2023 European Figure Skating Championships
Pairs’ Short Program
Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii of Italy broke the 70-point mark and currently the lead the Pairs discipline after the short program at the 2023 European Figure Skating Championships. Germany’s Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel sit in second, followed by teammates Alisa Efimova and Ruben Blommaert.
Conti and Macii had a pretty solid short program to “Oblivion,” surpassing their goal of the 70-point mark with a new personal best of 70.45 points. While the triple twist had a lean and the catch was low, the team landed their side-by-side triple Salchows and the throw triple loop. The lift, steps, death spiral, and spin were graded a level four.
“We wanted to skate clean,” said Macii. “We had some things we didn’t skate in the short that we could, but no big mistakes. We are really happy about the result and the audience was incredible. There were lots of Italian flags so we are really happy about it. We didn’t skate our very best short program but we are sure that tomorrow is going to be better. ”
The Italians admitted to feeling the pressure of being the championships contenders.
“It’s very difficult because, as we say in all the interviews, this is the first season that we are collecting a lot of medals,” said Macii. “So we are all the time surprised about the points. I think we did a clean short but it wasn’t a ‘good’ short, and we got a lot of points. So I can’t wait until we do our very best. But it is very, very difficult with the pressure. Actually, it’s really hard. We are coming from the bronze medal (at the Grand Prix Final) in Torino. That was a surprise, and from the national title. We knew that we could do like top three, but actually realizing that we did a good short to be first — it’s something special. It’s always something new.”
The success Conti and Macii had at Lombardia and the Grand Prix series has given them a great deal of motivation. The team took gold in Lombardia and followed up a bronze at Skate Canada, silver at MK John Wilson Trophy, and the bronze at the Grand Prix Final.
“We realized that this year we are really competitive,” noted Macii. “So we worked, like double, as before the Grand Prix Final. Unfortunately, today, because of the pressure, we couldn’t perform our best, best, best — especially for the twist, but we are going to try and improve more and more with work. Work is always there by choice — you hate to do it but you have to.”
Going into the free skate, the team would like to feel a little less nervous.
“I would like to skate easier so that I am able to express myself and as well together,” said Macii. “And if I could add something, I would like to say that I am really happy to be here and to be here with such good friends — we are friends for a lot of years and I am really, really happy to be here with them.”
Hocke and Kunkel showed a good level-two triple twist, however, Hocke underrotated and stepped out of the side-by-side triple Salchows in their routine to music by ABBA. The throw triple loop received positive grades of execution (GOE), as did the rest of the elements. The spin was graded a level four, while the lift, death spiral and steps garnered a level three. The 2022 Grand Prix de France bronze medalists picked up 67.08 points for second place.
“We knew we were well prepared,” said Hocke, who was thrilled to see so many German flags in the audience. “We were happy to finally be able to skate. It felt like forever that we waited for the Europeans, even though the German Nationals were just two weeks ago. And we’re really happy to be back in Finland.”
“We don’t think about medals,” she added. “Of course, we know this time it’s a little different. If we show our best, then everything is possible, so it’s up to us to do what we have to do.”
“We had a really good time at Finlandia Trophy two and a half months ago,” said Kunkel. “I think everyone was a little shaky today, but it was very nice, the audience was super motivating!”
Hocked also noted the pressure.
“For all of us, it’s a new situation, but it’s important to not let it overcome you and to stay calm,” she said. “For me it was more difficult in the weeks leading up to Europeans. Being here made me more confident and trying to focus on what I have to do. You always want to skate clean, and the outcome is open.”
“We knew we were in very good shape,” Kunkel pointed out. “We had a good Nationals before, so it was just (hard) mentally. We know we can do all the elements, so it was just in our head to stay calm and show what we can. Sometimes, it’s even more hard than knowing that one lift is maybe critical, but the rest is fine. To deal with some mental things, like if you know that you’re super well prepared, you still have to show it.”
Teammates Efimova and Blommaert were off to a strong start with a level-three triple twist, throw triple loop and death spiral. Efimova put her hand down on the side-by-side triple toes and the group five Axel lift only received a base value. The 2022 Grand Prix Espoo silver medalists scored 62.77 for their “Moonlight Sonata” routine going into the free skate
“It felt good, actually,” said Blommaert. “But at the lift, she was a bit forward. In practice, I would have aborted the lift as this is dangerous, especially in the Axel Lasso lift, but here at Europeans, I obviously tried everything to keep the lift above my head. It was a shame, but the base level for the lift is still a lot of points (5.40). There is nobody here that is unbeatable, but we don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves.”
“This is our third time here (in Espoo),” noted Efimova. “We came here for the Challenger event (Finlandia Trophy), the Grand Prix and now Europeans. We know the rink, the warm up area is the same, and it is a bit reassuring. My mom is here as a coach for a Finnish skater, the rest of the family is at home, but they will come for the weekend.
Efimova also noted how loud the audience was compared to that of Finlandia Trophy and the Grand Prix.
“It was a nice surprise when we were skating our six-minute warmup,” she said. “So thank you to everyone who was cheering for us!”
Blommaert noted that there was pressure as “the short is so important to enter a championship.”
“We will try our best tomorrow,” he said.
Czech Republic’s Camille Kovalev and Pavel Kovalev are in a very close fourth with 62.46 points. The Grand Prix de France silver medalists showed a throw triple Salchow, level-four spin and lift, but she stepped out of the side-by-side triple toes.
There was a mistake on the toe loop, but I thought, ‘ok, let’s go, it’s not a problem,'” said Camille Kovalev. “I had an injury last Thursday and we were not sure if we would come (to Europeans), so it was a pleasure to skate today.”
The team made some changes to the short, but are hoping they can try the throw triple flip in the free skate.
The Pairs event will conclude tomorrow with the free skate.