by Katie Tetzloff | Photo by Robin Ritoss 

Last week in Budapest, 29 ice dance teams from countries throughout Europe competed at the 2014 European Championships. For many of these teams, this event was the last time for them to skate their programs before the upcoming Winter Olympic Games. 

Bronze medalists last year, the new European champions by just over one point are Italy’s Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte. They achieved a new personal best score of 171.61. Winning the European Championships, placing second in both of their Grand Prix events, and qualifying for the Grand Prix Final shows this team’s consistent record this season as they head to Sochi next month.

“Going into this free dance being in the lead gave us a boost of confidence, and anyway when you’re out there on the ice you’re not thinking about the others and their points, you have to go out and do your job,” Cappellini said. “It took us some time yesterday to calm down, indeed it was an interesting position we were in, speaking of emotions. This was also definitely a great step forward looking on to the Olympics.”

Cappellini & Lanotte have steadily improved over the past quad are expected to be podium contenders in Sochi.

Russians Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov came in a close second with a combined score of 170.51. Though they received higher program component scores than Cappellini & Lanotte in both the short and free dances, a fall on the twizzles in their “Black Swan” free dance prevented them from jumping into first. 

“I can’t explain it,” Ilinykh said. “We skated so well and then this mistake happened.”

“Everybody saw Lena’s tears,” Katsalapov added. “She is upset as we all are. We skated well and this happened. [At the end] I hugged and kissed her on the cheek and told her, ‘you are great.’”

14euros-coomesbucklandAlthough they finished seventh at their Grand Prix assignment in November, Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland of Great Britain (pictured, right) leapt to the podium in Budapest for their first European medal. They, too, achieved a new personal best of 158.69, thanks to their free dance to music from the Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson show Immortal.  

“We wanted to skate the free program well,” Buckland said. “We love it and it’s taken a while to get to this point so we’re very happy.”

Russia also picked up fourth- and fifth-place finishes with Victoria Sinitsina & Rusian Zhiganshin and Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko, respectively.  Though Riazanova & Tkachenko have been ranked ahead of their younger teammates in the past year, Sinitsina & Zhiganshin are fighting for the third Olympic spot with vigor, and have now placed ahead of their domestic rivals twice in the past month, in both the national championships and this European Championships. 

“We are very happy with that, at our first European Championships,” Sinitsina said. “The marks were good, the result is good. You don’t have the final podium in your head when you skate.”

In the short dance in Budapest, Sinitsina & Zhiganshin finished ahead of Riazanova & Tkachenko by just .28 points, due largely to Riazanova & Tkachenko’s level one on the second half of the Finnstep. They could have moved up in the free dance, but Riazanova & Tkachenko’s out-of-sync twizzles were met with negative GOE and they ultimately placed fifth behind Sinitsina & Zhiganshin.   

“There were little mistakes in the program, mostly in the twizzles,” Tkachenko said.  “I think the close scores added a little bit to the pressure.”

Both teams will now wait to hear from their federation regarding the Olympics as the deadline looms.

“Of course we would love to go to the Olympics,” Sinitsina said.  “We have thought about it.”  

“We are really concerned with the Olympic spot,” Tkachenko said.

Rounding out the top ten in order from the 2014 European Championships are Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov (AZE), Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi (GER), Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (ITA), Isabella Tobias & Deividas Stagniunas (LTU), and Sara Hurtado & Adria Diaz (ESP). They will all compete again at the Olympics next month. Therefore, this event was a good precursor for what is to come for these European teams in this crucial Olympic year. Particularly noteworthy was Hurtado & Diaz’s tenth-place finish, which will allow Spain to send two dance teams to next year’s European Championships. 

Federica Testa & Lukas Csolley were the highest-ranked team from a country without an Olympic berth. They placed 12th in Budapest, ahead of three teams who will be competing in Sochi.

A couple of noteworthy teams, Nathalie Péchalat & Fabian Bourzat of France and Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev of Russia, chose to skip the European Championships so as not to interrupt their Olympic preparation.

Non-European teams will compete this week at the Four Continents Championships in Taipei, Taiwan. Due to travel times and training schedules, though, none of the dance teams assigned to the Olympics will go to Four Continents this year.