Golden Skate

2004 European Figure Skating Championships: Ice Dance Highlights

Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov of Russia easily danced their way to their first European title. Bulgaria’s Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski won their second consecutive European silver medal, while Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov of Ukraine won the bronze.

The Compulsory Dance (CD) of the event was the Austrian Waltz, worth 20 percent of the overall score. The dance consists of two sequences and was created by the Austrian brother-and-sister team of Susi and Peter Handschmann. It was first performed in 1979.

Nakva and Kostomarov took the lead in the Waltz, followed by Denkova and Staviski who lost on a six-to-three split decision in comparison with the Russians.

Grushina and Goncharov placed third ahead of Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France and Israel’s Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski, respectively.

Original Dance

The ice dance event continued with the Original Dance (OD). The theme this season is the “Swing Combo”, whereby couples can choose any two or three of the following rhythms: Blues, Jive, Rock’n’Roll, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie and/or Swing. The OD was worth 30 percent of the overall score.

Navka and Kostomarov strengthened their overnight lead in with a strong performance to a Blues (Ain’t No Sunshine by Al Jerreau) and Swing (Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley). The two-time and reigning Russian champions produced a difficult side-by-side footwork line, mostly on one foot, and a rotational lift with changes of position for Navka. The team earned marks from 5.5 to 5.9 for a first place finish in the OD and overall.

“We enjoyed to skate today,” said Navka. “The audience liked our performance and helped us a lot. But at the end, I was tired!” Her partner, Kostomarov added, “We’re happy with today’s performance and we hope to skate as well tomorrow.”

Denkova and Staviski danced a very expressive Blues (It’s a Man’s Man’s World) that included an interesting spin in a difficult low position and a lift with Staviski in a spread eagle position. The Swing (Big and Bad by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy) part of their dance was highlighted by the intricate side-by-side footwork line. The team, which was slightly out of sync on a twizzle at the beginning of the routine, received marks ranging from 5.3 to 5.9 to place third in the OD, dropping them one spot to third overall.

“We are a bit disappointed,” said Denkova, “not with the placement, but because me made a little mistake in the side-by-side footwork. It wasn’t exactly parallel.” She continued, “Well, but we have another day to go. The placement isn’t so important to us, but we want to skate well and give pleasure to the audience. We made our dance more difficult. Our choreographer added so many arm and upper body moves that make each step a lot harder. I think we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Staviski commented, “It’s too bad, we [lost] for nothing. It was just a little thing. When we were back in 10th, 11th place, things like this never happened to us, but now it’s maybe because there is a lot more responsibility. In general, the top couples perform very difficult elements, and you have to be totally focused like Alexei Yagudin was at the Olympic Games. Maybe we still have to learn this.”

Grushina and Goncharov appeared confident in their Swing and Blues (In the Mood and Summertime) routine, producing two interesting lifts, good footwork, and a nice spin with a change of direction. The husband-and-wife team earned marks up to 5.1 to 5.8 for for a second place finish in the OD, moving up one spot to second overall.

“It was a good dance for us today,” said Grushina, “we skated well. This combination of dance (Swing Combo) was a little bit strange for me at the beginning but now I got used to it and I like it very much. Everyone skated really well today, and I’m satisfied with our performance too.”

Goncharov added, “In the last season, we skated Waltz and Polka. We liked that very much, but we enjoy this one a bit more. We can dance to any rhythm we choose. The silver medal would be good for us, but we wouldn’t be unhappy with the bronze either.”

Delobel and Schoenfelder maintained their fourth place position despite a fall by Delobel on a twizzle in the OD. Chait and Sakhnovski finished fifth in the OD and overall.

“I made a mistake but I still like the boogie-woogie so much,” said Delobel. “That’s life, it can happen, but we weren’t competing for the gold medal. And in the free dance we will skate better!”

Schoenfelder added, “I’m disappointed because of the mistake, but I think we skated very well. We were given very high marks but without the mistake it could be even better, maybe we could reach the podium. We took a lot of risk with this difficult dance and I don’t know what the problem was, but it happens sometimes. But it doesn’t matter, we are looking forward the next dance.”

Chait and Sakhnovski placed fifth in the OD and maintained their overall fifth place position.

“We skated very well, and the audience just loved us,” said Chait. “At the beginning I picked up a big button. Somebody probably lost it there, and it would have been very dangerous for the other skaters.”

Sakhnovski said, “We are happy with our skating. The French couple made a mistake and is still ahead of us. But judging is a political game. The new judging system will not be better, they already tried it, and it doesn’t make any difference. We’re happy that the audience loves us, that’s enough for us.”

Free Dance

Navka and Kostomarov, who were last to skate, put out a fun program with selections from the Pink Panther and Austin Powers soundtracks. The team demonstrated strong rotational lifts and twizzle sequences and a nice dance combination spin. The 2003 European bronze medalists earned marks ranging from 5.5 to 5.9 to finish first place in the FD and overall.

“We are very happy,” said Navka, “it was a long journey for us. We worked very hard, and Irina Lobacheva/Ilia Averbukh [last year's champions] and others have retired, giving us the “green light”. We did very well today. It was difficult, because Europeans are different from the Grand Prix events or even the Grand Prix Final. We wanted to prove that we are number one, no matter what panel the computer chooses.”

Kostomarov added, “There was pressure on us, we were nervous. It didn’t make a difference that we were leading after the OD, there would have been the same pressure on us if we had been in second place, because we wanted to fight for the gold anyway.”

Denkova and Staviski skated to an emotional performance to Georg Friedrich Händel’s Suite in D minor. Their routine featured innovative spins, difficult lifts and good transitions which earned marks from 5.4 to 5.9. The Bulgarian champions placed second in the FD, moving up one spot to place second overall.

“It was a very emotional performance,” said Denkova. “Our goal was to have a 6.0 for presentation. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it, but a lot of 5.9s. Perhaps at Worlds we can get a 6.0 for the last time with old judging system. It’s a good result, we defended the silver medal. It would be better to be in first place but we still have time.”

Staviski couldn’t remember what he told his partner during a hug at the end. “But we were just happy and very glad,” he said. “We were very concentrated when we went out to skate, we didn’t talk to each other, just a few remarks. That’s all, nothing more.”

First to skate in the final group, Grushina and Goncharov put out a moving program to Hanging Escape – a dramatic piece by Alexander Golshtain about war and peace and dedicated to the memory of the victims of the war in Iraq. The couple completed various interesting lifts and very well synchronized twizzles, earning marks from 5.2 to 5.8 for a third place finish in the FD and overall.

“This is our first medal at Europeans,” said Grushina. “We also hope to move up at Worlds and next season. We’re very happy with the result.”

Goncharov agreed, adding “The audience was great. It felt easy to skate with such a support.”

Delobel and Olivier maintained their fourth place position after their “magic and sorcerers” performance to Merlin.

Delobel said, “We had a very good performance today before this fantastic audience of Budapest Sports Arena. People here like ice dancing so much, and we felt that they are behind us. We felt really good at the start, and we’re getting better and better, for the next competition too.”

“I’m pretty happy with this performance,” said Schoenfelder. “It was a good way for us to finish this competition. We hope to skate well throughout the competition in the future and to be on the podium.”

Chait and Sakhnovski delivered a lively routine to Clowns from the Fellini soundtracks to place fifth in the FD and overall.

Chait felt they gave a good performance and appreciated the crowd’s support. “When we got tired at the middle of the program, they started to clap and that lifted us up!” she said. “It was an amazing feeling. Unfortunately, we remained 5th after the Free Dancing and that makes us disappointed.”

Sakhnovski said, “We did our job well. There was no mistake.” Sakhnovski doesn’t feel the marks mesh and doesn’t understand why. “Probably some of the judges don’t like us at all,” he ventured. “We try not to worry about the judges, because we skate for the crowd. After this competition we will have Nationals and than the Worlds. So there is no time for rest however we would need that a lot.”

Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy finished sixth followed by Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia.

Faiella was exuberant about getting a 5.7 in the Free Dance. “It’s a really high mark and it is the first time for us to get a mark as high at a major event,” she said.

Scali agreed, adding, “It was so perfect, we didn’t made any mistakes today. It seemed that only seconds passed, but in fact we were out there a few minutes. We can’t explain how happy we are. The funny thing was that we always made some mistakes at Europeans, but this was an exception. The crowd is very warm, we heard it already at the warm up that they would support us.”

Hungarian dancers, Nora Hoffmann and Attila Elek, came to the event hoping to place in the top ten. Instead, he 2003 World Junior silver medalists placed eleventh behind the Great Britain’s Sinead Kerr and John Kerr.

Hoffman, who recently had the flu, was tired and didn’t care for the ice conditions. “It is a bit warm in here, so the ice is melting,” she said. “This made the dance tougher and more dangerous. There was a lot of falling here today, it’s not usual in ice dancing. Maybe the smile is back on my face, but it’s not the real one at the moment.”

Elek was as disappointed as his partner about not making the top ten. “We really wanted to be in the top ten. Of course now we are going to prepare for the World Championships.”

Sinead Kerr and John Kerr (a sister-and-brother team) of Great Britain were very happy with their performance and overall 10th placement.

“The crowd was amazing,” said Sinead. “They got behind us right from the start, which was excellent. I wasn’t feeling that nervous at all. I really enjoyed the atmosphere. Then, when we started the first couple of moves, it sort of hit me – ‘Oh my God, these are the European Championships and look at the crowd!’ And after that, I thought, ‘Come on, let’s go!'”

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