14NHK-FD-CB-9041 595This week, 30 ice dance teams from 23 countries head to Stockholm, Sweden for the 2015 European Figure Skating Championships.   This is the seventh time Sweden has hosted the European Championships, the last time Stockholm served as the location was 1912. Each European country is allotted between one and three spots at this event, based on the countries results from the previous year. The individual teams that we will see, however, are chosen by their respective skating unions.  The only countries that were allowed three teams each are Italy and Russia, both of whom are expecting medals this week.

2014 champions, Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte of Italy will face strong competition from France’s Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron and Elena Ilinykh & Ruslan Zhiganshin of Russia as they defend their title in Stockholm.   All three teams competed at Cup of China in November with the French taking home gold.

The Italians capped last season with a win at the 2014 World Championships in March and have competed only once internationally this season.  After finishing a disappointing third at Cup of China, they withdrew from their second Grand Prix to focus on making some changes to their free dance.  They convincingly won their national championships, scoring 190.16. 

Papadakis & Cizeron have been on a roll this season winning both of their Grand Prix events as well as a bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final.  The team relocated to Montreal, Quebec earlier this year with coach Romain Haguenauer and now also works with Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, the 2006 and 2007 world silver medalists. 
Russia’s Ilinykh & Zhiganshin started their partnership nine months ago and have improved their placements at each outing.  Second and fourth place finishes at their Grand Prix events qualified them for the Final, where they finished sixth.  In December, they were crowned national champions in a close race with Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin, who will also compete in Sweden.

The 2014 European bronze medalists, Penny Coomes & Nick Buckland of Great Britain, will look to contend with all three in hopes of repeating their placement from last year or moving up a step on the podium.  The duo’s programs have been well received this season by judges and fans alike and have the potential to shake things up at the top if the Brits are on their game. 

Since most of these European teams have significant international experience, the competition should be close.  The top 20 will advance after the short dance which takes place on Wednesday, January 28th. The free dance will be held on the following day.