by Laura Flagg
One of the most prestigious ISU Championship titles will be on the line this week as 30 ice dance teams from 23 countries compete at the 2017 European Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
France’s Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron, the two-time and reigning World and European champions, are the heavy favorites. They placed second at the Grand Prix Final behind Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who represent Canada and will not be present in Ostrava, so they should have no problem winning their third consecutive title.
Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte of Italy and Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev, of Russia will likely join the French on the podium, although who wins silver or bronze is not as easily predicted. Although Cappellini & Lanotte beat Bobrova & Soloviev the last time the two teams met, that was at last year’s European Championships. While Cappellini & Lanotte did not qualify for the Grand Prix Final, this was more to do with tough fields than underperforming in their Grand Prix events. Bobrova & Soloviev also performed well at their Grand Prix events, with comparable raw scores to those of Cappellini & Lanotte, and placed 4th at the Grand Prix Final.
All three of the top teams here are using swing for their short dance. And in a year where few teams are taking risks with free dance selections, these three are no exceptions.
If any of the top teams falter, Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin will be hoping to be in a position to take advantage of it. They have had a strong Grand Prix series, including a medal at Cup of China, and placed 2nd at the Russian National Championships. The energy they bring to their hip hop section of their short dance makes it even more entertaining.
Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri, the perennial runners up at Italian Nationals, will be challenging for a top 5 placement for the first time in their careers, having placed 6th and 7th the two previous seasons at Europeans. The improvement they have made in skating quality and if not in results is apparent in their free dance which is a modern interpretation of the Nutcracker.
To get that top 5 finish, they will likely have to beat Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov, who have not been able to maintain the momentum from last year’s Grand Prix medals and 4th place finish at Europeans. They eeked out a bronze medal at Russian Nationals, which qualified them for this competition, but as Russia has only two spots for the World Championships, this will likely be the end of their season.
Also likely to finish in the top 10 are Isabelle Tobias & Ilia Tkachenko of Israel, Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev of Poland, and Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen of Denmark.
The short dance is on Thursday, January 26th with the free dance taking place on the 28th.