Thirty-one teams from 21 countries will compete for medals, prize money and the all important ISU rank points at the 2012 European Championships in Sheffield, England. Of the 31 teams on the roster, 12 have direct entry to the short dance, while 19 will compete for the remaining eight short dance spots.

After finishing in fourth in both 2009 and 2010, Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat from France skipped bronze and silver to ascend to the top spot at the 2011 European Championships, a result they would like to repeat this week in Sheffield. The French have one of the most energetic short dances of the season and their free program has continued to grow artistically. Though their season was slowed by illness, which forced them to miss their second of three Grand Prix competitions, they rebounded with a silver at Trophee Eric Bompard and in December medaled at their third consecutive Grand Prix Final, taking bronze.

kolbe-caruso-12eurosThe team’s closest competition should come from Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitry Soloviev, the 2011 European silver medalists. Bobrova & Soloviev started the season with a bang at Cup of China claiming gold and besting reigning world bronze medalists Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani by 15 points. However, since China they have scored six to seven points below their achievement in Beijing. The team is generating momentum once again after successfully defending their national title, winning by 9.5 points.

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte didn’t compete at Europeans in 2011 due to injury. This season, the team has come on strong, winning the bronze medal at both of their Grand Prix events with two strong programs that seem to suit their style. Though they’ve never finished higher than fifth at this event, it’s quite possible they’ll leap onto the podium in Sheffield.

Also in the medal hunt are Russia’s Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov, who finished fourth last year and earned a trip to the World Championships. Though Ilinykh & Katsalapov’s short dance has been well-received, the reviews have been mixed with regard to their “Ave Maria” free dance. Expectations continue to be high for the team, who had a stellar junior season in 2009-10 but have yet to break through at the senior level with the same intensity.

Although only eight of 19 teams will move on to the short dance, the qualifying round is chock full of dancers with potential including Germany’s Tanja Kolbe & Stefano Caruso (pictured) who won NRW Trophy earlier this season, Great Britain’s Louise Walden & Owen Edwards who qualified for the final round at Worlds last year, Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov of Azerbaijan who won the Istanbul Cup in December, and Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri who have medaled several times on the Senior B circuit this season.

Ice Dance (Direct Qualifiers):

Gabriela Kubova & Dmitri Kiselev (CZE)
Pernelle Carron & Lloyd Jones (FRA)
Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat (FRA)
Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi (GER)
Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland (GBR)
Zsuzsanna Nagy & Mate Fejes (HUN)
Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (ITA)
Isabella Tobias & Deividas Stagniunas (LTU)
Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUS)
Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS)
Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko (RUS)
Nadezhda Frolenkova & Mikhail Kasalo (UKR)

Ice Dance (Qualifying Round):

Barbora Silna & Juri Kurakin (AUT)
Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov (AZE)
Lesia Valadzenkava & Vitali Vakunov (BLR)
Alexandra Chistiakova & Dimitar Lichev (BUL)
Lucie Mysliveckova & Neil Brown (CZE)
Irina Shtork & Taavi Rand (EST)
Henna Lindholm & Ossi Kanervo (FIN)
Tiffany Zahorski & Alexis Miart (FRA)
Tanja Kolbe & Stefano Caruso (GER)
Louise Walden & Owen Edwards (GBR)
Dora Turoczi & Balazs Major (HUN)
Ekaterina Bugrov & Vasili Rogov (ISR)
Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (ITA)
Ksenia Pecherkina & Aleksander Jakushin (LAT)
Alexandra Zvorygina & Maciej Bernadowski (POL)
Sara Hurtado & Adria Diaz (ESP)
Ramona Elsener & Florian Roost (SUI)
Alisa Agafonova & Alper Ucar (TUR)
Siobhan Heekin-Canedy & Dmitriy Dun (UKR)