Golden Skate

Savchenko and Szolkowy take lead at Europeans

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany currently lead the pairs after the short program at the 2011 European Figure Skating Championships.

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany won the Pairs Short Program Wednesday evening in Bern at the European Figure Skating Championships and are aiming for their fourth title.

Russia’s  Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov and Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov follow in second and third.

Savchenko and Szolkowy gave a strong performance to Khorobushko. They opened with a huge throw triple flip followed by a side by side triple toe and a triple twist. After that, they seemed to relax and really sold their program, however, they lost a few points as the death spiral and the footwork were only a level two.

The three-time European Champions scored 72.31 points. They even earned a perfect ten for performance and execution from one judge.

“We are satisfied. It was a good performance,” Szolkowy commented. “The first three elements, the throw, the twist and the triple toe, are the hardest, although you also can make a mistake in the footwork. But when the first three elements are done, you almost can let it flow. Obviously, it is a relief,” he explained.

The cold in the rink is a concern for the Germans especially for the free skating.

“We want to prepare so that we can last through the four and a half minutes,” Szolkowy said. “I’m a little worried, because I felt cold halfway through the program, in the step sequence, and tomorrow in the free skating, we’ll have the triple Salchow, the other throw and three lifts still to come. I’m not so much worried about myself, but about my partner: that is, if something happens to her. I discussed it with the other German skaters and we feel we can manage, but it’s at the limit,” he told the press.

Kavaguti and Smirnov skated much better than at Russian Nationals last month. Performing to the dramatic Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, the defending champions landed a triple toe, throw triple loop, triple twist and picked up a level four for the step sequence to score a seasons best of 69.49 points.

“We are happy with tonight’s performance,” Kavaguti commented. “I think we showed what we prepared for this competition, and tomorrow we also want to show what we prepared.”

“It’s really freezing in here, like the Russian winter!” commented Smirnov. “There were not so many spectators but their applause warmed our hearts.”

Bazarova and Larionov were not as technically solid as they usually are. They hit the triple toe and the best  triple twist of the day, but Bazarova stepped out of the throw triple flip in their routine to Adagio by Secret Garden. They received 62.89 points.

“We are upset about the throw. We usually don’t have problems with this element,” Bazarova said. Larionov agreed. “It is too bad about the throw. We rushed it, that’s why the mistake happened. But nothing is lost yet. We try not to think about placements before a competition. We want to focus on our strengths and on our programs.”

The skaters try not to get too excited about the prospect of winning their first medal at Europeans.

“This isn’t the final result yet,” cautioned Bazarova. “We still have to fight, or better, to show our best performance. So we don’t want to get too emotional right now.”

Italy’s Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek finished in a surprising fourth place. The team performed a passionate tango to Invierno Porteno that included a triple toe, a double twist, and a throw triple loop as their last element. The Technical Panel awarded them a level four for the footwork, the lift and the side by side spin. They earned 60.08 points and were thrilled with their performance.

“Repetition” is the key to success, according to Hotarek.

“We have skated this routine over and over,” he commented. “The last element we had in our routine was hard, so the final position was a highlight after we had completed everything.”

Katarina Gerboldt and Alexander Enbert, a new Russian team that debuts at ISU Championships, skated well and came in fifth at 57.50 points. Their Waltz medley featured a triple Salchow and a throw triple flip, but the triple twist was messy. Enbert caught his partner late and she collapsed on his shoulder.

“We almost did the maximum today,” a happy Gerboldt.

The couple has progressed quickly since teaming up in last May.

“I enjoy pair skating much more,” said Gerboldt, a former single skater. “I didn’t know it before I tried it. I especially like the throws. I always love to try new things and new challenges. It is nice to skate with a partner.”

“We believe in our team and we feel very comfortable with our team therefore we were able to progress so much in a short time,” Enbert commented. “We weren’t pushed too hard. However, we need to really learn the triple twist. We did a triple today, but it wasn’t well done. After Europeans, we’ll start working on it very hard.”

Maylin Hausch and Daniel Wende of Germany finished sixth with 53.66 points after she crashed on the throw triple flip.

“The fall was completely annoying,” Hausch said. “It was higher than in practice and I wanted to push against it in the landing.”

The couple had missed German Nationals earlier this month as they both had come down with the flu.

“I felt not affected in the performance from being sick around the New Year,” Hausch commented. “I would say we are at 95% of our capacity. We have been able to train normally for a week.”

Stacey Kemp and David King of Great Britain struggled with their triple twist, but landed a throw triple loop. They only risked a double flip as the solo jump and are ranked seventh at 48.46 points.

Klara Kadlecova and Petr Bidar of the Czech Republic are actually a junior team. They made no errors, however, with a double twist and a side by side double loop, the level of difficulty wasn’t very high. They are ranked eighth.

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