The 2003 Bofrost Cup on Ice was the 15th in a series of major senior international events held in Gelsenkirchen, Germany since 1989. The event, which was formerly known as both Nations Cup and Sparkasssen Cup, was not part of the Grand Prix series for the first time since the start of the series. Instead, the German Grand Prix was moved to China by the International Skating Union (ISU) and renamed the Cup of China.
“It was simply a question of money,” said German Skating Federation President, Reinhard Mirmseker. “We were not able to match the television contract that China offered to the ISU even though we had more television coverage from ARD-TV than we had last year. We suggested to the ISU that there be a seventh Grand Prix or that the sixth Grand Prix be rotated among countries in Europe, but we have not had a positive response as yet.”
“Germany introduced the idea of the Grand Prix series,” he continued. “It’s very important for skating in Germany and for the German Federation to have a Grand Prix event here. Since there is a long tradition of skating in Gelsenkirchen and Bofrost agreed to sponsor an event even though it wasn’t a Grand Prix, we decided to start a new tradition at the Bofrost Cup, a world premiere of a new kind of competition.” Competition director Ingrid-Charlotte Wolter said, “With this combination of a jump competition and free skating, we merge the athletic and artistic portions of figure skating.”
The Bofrost Cup opened with the jumps/elements competition in ladies, men and pairs. Under the innovative format, each competitor had two chances to successfully complete the required elements. The event was scored by a panel of seven judges, based on a scale of zero to five. After the high and low judges’ marks were eliminated, the scores of the remaining judges were added. If a competitor scored ten or more points, they continued into the next round. Otherwise, they were eliminated, no matter what score they had reached in previous rounds.
Each level of competition had an assigned point value, which was multiplied against the total judges’ score to determine their total score for each round. After each skater’s attempt, a video screen showed a replay and the judges’ marks were shown. The skater could then take the score of the first attempt or try a second time, with the higher score then being counted. After the initial draw, skating order was determined by the order of finish in the prior round, with the lowest ranked skater going first. Overall, the results of the jump/elements competition were counted like a short program, as one third of the final placement. In addition, the top three in each category received separate medals for the jump competition.
The ladies jump competition was the first event. The ladies started with a triple salchow, which was completed by everyone except 14-year-old Denise Zimmerman, Germany’s sole ladies entrant due to injuries to the other expected entrants. Hungary’s Julia Sebestyen and Canada’s Joannie Rochette led with 20 points after the round although Rochette had to make two attempts to reach that level.
All of the skaters completed the next level, a triple/double combination, with everyone but Finland’s Elina Kettunen electing to do triple toe/double toe combination. Kettunen did a triple salchow/double toe combination. Rochette won the round with 37.5 points on her second attempt.
In the third round, Sebestyen was eliminated when she missed two tries at a triple loop, with Rochette again winning with 48 points. But she was eliminated in the next round, in which skaters had to complete a triple flip or a triple lutz (thus avoiding the flutzing issue). After missing her first try, Rochette just missed the next round with 9 points from the judges on her second attempt. “I can do that jump,” Rochette said, “but when the pressure was on, I leaned too far forward.”
Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who until that round had been in last place among the survivors, won with a score of 50 on her second try at the triple lutz after missing her first attempt. All three remaining skaters completed the triple lutz/double toe combination with Kostner again winning with 60 points on her second try after a poor first effort. Kettunen had the minimum score to continue on her first attempt but elected not to go for higher points, while Finland’s Susanna Pöykiö needed two tries to make the grade. Both Kettunen and Pöykiö failed on a triple toe/triple toe combination in the last round, although Pöykiö outpointed Kettunen to take second overall. Kostner made the minimum score in her first attempt, but elected to try again, failing to score higher the second time. She then landed her second attempt at a triple flip/triple toe/double toe to win with 287 total points over 186.5 for Pöykiö and 131.5 for Kettunen.
“This competition was very cool,” Kostner said. “Every skater has a second chance. My strategy was just to go to the very end. It doesn’t matter if you are first or last as long as you get to the end,” she added. “That’s why I didn’t try a second time in the beginning. I was saving my strength for the end. I took a long break after Skate America to catch up on my schoolwork and visit my family, so it was hard to catch up on my jumps. But my coach thought that Bofrost would be good practice and it turned out well.”
Rochette, who employed the reverse strategy of going for as many points as possible each round, also enjoyed the event. “It was fun,” the 17-year-old said. “The ambience was really different. I wanted to get the higher scores and figured I had nothing to lose by trying twice.” Kettunen added, “This competition is really good. It’s exciting and thrilling. I like the combination of a jump competition with a free program.”
The pairs competition was slightly different, featuring throw jumps, and a triple twist lift as well as side-by-side jumps. Every pair got through the first round, a triple throw jump, with Russia’s Julia Obertas and Sergei Slavnov completing a throw triple flip while Canada’s Liz Putnam and Sean Wirtz and Germany’s Eva-Marie Fitze and Rico Rex executing a throw triple salchow. Canada’s Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin and Germmany’s Rebecca Handke and Daniel Wende did a throw triple loop. In the second round, the pairs had to do a different triple throw jump. Both German pairs exited in the second round with Handke and Wende missing the throw triple salchow and Fitze and Rex missing the throw triple loop. Fitze was injured in the fall and missed the remainder of the Bofrost Cup. Marcoux and Buntin landed a throw triple salchow while Obertas and Slavnov and Putnam and Wirtz completed a throw triple loop.
Putnam and Wirtz were eliminated in the third round when they failed twice to complete a double Axel/double toe combination. Obertas and Slavnov then missed twice on their triple toe/double toe combination, leaving Marcoux and Buntin to complete that element and then a throw triple twist for a total of 163.5 points. Obertas and Slavnov were second with Putnam and Wirtz third. “It was a lot of fun,” Buntin said. “They should have the short program like that all the time. It was neat with the crowd clapping and the announcer guy. We weren’t real sure of the scoring. We just wanted to complete each element. We expected to do them all but we didn’t expect the other teams to miss.”
The men’s competition went more quickly than the others, with both Russia’s Alexei Vasilevski and the Czech Republic’s Tomas Verner missing their first element, a triple jump of their choice. All of the remaining skaters completed a triple/triple combination before Sweden’s Kristoffer Berntsson was elimninated after failing on a triple Axel. Germany’s Silvio Smalun was the next to leave when he could not complete a triple Axel/triple toe combination. Slovenia’s Gregor Urbas was foiled by the triple toe/triple toe/double toe combination, leaving only Canada’s Jeff Buttle and Germany’s Stefan Lindemann to go for a quad toe loop.
Buttle missed twice, but Lindemann succeeded on his first try. He then made two unsuccessful tries at a quad toe/triple toe combination, finishing with 230 points to Buttle’s 164. Urbas was third.
“It was cool to see the local guy win when he hit the quad and pumped his fist,” said Canada’s Buntin. “We’re able to concentrate on our jumps,” Lindemann said. “We don’t need to integrate them into a program. For me, it’s the most difficult part to do just that – incorporate jumps into my programs. With this competition, I can do the jumps without pressure.” “I believe this competition will have a future,” added Urbas. “It’s more than just an alternative to the usual short programs.”
The second day of the event began with the original dance, won by Germany’s Kati Winkler and René Lohse, even after a slip and near fall. Canada’s Marie-France Dubrueil and Patrice Lauzon, who now train in France with Muriel Boucher-Zazoui, were a close second. They skated to Americano and Why Don’t You Do Right. Italy’s Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali finished third using Hafanana and Minnie the Moocher. The original dance counted at one third of the total score as there was no compulsory dance competition.
In the ladies long program, Rochette won with a strong program to Il Etait Une Fois le Diablo by Ennio Morricone, jumping from fourth after the jumping contest to win the overall title. “It wasn’t a perfect performance but much better than at Skate Canada last week,” Rochette said. “I’m quite pleased with my results.”
Sebestyen jumped from fifth to third by finishing second in the free with a program to a selection of tangos. “I had some problems with the order of the jumps yesterday,” said Sebestyen. “The loop isn’t my best jump but I had a clean triple loop and five other triple jumps in the free program. That makes me optimistic.”
Pöykiö was third in the free, skating to George Gershwin’s Concerto in F Minor, and finished second overall. Kostner, meanwhile, had four bad falls in her program to a selection of music performed by Vanessa Mae, which included Violin Fantasy on Puccini’s Turandot. She dropped to fourth.
In the men’s long, Lindemann skated strongly to Le Petit Poucet to win the free skate and the overall title. “I’m so happy I was able to complete a quad in my program,” Lindemann said. “I hope that the mental block that I had is now history. The competition was a lot of fun for all of us.” Lindemann was followed by Buttle, who skated to songs from Samson and Delilah by Camille Saint-Saens.
“I’ve had two really good days here in Germany, especially the jump competition,” Buttle said. “I’m sure that this kind of event has a future.” Smalun, who used Handel’s Suite No. 4 in D Minor, jumped from fourth to third, while Urbas fell from third to fifth.
The pairs finished in the same order as in the short program. Marcoux and Buntin, who skated to Rockin’ Gypsies and Cancion Triste, won over Obertas and Slavnov. “We love to skate in front of German spectators,” Buntin said. “They really give us a lot of support. I think we should pay some German spectators to cheer us on during our Canadian Nationals.”
The Russians skated to The Truman Show Soundtrack and Secret Garden. “We didn’t skate to our full potential today,” said Slavnov, “perhaps 50 percent of what we can do.” Putnam and Wirtz were third, using Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini.
In the free dance, Winkler and Lohse had another fall and lost a split decision to Dubreuil and Lauzon, while Faiella and Scali finished third. The Germans skated their new Day and Night program with Winkler in a dark blue costume with stars and a moon on it and Lohse in a red and yellow costume with the sun.
The Canadians skated to Des Tours de Vise, Santa Maria and other tangos. Faiella and Scali performed to Libertango and A Passion for Tango. The USA’s lone entrant to the Bofrost Cup, Loren Galler-Rabinowitz and David Mitchell, who are just up from juniors last season, skated an intriguing free dance to Obsession Tango. They moved up to sixth overall even though Galler-Rabinowitz was still limping on a sprained ankle injured at Skate Canada the previous week.
Overall, Canada captured five medals — three golds, a silver and a bronze, with every team member reaching the podium. Germany scored one gold, one silver, and one bronze, while Finland took a silver. Hungary and Italy each won a bronze.
Interestingly, three Grand Prix countries (France, Japan and China) failed to send a single competitor to the new event. “We are thinking about placing the Bofrost Cup as an invitational event just prior to the beginning of the Grand Prix series,” Mirmseker stated. “Thus we would surely have a greater chance to invite top skaters and to improve the overall level of performance.” With only five weeks to prepare for the competition, the organizers were still able to sell almost two-thirds of the available tickets.