by Laura Flagg | Photo by Robin Ritoss

The European Championships are this week in Bratislava, Slovakia.  Twenty-eight teams will be competing from 21 different countries for one of the most prestigious titles in ice dancing.

The battle for gold will likely be between reigning World Champions, Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron of France, and the 2014 World Champions, Italy’s Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte.  Papadakis suffered from a concussion sustained over the summer, so this will be their international debut for the season.  However, their new free dance to “Rain In Your Black Eyes” and “To Build a Home” was well received at the French National Championship, where they won their second straight title.  Cappellini & Lanotte, who represent Italy, have rebounded from last season’s disappointments to earn a bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final and will be looking to build upon that result.

Two Russian teams are the top contenders for the final spot on the podium.   Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev, who won this event the last time they competed at in in 2013, have had a solid fall season qualifying for the Grand Prix Final and winning a fifth national championship.  However, Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov had a few mistakes at Nationals, and if they were to skate clean, the result could be reversed.  Sinitsina & Katsalapov are in only their second season together and have made enormous improvements over the past year to earn medals at both their Grand Prix events. 

The third Russian team, Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin, are the reigning European Bronze medalists.  While they are not favored to repeat that result, they are certainly capable of two strong performances to build on their solid Grand Prix season, where they had a 3rd and a 4th place finish.

The same holds true for Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland of Great Britain (pictured), who won the bronze medal at Europeans in 2014.  They placed fourth and fifth in their Grand Prix events, but have not had the same level of success that they had in 2014.

Israel will be represented by Isabella Tobias & Ilia Tkachenko.  They had to sit out of international competition their first season together, but have had impressive results this year in Challenger Series events, winning Tallinn Trophy and placing second at Finlandia Trophy and Mordovian Ornament.  Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri, of Italy, have also had success in the Challenger series, winning both Warsaw Cup and Golden Spin.  With their two fourth place finishes in Grand Prix events, they could challenge for a top 5 finish here.

The short dance will take place on Thursday.  The field will be narrowed to 20 teams for the free dance on Saturday.