2023 European Figure Skating Championships
Women’s Free Skate
Anastasiia Gubanova won historic gold when she became the first Georgian woman to win a European title on Saturday in Espoo, Finland. Elene Gedevanishvili took bronze in 2010 and 2012. Loena Hendrickx of Belgium pocketed the silver in her fourth appearance at this event, while newcomer Kimmy Repond of Switzerland earned the bronze with room to spare.
Gubanova put a foot down on her opening triple Lutz-triple toe, and later underrotated a triple flip, but was otherwise solid in her routine to “Latika’s Theme.” The 2022 MK John Wilson Trophy silver medalist landed a total of five clean triple jumps, including a triple flip-triple toe, and was rewarded with a level four for two spins and her footwork. The skater went down on her knees at the end of her program.
“This competition was the hardest this season, mentally,” explained the the 20-year-old. “Probably because of that, it was difficult to skate. But I am glad I could do well, and this reaction came because of the exhaustion and joy. At the end of my performance, there were a lot of emotions. Mostly, I was happy that I was able to overcome myself. I did not think about if I had won or not. I wouldn’t say that I really showed the program, I was more focused on the element. It was not perfect, it was not completely clean.”
“This medal means a lot,” Gubanova later said in the press conference. “It is a result of the work we have done with my coaches and it is a support that I get from my family and friends that are always next to me in the difficult moments. This medal is not just my merit. I want to say thank you to everyone.”
Hendrickx was off to a good start in her program to “Heaven” and “Fallen Angel” by Karl Hugo. The defending world silver medalist landed a solid triple Lutz-triple toe, triple flip and two double Axels in the first half of her routine. Then disaster struck and she fell on two underrotated jump passes—triple Lutz and triple flip. She quickly recovered to land a triple Salchow-double toe-double loop and scored 125.63 (nearly 20 points less than her season’s best), for third place in the free skate. The high grades of execution (GOE) the skater received on her first jumps, as well as her level-four spins and footwork, were needed for her to maintain second overall (193.48).
The 23-year-old skater from Arendonk was not happy. At all.
“I wanted to show a good program and I didn’t,” said Hendrickx. “I’m really disappointed about this. I felt so confident, because yesterday and today’s training were just yeah, it couldn’t go better. I did everything clean on practice and also in the warm up. I felt so confident. Then made two big mistakes and it’s just too much, I think. It was not good. It was not good enough.”
However, the skater was happy with the silver medal; she just wanted a better performance.
“That is why I am disappointed,” clarified Hendrickx. “In difficult moments, I do talk to a mental coach, and I also have contact now during the Europeans.”
Repond received an edge call on the front end of her opening triple Lutz-triple toe, but the rest of her routine to Muse’s “Exogenesis Symphony” was clean. The 2022 CS Budapest Trophy silver medalist landed five more triple jumps while showing level-four spins and footwork throughout. She finished second in the free skate with a new personal best of 128.68, and placed third overall with a total score of 192.51.
“I feel incredible!” said Repond after her skate. “I didn’t expect that. I tried not to expect any certain place, and I was just hoping to finish in the top six. I just wanted to come here and show my best. Of course after the short program, the medal was in the back of my head and I just tried to focus on my jumps and my choreography.”
“I can’t really describe in words how I feel for this medal,” said the 16-year-old during the press conference. “It was always my dream that once in my career, I would win a European medal. This is my first time ever competing at Europeans, and I just feel really happy. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help from my team and the hard work every day. And my sister, who was coaching me since I was eight.”
Skating to music from the Up soundtrack, Poland’s Ekaterina Kurakova landed a solid triple Lutz-Euler-triple flip, but then underrotated and two-footed the landing of a triple Lutz. The 2022 CS Warsaw Cup Champion was solid in the rest of her program, landing three more triples, while displaying level four spins and footwork throughout. She finished fourth (125.09) in the free skate and moved up one spot to fourth overall (186.90).
“It shows that I am very strong, competitive, but that also gives me the obligations,” said Kurakova on skating in the last group second time in a row at Europeans. “You can’t just come and relax, you must fight till the end, to show that you deserve to be there, that it is not just lucky coincidence. This season it is harder to perform for me, this is post-Olympic season. I don’t honestly understand why, I thought it would be much easier.”
“I will have a rest now, because I had a show in Lake Placid and competed at the Universiade,” the 20-year-old from Torun summed up. “I had only four days of normal training before; all others were just competitions and performances. I proved to myself that I am very strong, and no matter how high is the stress, I can cope with that.”
Belgium’s Nina Pinzarrone landed a triple Lutz-triple toe in her routine to music from La vita e bella, but stepped out of a triple flip and slightly underrotated the front end of a triple Salchow-double toe to finish fifth in the free skate with a new personal best of 124.57. She placed fifth (185.92) overall in her debut at this event.
“It was very nice,” said the 16-year-old of her European debut. “I’m very happy that I could show what I can. And of course, it’s a good beginning, and I hope it will continue like that.”
The skater from Brussels added that it was surprising for her to be in the top six after the short, as well as overall.
Niina Petrokina of Estonia placed sixth in the free skate and overall (122.69/183.74). The 2022 CS Budapest Trophy bronze medalist hung onto the landing of a triple Lutz-Euler-triple Salchow, but popped a triple loop and two-footed a triple Lutz in her routine to music by Balázs Havasi.
“I was very nervous prior to my performance,” admitted the 19-year-old from Tallinn. “I skated last in this warm up group. It was so much time for thinking, the thoughts were filling my head, but my coach helped me to get myself ready. I gave almost my maximum, because it was very hard to overcome the pressure.”
Petrokina went on to explain that her tears were those of relief as her emotions were displayed after her skate.
“There are always little things and big things to work on,” she summed up. “I will be stronger after this competition, and will train even harder. Today, I fought on the ice like never before. I am glad that next year Estonia will keep two spots for the European Championships, because I made it to the top 10. With every competition, my confidence grows, and I think in the next competition I will do better.”