European Championships in Graz, Day 2
Rhythm Dance: for only five hundreds of a point…
What do you do when two dance teams are just flying over the ice?
France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron danced with an extreme precision to their “Fame” routine, clean to the end of their toes – and they needed just that to claim the first place at the European Championships Thursday afternoon. Russia’s Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov delivered a delicious and crystal-clear program to “Signing in the Rain”. The French scored 88.78 points and the Russians, 88.73 points. The French will advance to the free dance with the slightest margin: .05 point. Italy’s Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri amassed 84.66 points and are standing in third place. Russia’s Alexandre Stepanova and Ivan Bukin garnered 83.60 points. Both are not far from the two head teams either. The free dance should prove a fierce competition!
Papadakis and Cizeron are peerless in terms of body movements. Their heads, shoulders, arms and legs are moving all over as they are dancing. Their feet, however, remain anchored in their edges, as if caressing the ice would make them fly. They brought the softness of easiness and the glide of mastered gesture to the staccato rhythm that used to prevail in the aerobic classes of the 1980s they were portraying.
“It’s always a challenge to stay grounded while moving so much”, Papadakis explained. “All the moves we are doing are coming from the floor (because our theme), and it’s a big challenge for us to put them on the ice. When we are dancing, we try to stay relax in our legs and still make maximum impact with our upper bodies. That comes from work, but at first it’s a real struggle to stay up while we’re still keeping the rhythm while doing all these moves.”
Sinitsina and Katsalapov were also flying through their routine. They added style, speed, and that unique relationship between a man and a woman that their coach, Sasha Zhulin, has always been promoting. They offered a magical moment – with no visible rain, but an obvious shared happiness. “I had so much fun today,” Katsalapov offered. “I wish each of my run-throughs would be like this!” “It comes from the inside,” Sinitsina added. “Not only because we work every day on the way we show our emotions, but because we enjoy easiness and this feeling of flying.”
Guignard and Fabbri were the only ones, with the French, to gain a Level 4 and all keypoints on their Finnstep sequence. They could finally skate their program to “Grease” as it was originally planned, after the injury Fabbri had sustained at the start of the season. “I can now fully use my hand, and I can do everything I could do before the injury. It was weird going back to former moves and holds we had before. It was a strange we did this last month!” Coming back in that case was meant to go forward, of course!
Men free: a great brand-new European Champion… And podium!
Russia’s Dmitri Aliev appeared so much in control these last few days in Graz. He won the first continental crown of his young career after a powerful program. His Russian teammate, 16 yr-old Artur Danielian, won the silver, while Georgia’s Morisi Kvitelashvili won the bronze. The last two are medaling for the first time at this level. The Championship welcomed also a special event, as Italy’s Daniel Grassl landed quad Lutz, flip and loop in his free program.
Skating to “The Sound of Silence” as interpreted by Disturbed, Aliev displayed his power from start to end of his program. He landed a quad Lutz (which was deemed underrotated), two quad toes and a triple Axel. “It was not easy to remain focused, though,” Aliev offered after his program. “I had to tell myself some words, and they helped. As for my music, it doesn’t let me relax: it pushes me forward! At the end of my program, when I realized that I had skated a decent program, I felt tears of happiness: I had overcome myself!” He amassed 184.44 points for his free program, beating his Personal Best by 15.20 points in the process, and 272.89 points overall.
Danielian’s skate seemed so well suited for Italian opera. He skated very mush to his music, with an incredible amplitude and he landed two quad Salchows (one in combination with a triple Salchow). “My coaches suggested this music and I loved it right away. I could easily imagine what it would look like on the ice,” Danielian said. He garnered 162.11 points for his free program and 146.74 points overall.
Kvitelashvili’s first steps on the Senior field had been so promising, that a European medal had seemed at his hand. Several years passed by before it finally happened in Graz. One of the tallest skaters of the field, his program included a quad Salchow, a quad toe and a triple Axel. “Confessa”, a powerful yet slow song by Italian singer Adriano Celentano, was particularly well suited to his style of skating. He amassed 163.94 points, cracking his Personal Best by 2.22 points, and 246.71 points overall, a mere .03 point behind Danielian. “This result is not a surprise,” he said. “We’ve been working and preparing for it. Not everything worked, but we’ll continue progressing.”
Daniel Grassl, the junior Italian, brought the crowd to its feet for the first standing ovation of the Championships. He displayed one of the most difficult programs ever seen, when he landed successfully a quad Lutz, quad flip and quad loop (although the latter was deemed underrotated)! USA’s Nathan Chen landed the first two and Japan’s icon Yuzuru Hanyu landed the first and the third at the Grand-Prix Final in Turin, Japan’s Shoma Uno can land the flip, but no one had landed the three major quads in a major championship yet. Grassl skated the second-best program of the evening in Graz.
Czech Michal Brezina, who had won the short program, failed on three quad Salchow attempts before rallying the end of his program as strong as ever. He ended in 7th place overall. “I just missed one minute,” he offered after what may have been the last competition of his career. “I felt so shaky. One more minute, and I would have felt my feet under me again.” Brezina will have made the Top 10 of 10 European Championships during his career, and won all three small medals – one gold, one silver, and one bronze.
Those European days…
27 Dancers, 35 Men and 38 Ladies are coming from all the countries of Europe and beyond to these Championships. Short program and Rhythm Dance also serve as qualifications, as only 24 (for singles), 20 (for Ice Dance) and 16 (for Pairs) advance to the free. They nonetheless fill a solid day: 5 hours for the Men yesterday, 4 hours for Ice Dance today. So much skating to watch, which is a blessing when you love it! With a thought for the judges who need to concentrate the whole time!
Do you like it hot?
Skating is, as everyone knows, a hot sport in a cold place. Some skaters apparently endured a few mishaps at the official team hotel. Hot water was not running at every level yesterday. One of the contestants explained that he wanted to take a bath and had to run the electric kettle of his room “a few” times to fill the tub. Please take note, if you want to organize skating competitions: skaters need both frozen and hot water!
After all… You’re just a Man!
After each program, while the skaters are waiting for their marks in the Kiss and Cry, a music is being played in the arena. And guess what? The song they play is coming from the country where the skaters are coming from. Well – almost. The music that was played for the German pair, Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel, was more like Oktoberfest music! The selection after Kevin Aymoz disaster performance was quite funny as well. The lyrics went: “You’re a man, nothing but a man…”