Golden Skate

Savchenko and Szolkowy take third consecutive European title

Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy delivered a nearly flawless Long Program to win their third consecutive European title.

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany won their third consecutive European title with an inspired and mesmerizing performance to music from the Schindler’s List soundtrack and Albinoni’s Adagio.

The reigning World Champions were not entirely flawless, but the team from Chemnitz was able to put yesterday’s performance behind them and deliver all the elements and transitions with abandon and conviction.

They opened their performance with an excellent side-by-side triple toe-triple toe sequence, followed by an impressive throw triple flip, but Szolkowy doubled his jump on the side-by-side triple Salchows.

The German Champions also saved their throw triple Salchow till the very end of the program, which provided an excellent closure to the performance. The team placed first in the long with a new seasonal best of 132.43 (67.71/64.72) points, and with a total score of 199.07 points, placed first overall by nearly 17 points.

“We wanted to attack the program today and we did it,” said Szolkowy. “We are very happy with our performance. I’m sorry for doubling the Salchow. I was maybe too focused and wanted it too much. I didn’t have the flow.”

“It was much better than Short Program,” Szolkowy continued. “We tried to do our best, and we did good elements despite one mistake on the triple Salchow. Overall we should be proud of our skating tonight.”

When asked about overcoming the disappointment from the Short Program, Szolkowy replied: “Of course it wasn’t so nice, but we just had to deal with it. We tried to forget it as soon as possible and move on. We have now skated together for quite a few years, and we had other partners before, and before that we skated as singles. You know when you start your career you don’t start it with first places, so you learn how to deal with setbacks and this it what we I’ve done.”

The Germans were so impressive during their performance that they hushed the normally very enthusiastic crowd into silence. “It was the best we skated this long program this year,” said Savchenko. “I noticed how quiet people were, and it gave me goose bumps. I felt it and I enjoyed it.”

“They were really quiet,” added Szolkowy, “especially after the circular step sequence. I thought ‘Ok, either they all fell asleep or they are really enjoying it’. I think it was the latter – at least I did enjoy it.”

Russia’s Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov, who stood in third coming into long program, pulled one spot up to finish second overall (182.77) after placing second in the long program with 117.39 (58.59/58.80) points.

The students of Tamara Moskvina began with their routine a side-by-side triple toe loop sequence, but Kawaguchi underrotated the second jump. The couple also failed to execute a clean triple twist and the landing of of their record-breaking throw quad Salchow was two-footed.

The current and two-time Russian Champions were otherwise clean and inspired, but their performance was not as sharp and poignant as the one which allowed them to win their national title. They narrowly edged out teammates Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov for bronze.

“I’m happy with the results,” said Kawaguchi at the post-event press conference. “We had some mistakes, but compared to last year, we took one step up.”

“That’s just what I told Yuko,” added Smirnov. “We’ll move up one spot each year, so it will be even better next year! I didn’t see Yuko’s mistake (on the triple toe), but she is just great. Once again, she landed the quad throw and soon it will be on one foot.”

Ukrainians Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov added a small ISU bronze medal (for placing third place in the long program) to the one they received last year in Zagreb for their short program. However, with a total of 171.34 points, the the students of Ingo Steuer remained in a distant fourth in the overall standings.

The team opened their “Pearl Harbor” routine with a triple toe-double toe sequence, but Volosozhar two-footed the landings of both jumps and Morozov later doubled his jump on the side-by-side triple Salchows. The 2008 Cup of Russia bronze medalists were otherwise clean and executed two huge triple throw jumps, a level two lateral triple twist, and strong lifts. They received 115.14 (57.30/5784) points.

“In general we are satisfied with our performance,” said Volosozhar. “I’m a bit sorry about the jumps. Usually I never do that kind of mistake.”

“We have not had enough time to prepare for this Championship,” explained Morozov. “I fell in practice (at home) and we missed a week of training. Maybe we just needed three or four more run-throughs. Maybe we came here not fully prepared. We are mostly sorry for our short program.”

Skating first in the final warm up group were overnight leaders Mukhortova and Trankov. Once again they failed to deliver a clean performance of their entertaining Lady and Hooligan routine. The Russian silver medalists began with a clean triple twist, but then Mukhortova singled her second jump on a triple toe-double toe combination. She also put both hands down on the landing of her jump in the side-by-side triple Salchows.

The Russians, who took silver at this event last year, recovered to land a clean throw triple loop, but Mukhortova crashed on the throw triple Salchow in the second half of the program. The mistakes dampened the playful mood of the program, however, the team nonetheless received a new seasonal best of 112.45 (54.49/58.96) points. With a total score of a 182.07 points, they managed to capture the bronze.

“It was rather good,” said Mukhortova at the press conference. “We fought all the way through. I have to admit that it has been a while since I fell so hard on the throw, so it was hard to pull myself together afterwards.”

“I think we skated better at our first competition in Germany (Nebelhorn Trophy),” commented Trankov. “Maybe after some time we would be able to skate a clean long program too. It was a lot of pressure because we were first after the short program. I think to skate first in the [warm-up] group was better for us because we were not so nervous, but we had to fight for each element right from the start.”

Teammates Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze placed fifth in the long (95.42 points) and overall (147.84 points). Iliushechkina stepped out of a triple toe loop (in combination with double toe loop) and then underrotated a double Axel in the opening side-by-side jumps. She also fell on a throw triple Lutz.

Despite the mistakes, the 2008-09 Junior Grand Prix Final Champions demonstrated remarkable maturity and composure, and did not allow the mistakes to affect the overall level of their performance. Their routine routine flowed freely from one element to the next with complex transitions.

“It is just crazy to miss elements like that,” said Maisuradze, “but [these mistakes] are only on Luba’s jumps. Otherwise we did all the elements more or less cleanly. We can fight for the highest level, but it doesn’t go the right way yet.”

The team doesn’t plan on competing at Russian Junior Nationals which will be held next week. “Otherwise we will be very tired,” noted Maisuradze, “so our next competition is Junior Worlds.”

“We don’t make any difference between competitions,” said Iliushechkina when asked about their European debut. “We just skate. This season is very tense – much more than the previous.”

Italy’s Nicole Della Monica and Yannick Kocon pulled up two spots up to finish sixth overall (135.22 points) in their first European Championships. The team opened their routine with a good throw double flip and a side-by-side double flip-double toe loop combination, but performed slightly flawed side-by-side triple Salchows. The Italian Champions received mostly level ones on their non-jumping elements, but demonstrated impressive unison for a team which only began training together in 2007.

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