by Matteo Morelli
The 2023 European Championships was held at Espoo Metro Arena in Helsinki, Finland, with 23 teams from 19 countries competing to earn the top continental spots.
Italy’s Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri won their first European title, adding to their two previously earned continental bronze medals. In second place, Great Britain’s Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson ended with a silver medal and a total score that was only a couple of points away from the first spot. Juulia Turkkila & Matthias Versluis managed to deliver a wonderful skate that allowed them to get on the podium with a bronze medal and a big reception from the home audience.
Guignard & Fabbri entered the competition as the strongest European team of the season, with two Grand Prix gold medals and a Grand Prix Final bronze medal. The experienced Italian team, which already claimed two bronze medals from previous European Championships (2018/2019 and last season), managed to secure the title they aimed for at this event.
Their lead on the event started from the rhythm dance, with a score of 85.53 that was only a fraction of a point away from the second highest score. They presented some changes from the original version of their rhythm dance they started the season with.
“The first big change was about the music and it happened after the two Grand Prix, we thought it wasn’t strong enough and we wanted to find music that could help finish the programme in a better way,” Fabbri shared. “From the Grand Prix Final to this competition, the main change is in the rotational lift, but it didn’t work that well as we didn’t get a high score on that.”
They succeeded to confirm their lead in the free, earning 124.91 points and a total score of 210.44 to secure the title they were so much hoping for, with all the emotions coming out after the results were announced.
“Today was a long day, I think the highlight was the Kiss & Cry when we saw the scores,” Fabbri said. “It has been a really long journey, we know we are not young and we had to wait a really long time to get to this. It is really hard for us right now to express how it feels: you have a dream, and when it comes true it is amazing,” he added.
This is a very important medal for the Italian team, as it pays back all the hard work they have been putting in over the years.
“We are very proud of this achievement because we know that before us a lot of Italian couples achieved really great results, like our coach Barbara (Fusar Poli) with Maurizio Margaglio, Federica Faiella & Massimo Scali, Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte,” Fabbri shared. “We are very proud that we could get to the same results.”
Guignard & Fabbri are a couple on and off the ice. They share a very strong bond, with Fabbri admitting that Guignard is very strong mentally and motivates and pushes him.
“Marco is very sweet when we get on the ice, he kisses my hand and kisses me a lot and I can feel the love,” Guignard shared, confirming how strong and important their relationship is.
The Italian delegation won two gold and two silver medals at this European Championships. “We are a big family within the Italian team, we support each other and we will celebrate with them” Fabbri said.
Great Britain’s Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson also came into the event from a strong season, with two Grand Prix silver medals and a fourth place at the Grand Prix Final. They earned a score of 84.12 points for their rhythm dance, just half a point away from the Italian team in first place.
“We chose the music accordingly to the Latin style, we took into consideration the vibe of the programme and decided the music and elements according to that,” Gibson shared in relation to their Latin rhythm dance. Asked about what music they would love for future rhythm dances, they said that they wouldn’t mind more Latin, confirming their love for this year’s theme.
The score of their free dance was very close to that of Guignard & Fabbri, with 123.77 points and an overall total score of 207.89 and a silver medal. The British duo really enjoyed skating their programme at this event.
“The choreo step was a lot of fun with the crowd clapping, it will stay in my mind for a long time,” Fear said.
Their Lady Gaga’s ‘Born this way’ free captured the audience, who clapped for the entire programme. “The crowd was electrifying because of the beautiful Finnish team (Turkkila & Versluis) that went before us,” Gibson shared.
Great Britain’s last ice dance medal was in 2014.
“It is an honour to be part of this legacy, we hope to encourage as many young people as possible to get out there and feel the joy that we all feel,” Fear added.
One of the most beautiful moments of the entire event was when Finland’s Juulia Turkkila & Matthias Versluis claimed the third place on the podium, bringing back to their country a European medal that has been missing since 1995. Espoo Metro Arena had almost a full house during the event’s final, and the excitement from the audience was palpable.
Their rhythm dance allowed them to earn 77.56 points and finish in third place, however there was just less than a point separating the teams in third, fourth, fifth and sixth place.
“We were really in the moment and we stayed focused throughout the whole programme, we really felt the support and it helped us enjoy the performance even more,” Versluis shared.
Although the Latin pattern is not something we are used to see them skating on, they enjoy the challenge it gives them.
“We have the partial step sequence in the rhumba part, which is slower, and midline step sequence in the last part, which is really fast,” Turkkila said. “We want to challenge ourselves and improve.”
Their classical free dance looked flawless, light and beautiful, and received a standing ovation that we are sure Turkkila & Versluis will never forget. When their score of 120.65 (a new personal best improved by four points) and the total of 198.21 confirmed that they were in medal position, the audience exploded in front of the Finnish team that was reacting almost with disbelief on the Kiss & Cry.
“It was a dream come true to see all the Finnish flags and support,” Turkkila said. “We tried to breathe in the moment and enjoy.”
“When we entered into the combo lift, we heard the audience went wild,” Versluis added. “It gave us energy to push the last part of the programme.”
Lithuania’s Allison Reed & Saulius Ambrulevičius also scored a new personal best in their original free dance based on music by Faithless, earning almost four points more than their previous personal best and ending fourth in what was a very strong competition from start to end.
France was the only country with two teams in the top ten: Evgeniia Lopareva & Geoffrey Brissaud managed to climb up from sixth to fifth place, delivering a strong free on music by Edit Piaf, and Loïcia Demougeot & Théo Le Mercier confirmed a seventh place across both segments.
Young Goose Academy training partners Natálie Taschlerová & Filip Taschler from Czech Republic, and Maria Kazakova & Georgy Reviya from Georgia, finished respectively in fifth and eighth place.