Golden Skate

2007 European Figure Skating Championships: Ice Dance Highlights

France’s Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder were the gold medal winners in the ice dance event, while Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin or Russia placed a very close second (.31 points).

Defending champions, Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria, were third.

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France withdrew from the event due to Pechalat injuring her wrist earlier this month.

Hungary’s Nora Hoffmann and Attila Elek, who stood in seventh after the OD were unable to compete in the FD as Elek broke his ankle during while practicing their FD that morning.

“I got stuck with my blade in the ice and I knew that it (the ankle) was going to break,” said Elek. He was taken to Czerniakowski Hospital for examination where he received a cast.

“It’s a terrible thing to happen,” said John Kerr. “Especially because they had been doing so well here. Actually it might have brought us skaters closer together. All the couples [in the practice] grouped to comfort him.”

In addition to determining the best ice dance teams in Europe, Warsaw was afforded a glimpse into the future as Germany’s Kati Winkler and Rene Lohse presented a new Compulsory Dance (CD) called the “Sunshine Quickstep”. The dance was designed by Finland’s Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko, along with their former coach Martin Skotnicky, and was based on their 1995 Original Dance to Borsalino.

The official presentation of the CD will take place at the World Junior Championships later this year. Alexander Gorshkov, the head of Ice Dance Technical Committee, expressed hopes that it would make it’s appearance on the list of CDs in a couple of seasons.

“When you think of this dance,” explained Kokko, “I’d like you to think of sparkling champagne and crystal clarity. The steps themselves aren’t very difficult, but the timing is crucial and I hope that the judges will take proper notice of it.”

He went on to explain that the character of the dance is very light. “But it’s hard to do it properly. For example, the footwork is fast and precise, but all the movement is coming from the knees while the upper body remains stiff. The holds have to be strictly maintained throughout the entire dance. There should be no swinging from side to side. In essence, it’s a very ‘ballroom.’”

“When we did our original dance, we were slightly overdoing each move,” added Rahkamo. “We have preserved that character in this dance. It’s slightly comic, but at the same time, very strict and precise.”

Both dancers said that it was a great honor for them to have a CD created on the basis of one of their dances.

Compulsory Dance (CD)

The Compulsory Dance (CD) for the event was the Golden Waltz. The dance was invented by Natalia Dubova, Marina Klimova, and Sergei Ponomarenko and was first performed at the 1987 Moscow Cup.

Delobel (28) and Schoenfelder (29) produced a sound CD which had excellent flow and silent edges, placing first with 39.57 points.

“We did a great waltz,” said Delobel. “it was easy, fluid, and relaxed. It is a difficult dance, but it felt easy today. 2006 may be wasn’t our year, but now it’s 2007 – a new year and new goals. Our practices here have been going really well.”

Schoenfelder added: ” Our goal is to do a competition without any mistakes. We’re first now, but it’s very close between us, the Bulgarians, and the Russians. They are strong performers.”

Domnina and Shabalin appeared to be really ‘enjoying’ their waltz, emphasizing holds and displaying good expression to place second with 38.99 points.

“We’re obviously very pleased with our placement,” said Domnina, “but this is just the first day. We’re happy with the way we skated, but as always, we still could do better. There was not enough inner freedom (due to the size of the ice surface), although we skated without mistakes.”

“We skated as well as we could, [but] there was just a little problem,” added Shabalin. “This morning in practice I twisted my foot a bit, and I was somewhat careful.” Their placement came as a surprise to him. “We were a bit nervous because we’re now the couple number one in russia, but we stayed focused.”

Denkova (32) and Staviski (29) also produced a very smooth and elegant waltz with silent edges to place a close third (38.56 points) behind the Russians.

“We are enjoying ourselves on the ice,” said Denkova. “Obviously, it’s a big minus for us that we don’t have a judge here in this competition, but we try not to think about it. We skate for ourselves and for the audience.” Staviski added: “The Golden Waltz is easy to skate for us – it’s actually one of our favorite dances.”

When asked about the smaller ice surface at the event, Denkova replied: “It doesn’t affect the exactness of the dance, but maybe the freedom of movement.” “It doesn’t matter for a real professional,” Staviski offered. “We have skated on smaller ice surface before, and the two meters difference doesn’t matter so much.”

Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy produced a well-done and fast waltz, but appeared to be a bit close to the boards in places. They were fourth (34.53 points).

“We have worked hard since the [Grand Prix series],” stated Faiella, “and now we are ready.” Scali added: “We felt comfortable and very good on the ice. Our coach and choreographer said that our skating looked very easy, and that is the feeling we had too.”

Scali relayed that this season had been hard on them. “We changed everything – our coaches, our life, everything,” he said. “We started working late and it was difficult to arrange and organize everything. In the last six months, we already did a lot, but there is still a lot of work to do. We really want to fight, and we want to medal here.”

“The level is very high among the first six couples,” Scali continued, when asked about the close placements. “I think it’s about the performance [of the day]. The judges will give the best scores to the best performance. We will try to keep our concentration.”

Russia’s Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski delivered a nice waltz with good expression that seemed to float over the ice, placing fifth with 33.46 points.

“It felt great,” said Novitski. “[We feel] very much at home.” Khokhlova added:”We have a big group of supporters here. 80 fans from Kalinigrad traveled here, and it’s really nice how they support us. It felt easy to skate.”

Sinead Kerr and John Kerr of Great Britain were confident in their CD, which was fast, smooth and showed good edges. They placed a close sixth behind the Russians with their new personal best of 33.44 points.

“We’ve got a personal best and I certainly felt more relaxed than I ever felt in a CD for some reason,” admitted Sinead. “Maybe it’s because the arena is nice and close to the ice and the audience is very friendly.”

“We’ve worked with Evgeni (Platov) when we came over for Skate Canada,” said John, on the coaching change. “It worked very well and we thought this it something we’d really like to take up. It was a big decision, but I think it was the best thing for us. He was trying to help us with the CDs, but he didn’t change the technique because it was solid. He tried to give us more serious look. Our aim here is top five or six.”

Hoffmann and Elek were seventh (30.64 points), followed by Kristin Fraser and Igor Lukanin (29.69 points) of Azerbaijan.

Original Dance (OD)

The event continued with the OD in which the dance for the 2006-07 season is the “Tango”. Couples can choose one to three tango rhythms. If two rhythms are used, one can be repeated. Vocals are permitted.

Delobel and Schoenfelder were fast and powerful, showing excellent flow in their dance to Tango Volver by Maxime Rodriguez. The French National Champions opened with a very good level four midline step sequence with synchronized twizzles, followed by an equally good level three midline step sequence. The team also produced two excellent level four lifts and a very good level three diagonal step sequence, earning 60.71 points for a first place finish in the OD and overall (100.28 points).

“We didn’t make any mistakes and are very satisfied with our second program,” said Delobel. “It is a great atmosphere here and we thank all the French fans. We feel very good here.” “It has been a great competition until now. We want to make a perfect FD tomorrow,” added Schoenfelder.

Domnina (22) and Shabalin (25) were sharp and precise, yet passionate in their Argentine tango. The Russian Champions produced a level four midline step sequence with good synchronized twizzles, a very good level three midline step sequence, an excellent level two diagonal step sequence, and two excellent level four lifts to earn 59.78 points, placing second in the OD and overall (98.77 points).

“We are in a festive mood, because again, for the third of fourth time, it’s Maxim’s birthday on the day of the Original Dance,” said Domnina”We’re pleased with today’s performance. We felt it was very emotional. Technically, it could have been a little bit better, as always.” On the risky transition move before the dance spin, Domnina commented: “We’re trying to find some new and interesting ideas, and this is one in the OD.”

“I didn’t receive a present yet,” revealed Shabalin, “but I got a kiss in the morning. Oksana herself is a present for me.” Regarding the transition move into the spin, he said: “The fact that you noticed proves already that it was right to include it.”

Displaying lots of character and expression in their routine to Piazzolla’s Libertango, Denkova and Staviski opened with a level four midline step sequence with twizzles, followed by a very good level three midline step sequence and an excellent straight line lift. However, their dance spin was graded a Level 1 and considered a “combination spin”. The current World Champions also delivered a very good level three diagonal step sequence and level four rotational lift, placing third in the OD (56.56 points) and overall (95.12 points).

“Of course we skated with full power as always and sometimes during the performance today, we wanted to stretch (to push) the barrier (of the ice rink) a little bit,” offered Denkova. “Maybe it wasn’t our best dance. I really hope that we’ll do our best tomorrow in the free dance.”

Regarding the dance spin, Denkova said: “We have done the same spin in the free dance and it was level four. It was supposed to be a normal spin with seven revolutions and not a combination spin. We don’t know what the reason is. It cost us a lot of points. We won’t make a complain, but maybe we will ask them afterwards. We have to check on the video replay.”

Denkova went on to say that the size of the rink did indeed cause problems for them as their OD patters are so big.”

Khokhlova (21) and Novitski (25) also produced a good dance which featured good synchronized twizzles, two excellent level four lifts, a good level four dance spin, and a very good midline and diagonal step sequence. The 2007 Russian National silver medalists, who received a deduction for an extended lift, earned 52.59 points for their routine to Tango Jalousie, placing fourth in the OD and fifth overall (86.05 points).

“Overall, we are happy with the performance,” said Khokhlova. “I don’t know what we got the deduction for, probably for a (extended) lift. We’ll see it in the protocol. It felt easy to skate and we were well received by the crowds, as always. We did everything as planned.”

On receiving a level two in the diagonal step sequence, Khokhlova said: “It happened before in one competition. Maybe it depends also on the level of competition. We’ll look into it.”

When asked about skating in the strongest warm-up group, Khokhlova said there was added pressure. “There is a competitive spirit in the warm up group, and you want to show your best performance to be at the same level. In the warm-up with the strongest couples we try to be competitive.”

Faiella and Scali put out a powerful in their dance to Tanguera, delivering a very good level three diagonal step sequence, a level three midline step sequence with twizzles, and two difficult lifts. The Italian National champions were awarded 52.41 points for their tango, placing fifth in the OD and fourth overall (86.94 points).

“We thought we did quite well and skated clean,” said Scali. “I’m not satisfied at all with the levels we got. The elements should be all level four. Surprised were the side-by-side step sequence with twizzles and the rotational lift. We don’t know why we got such low levels on them.”

S. Kerr (28) and J. Kerr (26) delivered a good OD which featured two very good level four lifts, but John put his foot down during a twizzle. The British Champions placed sixth in the OD (51.32 points) and overall (84.77 points).

“You obviously end up focusing on the the mistake, and what could have been had you not made it,” said Sinead. “But apart from that, Evgeni (coach) said it started off really well. We just have to forget about that and go on to the Free Dance.”

“I think we were a little aware of the way the rink is sizes, but it’s difficult to explain sometimes,” added John, referring to his mistake on the twizzle. “Sometimes you just get it slightly wrong and loose a good couple of levels. It is disappointing for both of us and well trying to do better tomorrow.”

“When you skate last you want to give the competition a good climax and you want to give the audience a climax when they go away,” he continued. “Obviously we would have liked to have skated a little bit better, but it’s a good experience for us. The next time we skate last in the competitions, we’ll know what it feels like.”

Hoffmann (21) and Elek (24) were seventh in the OD and overall (81.47 points), followed by Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (78.70 points).

Free Dance (FD)

Domnina and Shabalin opened their powerful routine to Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances with an excellent level four dance spin, followed by a solid level four diagonal step sequence, and an excellent level four straight line and straight line-rotational combination lift. The 2006-07 Grand Prix Final bronze medalists also produced good synchronized twizzles, an excellent level four serpentine lift, a very good level three circular step sequence, and an excellent level four rotational lift to earn a new personal best of 100.39 points for a first place finish in the FD. With a total score of 199.16 points, the team just missed the top spot on the podium to place second overall.

“We did a big step forward thanks to a lot of work,” said Domnina. “Everything comes from work, ambition and good luck.” On winning a medal, she added: “For us that is very important. Our goal was to be in the top three and we accomplished that.”

Shabalin was also very pleased with their performance. “It was an emotional performance, it was on one breath. We knew that this season would be very important for us, and we put so much into it. It was not difficult for us, because we had less to loose than the others. Albena and Maxim have to defend their titles. The others are much more experience than we are and it’s their first chance to win. And we just came to compete with them. That was our mind set and therefore we skated well.”

“Of course we’re very happy with the silver medal,” he continued. “As we say, ‘the appetite grows while you’re eating’. After the Original Dance obviously we wanted to skate our very best. To win the free dance was very nice for us.”

Performing to their ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ routine (Les Incorruptibles by Maxime Rodriguez), Delobel and Schoenfelder showcased an excellent level three dance spin, followed by a very good level four diagonal footwork sequence and straight line lift. The team then produced an excellent straight line-rotational combination lift, a very good level four twizzle sequence, and excellent level four serpentine lift, a very good level three circular step sequence, and an excellent level four rotational lift. The The 2006 Trophee Eric Bompardee Eric Bompard silver medalists received a score of 99.19 points for a second finish in the FD, and with a total score of 199.47 points, won their first European title.

“We wanted to win a medal here – the color didn’t matter,” commented Schoenfelder. “The crowd was great, so we had energy till the end of our program.” He added that it was great winning as they felt they were coming to the event as ‘outsiders’. “Of course, you always believe, but it was difficult. We are still under shock. We have a true fighting spirit, we never give up, and we gave everything.”

“We’ll work very hard for Worlds,” added Delobel. “It is a completely different competition and we’ll see what happens. We’ll go there with confidence and no pressure.”

Skating to Mozart’s Requiem and selections from the soundtrack of Romeo and Juliet, Denkova and Staviski opened their ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ routine with a strong level four twizzle sequence and excellent level four curve lift. The 2006-07 ISU Grand Prix Final Champions also executed a very good level three circular and midline step sequence, a very good level three dance spin, and four more excellent level four lifts (one in combination). The judges awarded the Bulgarian Champions a score of 98.61 points for a third place finish in the FD and overall (193.73 points).

“I think the audience appreciated our program very much,” said Denkova. “We hope to do better [at the World Championships]. We will fight again. We put a lot of energy in the program, and considering our situation, we did a clean program – we did all our elements. We didn’t think about marks or placements. Maybe I was more worried yesterday, but today I felt very calm and confident. I felt like a champion. I think we were able to show that. Our job is to skate and I think we did a good job tonight.”

Staviski added: “Maybe we’ll change something in our programs, but we’re not sure. We’re not upset [about the placements]. We’re skating in our final season. Why should we be upset?”

Despite a minor stumble in the circular step sequence, Khokhlova and Novitski also produced a very good dance which featured very good level four synchronized twizzles, a very good level four serpentine lift, an excellent dance spin, and four excellent level four lifts (one in combination). The 2006 NHK Trophy silver medalists earned 89.71 points for their routine to Aranjuez Mon Amour by Joaquín Rodrigo, placing fourth in the FD and overall (175.76 points).

“The public reacted to each element and supported us,” said Khokhlova, “It was so nice. Of course, we felt emotional pressure, because we skated in the last warm up group, but the second starting number is probably the best. You warm up, you go off ice, rest a bit and then you get out to skate. We were lucky in that aspect, but there was still pressure.”

“We are amazed by the audience,” said Novitski. “We thought we were used to everything.” On receiving a Level 1 in their diagonal step sequence, he said: “I have no idea why we got it and why our spin was only level 3. We got a level 4 in all our competition.”

Kerr and Kerr delivered a mesmerizing dance to music from The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack which featured five very good level lifts and a good level four circular step sequence, however, John stepped out of a twizzle. Despite the mistake, the 2006 Nebelhorn Trophy Champions earned a new personal best of 87.14 points, placing fifth in the FD and overall (171.90 points).

“I’m happy because I really wanted to perform the program well,” said Sinead. “Of course the elements are in your mind all the time. We have been practicing really well for this competition.”

John added that the crowd amazed him. “There were so many British flags out there. I think the positive aspect we got out of this competition, was that the crowd really liked our programs and the judges did appreciated our OD despite mistakes.”

Faiella (25) and Scali (27), who stood in fourth after the OD, opened their routine with a very good rotational lift, followed by an expressive level three midline step sequence, and a good combination dance spin. Despite a fall on their “renowned” straight line lift, the team went on to produce a good level four twizzle sequence, three more very good lifts, and a level two circular step sequence, placing sixth with 83.32 points in the FD and overall (170.26 points).

Fraser (26) and Lukanin (30) were seventh overall (157.63 points), followed by Cappellini and Lanotte (155.28 points).

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