by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss

The 2017 European Championships were held in Ostrava, Czech Republic January 25-29. Thirty ice dance teams competed in the Short Dance; twenty qualified for the free program.

Short Dance

At the short dance press conference immediately after the competition, Italians Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte took center stage as the event leaders, with Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev of Russia to their right in the second place seats. The French team, Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron was third.

Several hours later, the referee and technical controller announced a video review confirmed extra turns by Cappellini & Lanotte in the exit feature of their straight line lift. The moves created an additional element – a rotational lift. The mandatory -1.00 deduction lowered their score to 75.65 and put the Russians’ 76.18 first. The French remained third with 75.48.

Only .70 points separated the top three places.

Bobrova & Soloviev danced blues to “Mercy on Me” by Christina Aguilera and swing to “Sing, Sing, Sing”. Their opening twizzles, straight line lift, and pattern earned Level 4; both step sequences were Level 3. Their score was a personal best.

The 2013 European Champions expressed their thoughts on dancing to the more sensual blues and their music selection.

“I really like Christina Aguilera; she has a strong voice and a lot of emotions,” Bobrova noted.  “We want to show a real blues with a connection between man and woman.” 

Dancing to “Cry for Me” and “Choo Choo Boogie” for the blues and boogie-woogie, Cappellini & Lanotte also scored a personal best. The program earned Level 4 for the opening solid twizzles, pattern, partial step, and straight-line lift; the not touching step sequence was Level 3. Cappellini commented on how the ice size affected the free movement of their skate.

“Here, the ice rink is a bit smaller, and we had to be careful with the barriers. It is difficult because in the program you have patterns, and you need to stay together. We had to pay attention, and the performance did not flow that much. We’d like to skate it 100% without any distractions.”

Papadakis & Cizeron had the highest event Component Score – 37.42. The twizzles, pattern and stationary lift earned Level 4. Unfortunately, they had a few bobbles including a foot down on the double twizzles in their final not touching step sequence. The element earned a Level 2.

“I am a bit frustrated with the mistakes,” Papadakis said.  “It was more on details, but it made us lose a few points.”  

“We had slight errors in some parts of the program, but we are happy with our performance overall,” Cizeron added.

Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri were in fourth place with blues and swing to Grease that scored a personal best 70.46. The twizzles and curve lift earned Level 4; the pattern and both step sequences were Level 3.  The seven-time Italian silver medalists were excited about their skate and the support of the audience.

“I think it was our best short program we ever performed,” Guignard said.  “It felt really good, and once we stepped on the ice, the nervousness, the hard legs…everything was forgotten. We heard fans clapping their hands until the end, and that helped us, too.”

Isabella Tobias & Ilia Tkachenko were fifth with 69.35 points. The Israeli champions chose two selections by The Weeknd for their sultry blues and powerful hip-hop. The twizzles and rotational lift earned Level 4; the pattern and step sequences were Level 3.

Tobias commented on the origin of her sleek costume and the 2017 rule change.

“In 2013, I saw Beyoncé in such a dress. When they allowed pants this year, I knew I wanted to perform in it. I think it’s great we have the chance to wear this style and express ourselves this way.”

Free Dance

Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron began the day in third place. After winning the free dance, the French couple vaulted to the top of the podium for a third straight Europeans gold medal. Italians Anne Cappellini & Luca Lanotte also made it three in a row for their silver award. The short dance leaders, Russian’s Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev, won bronze.

Papadakis & Guillaume skated last and scored 114.19 for a mesmerizing and lyrical seamless dance. The couple accented their deep edges and flexibility as they serenely floated across the ice to the strains of “Stillness” and “Odduada”. The lifts, spin, and twizzles earned Level 4; the circular and diagonal footwork was Level 3. The total score was 189.67.  The reigning World Champions were pleased with their performance.

“We had such a good feeling on the ice this afternoon,” Cizeron said. “The audience was incredible, really, really warm. We felt like we could deliver 100% with our program adding this magical moment and connection that we have. It just felt really good.“

Cappellini & Lanotte opened their Charlie Chaplin medley with an animated pose and facial expressions that brought spontaneous laughter from the audience. The great storytellers continued in character throughout the performance that scored a season best 110.99.

The twizzles, lifts, and combination spin earned Level 4; the circular and diagonal step sequences were Level 3., Cappellini put her foot down after she completed the first twizzle, which didn’t affect the level but received costly negative GOE marks. The total 186.64 was a personal best score.

“At the moment, we are just relieved that it’s over,” Cappellini said.  “It was indeed a long and difficult week for us. I am happy we came through despite the little mistakes in the beginning.”

“I am really happy,” Lanotte added.  “This is our fifth time on the podium at Europeans and the third time we finished in second place.”

Bobrova & Soloviev’s dance began with Chopin’s Prelude No.20 and closed with a short “Winter” section from Four Seasons arranged by violinist Nigel Kennedy. It scored 110.38.

Soloviev explained the storyline. “For each classical piece you can make your own story, and we did. It sort of starts with Katia’s tragedy, and then it culminates into the happiness of life.”

While the twizzles, lifts, and combination spin earned Level 4, Bobrova was disappointed that the step sequences levels were very low (2, 3).  The total 186.56 score was only .08 behind the silver medalists.

There was a 15-point gap between the podium medalists and fourth place. Isabella Tobias & Ilia Tkachenko (ISR) were fourth (169.29), followed by Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin in fifth (166.93) and Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri in sixth (163.68).

Tobias & Tkachenko scored 99.94 points with a powerfully dramatic interpretation of The Nutcracker. Tobias’s exquisite dance moves learned and cultivated as a seven-year performer at the American School of Ballet highlighted the program. The lifts, twizzles, and spin earned Level 4; both step sequences were Level 2.

“This result is definitely a good starting point for the future events,” Tkachenko said.

Stepanova & Bukin danced a tango to music by Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla that scored 98.76. The low and wide range of the element levels confused the team.

“We don’t know why the levels for the twizzles and footwork were not so good,” Stepanova said.  “We also don’t understand the levels in the short dance. Maybe they are looking at things different here. In fact, each specialist has a different view.”

Guignard & Fabbri finished seventh in the free dance with 93.22 points for their modern interpretation of The Nutcracker. They fell from fourth after an unfortunate mishap in the curve lift. 

“I don’t know what really happened,” Guignard explained.  “We entered the lift well and felt that we had the good position, and then suddenly, we fell. That never happened before. Despite the shock, we tried to get back into it. We didn’t want to lose further points.”

Afterthoughts

The Italians and Russians spoke about the revision of the Short Dance results.

  • Cappellini:  “It definitely affected us. We can consider the difficulty of the situation that the ISU and the Technical Panel found themselves in. We believe that decision was made with interest of fairness of the sport. We supported it 100% and complied and we didn’t really flinch. It was very surprising and quite unsettling. Of course the moment of the exchange of the small medals was very strange. We have had such a good day, and we were very happy. And then, the next day, we had to readjust. We told ourselves, ok it happened; let’s imagine we were second in the short dance. We wanted to bounce back and not let it be an excuse to be more stressed. We tried to move past it as quickly as possible.”
  • Soloviev: “When our team leader called us, we were really surprised. It was a strange feeling that we had to exchange the medals. We are very grateful for everyone who reacted with understanding. We have never experienced anything like that in our career.”
  • Bobrova: “We tried not to pay attention to this. There was a redraw and we got another starting number, which we were actually happy with. We didn’t really discuss it with our coaches.”

At the Free Dance Press Conference, a journalist asked the medalists if they knew which team was the last to win three straight European Ice Dance titles. None knew the answer.

Teams who have won three straight European Ice Dance titles:

  • 2004 – 2005 – 2006 Tatiana Navka & Roman Kostomarov (RUS)
  • 1996 – 1997 – 1998 Oksana Grishuk & Evgeni Platov (RUS)
  • 1966 – 1967 – 1968 Diane Towler & Bernard Ford (GBR)

Teams who have won four straight European Ice Dance titles:

  • 1989 – 1990 – 1991 – 1992 Marina Klimova & Sergei Ponomarenko (USSR / CIS)
  • 1985 – 1986 – 1987 – 1988 Natalia Bestianova & Andre Bukin (USSR)
  • 1973 – 1974 – 1975 – 1976 Liudmila Pakhomova & Alexander Gorshkov (USSR)