Golden Skate

34th Nebelhorn Trophy: Highlights

The Italians won the battles but the Americans won the war at the 34th Nebelhorn Trophy in Obertsdorf, Germany in September. Italy entered only one lady, Carolina Kostner, and one dance team, Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, but both won one gold medal. That earned Italy a bronze medal in the team competition, the country’s best result in the Fritz Geiger Memorial Trophy. The USA had two seconds, a third and a fourth in the four events, giving the team a record eighth team trophy. Canada finished second, its 14th team medal in 22 years.

Kostner was one of the hometown favorites. She trains in Obertsdorf with Michael Huth, whose other skaters include Susanne Stadlmuller and ex-US skater Sydne Vogel, who is now training to compete for Germany. The coltish Kostner is on a roll, having just won the Junior Grand Prix in Courchevel, France, in the preceding week. Very tall for a singles skater, the youngster was able to land all her jumps in her short program to Vanessa Mae’s “Summer Haze”. But she still finished second behind Russia’s Ludmila Nelidina, the defending Nebelhorn ladies champion. Nelidina skated to Richard Clayderman’s “Corcovado”. Finland’s Alisa Drei, who was surpassed last season by Elena Kettunen and Susanna Pöykiö, made a comeback bid by finishing third in the short, skating to “Gadfly”. Amber Corwin of the USA, skating for the third time in Obertsdorf, finished fourth. She used “Touch” by Sarah McLachlan.

The free skate was a different story as the confident Kostner, skating first in the final group, delivered a solid performance to “Far and Away” from “Schindler’s List”. Nelidina was next and she looked shaky from the start of her long, skated to “Abrazame” by Julio Iglesias. She dropped to third. Drei followed with a competent skate to “Adagio” by Arbignon to finish second. Corwin remained fourth after her “Scent of a Woman” long.

The men’s event was a free for all. Belarussian Sergei Davydov prevailed for a second year in a row by winning the short and finishing second in the free skate. Davydov was overtaken by Benjamin Miller of the USA, who was competing in his first international. Miller had an energetic program to music from Cirque du Soleil to win the long and take the silver. Miller moved up from fourth in the short. Canada’s Fedor Andreev, who is again this season using “Polovian Dances” in the short and Stravinsky’s “Firebird” in the long, finished second in the short and third in the long, finishing third overall. The USA’s Justin Dillon, who was in good position after finishing third in the short with his “Malaguena” program, couldn’t match his effort in the free skate. Skating to music from the Harry Potter soundtrack, he ended up in fourth.

Trifun Zivanovic, a former US skater now competing for Yugoslavia, jumped from 11th in the short to fifth in the long. Zivanovic, who won the Nebelhorn for the USA in 1998, noted that the jump in placement was his best ever between the short and the long. It was a good result after two years of not competing, he said, adding that he was looking forward to competing as often as possible this season.

A brand new Canadian team, Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin, won the pairs in their very first competition. Marcoux also won the Nebelhorn in 2000 with former partner Bruno Marcotte, but the duo had split after the 2002 Worlds. The couple, who have been off ice partners for three years, skated to “Scott and Fran’s Paso Doble” from Strictly Ballroom in the short and the “Pearl Harbor” soundtrack in the long. Former Ukrainian skater Julia Obertas, now competing for Russia with Alexei Sokolov, finished second. The couple used music from the soundtrack of “Summer of 42” for the short and “Pearl Harbor” in the free skate. Katie Orscher and Garrett Lucash, who finished fifth at the 2002 US Nationals finished third, skating to “Quidam” and “Spartacus”, while another debut team, Germany’s Eva-Marie Fitze and Rico Rex finished fourth. Although Rex is a veteran who has competed with several other girls, this was Fitze’s first pairs event. As a singles skater, Fitze won the Nebelhorn in 1996.

Italians Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali won each of the dances. Buoyed by a successful debut season last year, the couple demonstrated increased speed and footwork complexity as well as a confident attitude. There was a lot of expression in both their original dance to “Il Pipistrelo” and their free dance, which included music selections from Willy Deville and Gloria Estefan. Russian newcomers Anastasia Belova and Ilia Isaev were second in both the Austrian Waltz compulsory dance and their Grand Ball original dance to Strauss’ “Under Donnen and Blitzen.” But they were not sharp in their “Scarlet Pimpernel” free dance and fell to third behind the USA’s Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov, a former Russian. The husband-wife team, competing in their first international for the US, were third in the first two dances but surpassed the Russians with a spirited free dance to “Snow” by Craig Armstrong. American Kristen Fraser, skating for Azerbaijan with Igor Lukanin, finished fourth.