For the sixth time in history, the 2004 ISU European Figure Skating Championships were held in Budapest, Hungary – the first time was over a hundred years ago in 1895. The competitive portions of the event were held Feb 2-7 at the Budapest Sport Arena, opening with 140 competitors from 31 countries, and began with the Men’s Qualifying Round and the Pairs Short Program.
Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin defended their title in the Pairs event, winning their third consecutive European gold medal. Teammates Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov won silver while Poland’s Dorota Zagorska and Mariusz Siudek captured the bronze.
Totmianina and Marinin, who drew third to take the ice, opened their short program with a strong throw triple loop, followed by side-by-side triple toeloops and a double twist. The two-time and reigning European champions earned marks from 5.6 to 5.9 for their skate to Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini, finishing first in the short.
The defending champions felt they had skated one of their best short programs this season. “We felt good out there,” said Totmianina. “In spite of the fact that we couldn’t practice fully [due to the injury], we are still in good shape. It was a pleasure for us to skate tonight,” agreed her partner, Marinin.
Totmianina continues to suffer from chronic pain in her knee, pushing herself through each performance. “When the competition starts, I’m totally focused on it and so I almost forgot about the pain in my [left] knee. But of course, I still feel it. It’s sometimes even worse than at Russian Nationals. There was no time for rest after Russian Nationals. I had some treatment for the knee, but it didn’t really help,” she said.
Totmianina also explained that it wasn’t her right knee that was bothering her now, but the left, citing that pain wasn’t helpful to competition. “I don’t know how much longer I will be able to skate but I hope it will be until at least the next Olympics,” she said.
“The two next Olympics!” chirped in Marinin, with a smile.
Teammates Petrova and Tikhonov skated their short to music by Baxter, opening with side-by-side triple toeloops, a double twist, and a throw triple loop in which Petrova had to fight for the landing. The 2004 Russian silver medalists received marks ranging from 5.5 to 5.9 for a second place finish in the short.
“We are very happy with our performance today,” Tikhonov said. “There was only a minor mistake in the landing of the throw jump. After Russian Nationals, we improved our spins and the side-by-side triple toe. Maria is still bothered by her old foot injury. It’s getting better slowly, but she is still in pain.”
Since Russian Nationals, the Petrova and Tikhonov have been working on their spins and triple toeloops. “In our last competitions, our side-by-side spins were not really parallel so we worked on that. The pair spin needed some work so we looked at that too,” said Tikhonov. “The triple toeloop is a very hard element for Pairs but is also important so we had to improve on that.”
Skating to music from the Legend of 1900 soundtrack, Zagorska and Siudek’s routine featured a throw triple loop, an excellent lift, and side-by-side triple toeloops (Siudek had a shaky landing on his). The Polish champions scored marks from 5.3 to 5.8 for a third place finish after the short.
“I’m pleased to skate again here in Budapest after having competed here in World Juniors about a decade ago with my previous partner,” Siudek said. On not qualifying for the Grand Prix Final, he said, “We had a problem with the triple toeloop all season. I changed my boots but the jumps were off because the heels on the new boots were one and a half centimeters smaller. I went back to my old boots and my jumps came back. Since then we have skated a lot and things are much, much better.”
On training in Canada, he added, “We moved to Canada because I had been training with the same coach for the past 25 years and she could not see the small details and problems with my skating. We now train with Richard [Gauthier] and he is working on those details.” The drawback is that the husband-and wife team now share the ice with three other couples. “In Poland, we could skate whenever we wanted,” said Siudek, “but in Canada, we have an early start time and just one long practice session of 5 hours.”
Russia’s Julia Obertas and Sergei Slavnov were fourth after their Spanish-themed performance. The 2004 Russian bronze medalists produced a throw triple flip, side-by-side triple toeloops, and a double twist. Obertas lost her balance briefly in the side-by-side spin, but quickly recovered. The team earned marks ranging from 5.2 to 5.7.
“We’re very pleased with how we skated,” said Obertas. “When I came to the competition, the most important thing for me was to be calm. I managed that, and so far I always managed it in the short program.” On the wobble in the side-by-side spin, she said, “When I went up, I almost lost my balance, I think there was a little hole in the ice and I got stuck.”
Slavnov added, “We were a bit afraid of the throw because Julia hit her leg in practice.”
Katerina Berankova and Otto Dlabola of the Czech Republic were fifth after the short, followed by Germany’s Eva-Maria Fitze and Rico Rex.
Ukrainian pair Tatiana Volosazhar and Petr Kharchenko withdrew from the event after Kharchenko cut his hand in practice, requiring stitches.
Totmianina and Marinin were the first to skate in the last warm up for the pairs long program. The overnight leaders skated their new program to Art on Ice by Edvin Marton, opening with a double Salchow instead of a triple due to Totmianina’s knee injury. They continued with side-by-side triple toeloop-double toeloop combination jumps, a triple twist, a throw triple loop and Salchow, as well as two one-armed Lasso lifts. Though the 2004 Russian National champions appeared somewhat cautious, they were awarded marks ranging from 5.5 to 5.8. Since they skated first, the team had to wait for the rest of the flight before they could be sure of a win.
“The conditions here were excellent for us, the ice quality and everything else,” said Totmianina. “It was a great pleasure to skate the new program. It’s more demanding emotionally and it’s the opposite of our former program.” Their coach, Oleg Vasiliev, came up with the idea for the new program and costumes. The team proceeded to put it together in June, debuting it at the Russian Nationals just last month.
Marinin added, “In spite of Tatiana’s injury we showed a very good program. We felt great out there today. We did what we can do under the circumstances.”
After learning they had won their third consecutive European title, Totmianina said, “It means so much to us because this is our 3rd European gold medal and our coach Oleg Vasiliev also got three European gold medals. We try to follow in his footsteps.”
Though it still too early for the team to decide if they will compete at the 2006 Olympics, they plan to to rest before Worlds. “The knee was not good tonight but I tried to forget it and push myself,” said Totmianina. “I think I was successful!”
Skating to The Circus Princess by Emmerich Kalman, Petrova and Tikhonov opened their routine with a side-by-side double Axel-triple toeloop sequence, followed by a throw triple loop, a triple twist, and a difficult one-armed lasso lift with variations. The team also executed another set of side-by-side double Axels as well as a hand-to-hip lift with an interesting exit. Although Petrova two-footed the landing of the throw triple Salchow, the team was awarded for an otherwise solid program with marks ranging from 5.5 to 5.9. The 2004 Russian silver medalists finished second in the long for an overall second place finish.
“We felt very good about our performance, especially because Masha [Maria] didn’t feel well today,” said Tikhonov. “So we’re happy she was able to put out such a performance. This was our best free program this season, it was the first time we skated clean this year. We improved part of the technical elements, part of the expression, we were more theatrical.”
In preparations for Worlds, Tikhonov and Petrova have no major changes in mind. “We will maybe add one more lift and we will work on our speed, especially at the end of the program,” said Tikhonov. “Otherwise we will not do anything special. We will just try to skate it like we did today.”
Zagorska and Siudek, who were last to skate, performed to Warsaw Concerto by Richard Addinsell. Their routine featured a throw triple loop and Salchow, a triple twist, and strong lifts as well as clean side-by-side triple toeloops. Zagorska stumbled on the landing of her first triple toeloop and the team was out of sync in a side-by-side spin, but the 1999 World bronze medalists scored marks from 5.4 to 5.7 to place third. The veteran team, who finished third overall, finally found themselves back on the European podium since placing fourth in 2002 and 2003.
“It is a long way back to the podium,” said Siudek. “Last year we had a good free program and after skating we were shown in 3rd place on the monitors in the media room but we ended up 4th. Very strange! Tonight our coach said to skate for us and to enjoy it. Our goal is the next Olympics so we have a long time to work and improve on this program for then.”
Obertas and Slavnov, who stood in fourth place after the Short Program, executed three side-by-side triple toeloops (two in sequence) in their long program. Obertas stepped out of the throw triple flip, but she landed the throw triple loop and the the team impressed with a spectacular carry lift. The 2004 Russian bronze medalists received marks from 5.4 to 5.7, finishing fourth in the short and overall.
“I think this was rather good,” said Obertas. “I’m not totally pleased with myself because of the mistake on the throw jump [flip]. I think I didn’t fight enough for the landing. But considering that this was my first Europeans with my new partner, I think it was good.”
This was Slavnov’s first time competing in the European Championships. “I was very nervous,” he said. “It was hard to skate, maybe because of nerves. Actually we were in very good shape.”
Berankova and Dlabola finished fifth in the long, maintaining their fifth place position overall.
“We were fifth in Lausanne [in 2002],” said Berankova, “but at that time it was much tougher to compete, so we wanted to get some better result.”
Dlabola added, “We wanted to get our best ever result, but we are happy with our place. We were lucky that our opponents made mistakes. After my mistake I wanted to concentrate on the next parts of the program and not to lose the rhythm.”
France’s Sabrina Lefrançois and Jérôme Blanchard, who were seventh after the short, placed sixth in the long, moving up one spot ahead of Fitze and Rex for a sixth place finish overall.
“I feel much stronger and comfortable than after the short program, and happier with our skating,” said Lefrançois. “I think we made the mistake in the pair spin because we were a bit tired and couldn’t concentrate enough.”
Fitze, who placed seventh overall with partner Rex, said, “This was our best free skating ever, because we landed all the triple jumps. Overall, it felt really good. I still had to think about last year’s performance at Europeans.”