia (Minor).
Dick Button won and Barbara Ann Scott won the European Championships in 1948, when the competition was still an open championship, but immediately afterwards, it became closed. Israel was added to the list of countries eligible for Euros in 1997, which was two years before the Four Continents Championships for skaters from the Americas, Africa, Oceania, and Asia was founded. Former Soviet SSR's, like Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Ukraine are included in the European Championships, although, for whatever reason, Uzbekistan competes at Four Continents. Many of the Israeli skaters were originally from the Soviet Union or Russia -- ex: Schmerkin, Chait/Sakhnovsky, the Zaretskis, Kotov -- and the infamous "toe-tapping" judge Alfred Korytek, formerly a Ukranian judge, is now a judge for Israel.

Tugba Karademir is a very lovely skater, but is on the slow side. But there's slow and slow: many skaters who are slow can't maintain edge speed and die out, but she maintains her speed and has nice flow from element to element. She has first-class positions in her spins and spirals with great extension and toe-point. She landed enough jumps today, and she was 8th in the Long Program. Having seen her in Malmo in 2003, with the same lovely spins and spirals, I never would have expected her to finish above Elene Gedevanishvili or Julia Sebestyen in a long program, ever.

The day started out slowly. In the first group, only Jenna McCorkell showed any spark, although it did look like her body suit and fiance Kevin Van der Perren's body suit from last night were made from the same supply of spandex and sequins, and not in a good way. Her technical score was in the top ten. When after two skaters in the second group, the friend next to me said "17 more to go," I would have yelled if I hadn't been stunned by the thought of sheer boredom, although I had liked the young Ukranian skater, Irina Movchan, who has the semblance of power and has potential. Lina Johansson is a nice skater, but she's still coming back after a year of injuries. Idora Hegel, who wore a beautiful dress, had a weak skate, and luckily for us, Karademir ended the first half with her quite good skate.

Alisa Drei opened the second half, and skated a very nice, smooth performance to Richard Addinsell's Warsaw Concerto. (That was like bringing Turandot to Worlds held in Beijing.) She always seems to be fighting for the last place on the Finnish team, and has skated quite well at Euros in the past, but generally not good enough to secure a spot on the World team. (In 2006, after Susanna Poykio earned a second spot for Finnish women the year before in Moscow, the Finns could, finally, send a second woman to Worlds and Olympics.) Elena Glebova and Tamar Katz didn't live up to the potential they showed in the Short Program, but I rather liked Glebova's straightforward style, and she was the only woman to attempt two triple/triple combinations, and at least one was rather late in the program. She's a name to remember for the future. Elena Sokolova showed up to skate, and I expected much higher scores, but her levels and grades of execution must have been low, because she had only the eighth highest technical score -- lower than Karademir, who doesn't have a triple Lutz, and who I don't think landed a triple Flip -- and barely a point higher than Jenna McCorkell.

The big surprise of the penultimate group was Italian Valentina Marchei. She upset an injured Carolina Kostner at 2004 Italian Nationals; she started as a shortist, powerhouse, and then faded after a promising debut in Budapest, where she had placed 15th in her first European Championships. She has matured, and her style is more subtle. She landed most of her jumps, and came in a surprise 3rd in the Long Program, 5th overall, and one of only three skaters to crack 50 points in the technical score. (As a member of the top five, she will skate in tomorrow's gala. I hope she has a program ready :thanks:) Wearing an unusual dress of shimmery, taffeta-like light green and silver fabric that, with a little alteration, could appear on the runway in a couture show -- she designed it herself -- Susanna Poykio, whose blades cannot be heard over the quietest music, popped a combination, doubled at least one of her attempted triples, and faded a bit towards the end of her program to the film score from Munich. She had many lovely elements, although the Biellmann position is a self-defeating one for her, since it slows her down. I was so hoping she'd be on the podium, but the missing element in the Short Program was her undoing.

Sebestyen, who showed so much promise for a comeback in her Short Program, started off the final group, and may have landed only one triple in her program. She popped, performed doubles, and had the same jump problems she experienced earlier in the Grand Prix season. She used to have the best triple lutzes and triple flips in the Ladies' field. Carolina Kostner took the ice in a magenta dress with a feathered skirt, and skated a program to the soundtrack from Memories of a Geisha. She was solid in warmup, landing a very easy 3/3/2 combination. She repeated in the actual program itself, and she did some fabulous elements, including a 3Loop (or perhaps Salchow) with an approach from the opposite rotation. One spin was a little slow, and she doubled what looked like a planned 3Loop combination, but her spiral step sequence floated across the ice, and her positions were terrific. She scored a personal best with this performance. She's back, and I'm thrilled for her, after carrying the weight as the poster child for the Torino Olympics on her shoulders.

Wearing a chiffon-like babydoll dress in mint green, lovely Kiira Korpi skated right after Kostner, but, luckily, there were a large number of Finnish fans in the audience to fortify her. She has the looks and stature of Grace Kelly, and the charm and grace of Audrey Hepburn. (Twice during the Ladies' montage that played during ice resurfacing her face was shown when the lyrics were "She's a beautiful girl." And figure skating has no shortage of beautiful women.) Her skate wasn't perfect -- she had a few jump errors, and her last spin may have been off -- but much of it was very, very good, including blades nearly as soft as Poykio's, and she finished fourth in the free skate, edged out of third by .6, and was within .02 of matching Poykio's excellent component scores. Sarah Meier followed with a floaty program to the film score from Pride and Prejudice. It also wasn't a perfect skate -- she can do this program better, particularly with a little more oomph at the end -- and she didn't have the technical content to compete with a mostly clean Kostner. She is not that far behind though, and she earned higher compontent scores than Kostner.

Now that gold and silver were pretty much decided -- Meier and Kostner had an almost six-point lead over Gedevanishvili after the short program, and even if she landed two triple/triples, that wouldn't have been enough to bridge the deficit on its own. Gedevanishvili is not a noted Long Program skater: even in Juniors, she rarely had a clean one. She also is behind on her training from having to uproot herself from her coach in Russia and a move to Connecticut. In a "Flamenco Fantasy" program she had mistake after mistake on her jump. with no triples/triples attempted. (Her technical score was 14th of 24 skaters, while her components scores were eighth highest, saving her from a fall lower than eighth, 1.27 points higher than Sebestyen.) She had many disappointed fans in the audience, who were cheering her on. Within the first two elements, it was clear that Korpi had won the bronze, to the delight of many Finnish fans in the audience.

The young Russian Alexandra Ievleva closed the competition. and, sadly, it was a very weak skate. I can see glimpses of what people like so much about here Short Program, which I didn't see, but she's going to need to be a lot stronger to be competitive.

Based on the results, for next year's Ladies competition at European Championships in Zagreb, Croatia: Switzerland earns three spots -- a gold or silver earns three spots if there is only one competitor from a country -- as did Italy, with two ladies in the top five, and Finland, with three women in the top six, an amazing achievement. Russia is down to two, and it will be interesting to see who besides Sokolova the Russian Federation will send to Worlds in Tokyo. Hungary retains two, and Georgia and Turkey earn two for the first time, based on lone competitors Gedevanishvili's and Karademir's placements.

Tomorrow is the exhibition, which usually includes the local competitors. That should mean Anna Jurkiewicz, and Przemyslaw Domanski, each pf whom earned very respectable 20th place, and the second Polish pairs team, Piatkowska/Khromin. The top five from each discipline are scheduled to skate:

5th: Lutai, Marchei, Volosozhar/Morozov, Kerrs

4th: Davydov, Poykio, Obertas/Slavnov, Khoklova/Novitski

3rd: Van der Perren, Korpi, Siudeks, Denkova/Staviyski

2nd: Verner, Meier, Petrova/Tikhonov, Domnina/Shabalin

1st: Joubert, Kostner, Savchenko/Szolkowy, Delobel/Schoenfelder

Such a wonderful group of skaters!

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I sincerely do hope that even those of you not present in Warsaw have been able to see the gala performance. Here, in Sweden, it was broadcast this afternoon. Of course it was wonderful. Brian Joubert was near perfect - Thomas Werner was real cool, but unfortunately the poor guy took a fall.

Also, there were the Kerrs of Great Britain - I hadnt seen them before as Sw. TV doesnt broadcast everything. They are not a married couple, but brother and sister and in time they might be as good as Torvill-Dean. Just give them time and experience.

Sw. TV has been showing the Finnish girls morning, noon and night, and rightly so. I was just sitting there thinking of an appropriate English word for their skating - yes, I got it at last. The word is serenity.

Helene compared Kiira Korpi to Grace Kelly, couldnt agree more.

Now I have a question - I am in full agreement, but it would be nice to hear the opinion of others. The Sw. commentator, Lotta Falkenbäck, herself a one-time skater, was of the opinion that the skating style of today more and more approaches classical ballet in style and feel. Indeed so, I am so old that I have actually seen Sonia Henie live. Yes, it is true, I was a kid and she was absolutely on the last leg of her skating career.

But I vividly remember, that was the first time ever I saw any skating, except kids on a frozen pond. Well, Henie whizzed round the rink at fantastic speed, suddenly stopped and did a great number of pirouettes, whizzed around again, more pirouettes etc.etc. That was all. That was as far from ballet that one could possibly be. So I am inclined to agree with Ms Falkenbäck. :thanks: :huepfen024: :wink:

Anyway, it has been an incredible week. And I just learnt that the Worlds will be held in March 2008 in Gothenburg - tickets will be on sale from March, great contingents of Japanese expected, even Coreans.

See you then, folks!

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