Nebelhorn Trophy 2016 Column | Golden Skate

Nebelhorn Trophy 2016 Column

Alex D

Record Breaker
Sep 23, 2013
Nebelhorn Trophy 2016, Alex´s Column

Table of Contents:

1.0. Introduction
2.0. On the Catwalk
2.1. "I have very short waist"
2.2. "I hope the crowd liked my dress"
2.3. But there was one ...
2.4. The Best of Both Worlds​
3.0. Dance with Me
3.1. "It´s more than a dance, it´s a lifestyle"
3.2 Tradition vs. past and future
3.3. But there was more!​
4.0. Together through hard times
4.1. Luba & Dylan
4.2. Aljona and Bruno
4.3. Special notice​
5.0. Cool & Brand new
5.1. Silence
5.2. "I am not cool,I like to read Harry Potter"
5.3. "I am a Wizard"​
6.0. Medals for All
6.1. Ashley and Timothy
6.2. Karoliina Luhtonen
6.3. Emmi Peltonen
6.4. Karly Robertson
6.5. Amber Glenn
6.6. Serafima Sakhanovich
6.7. Lutricia Bock​
7.0. Final Words

1.0 Introduction

The 48th Nebelhorn Trophy did start for most of us in the same way, as the cows were in town. While not everyone saw them, everyone at least smelled them or got in contact with their poo, as it was just everywhere!
You now may wonder, why do cows poo in a town like Oberstdorf and well, you know because they can and when they get down from the alps, it´s a long way back to their winter "apartments" and they couldn´t hold it any longer, I guess. Especially, Brooklee mentioned, that this tradition was well known to her, but unfortunately she couldn´t witness it before, as the Trophy was usually a week later and the cows, already back home. I am not sure, what the likes of Madison and Evan must have been thinking when they found out about how their steaks look at first, before they are on the platter, but ya guys, your food was once alive! Very much alive was also the Trophy, even though we never had fewer journalists and athletes than this time before and also the crowd was a little bit small, especially for our Ladies, where maybe 200 tops were at the venue.

To me it seems, like the huge amount of events all around the world and maybe also the knowledge of the cow poo, played a big role here and I am happy, that the few who were here, were giving me such a pleasant company. Over the days, I did record a ton of audio footage with skaters, focusing mostly on those, who I know won´t mind my silly questions and it was a real pleasure to meet the likes of Karoliina Luhtonen, who was all smiles and not that used to the red carpet which I had unfolded for her or our Canadian dancers Piper & Paul, who I fell on my knees for, after hearing that they were chosen, to create a new dance for the ISU.
Of course, if there is light, then there will also be darkness as seen with Serafima, who probably broke a few chairs backstage and practiced already, for her new staring role in the next Terminator movie.
In the following wall of text and I apologize in advance for the sheer amount of non existing knowledge, you can find everything and a bit more, that I encountered on my journey in the past five days.

2.0 On the catwalk

As a guy, I like ladies who dress to impress and it always amazes me, with how much passion those skaters choose their outfits. I am not sure if Amber and Gabby shopped at the same store, but their blue glitter from the Free seemed to come directly from the Oscars and our lovely "bling bling" Mrs. Cain who visited us last in 2013, also brought something to the table, but this time she didn´t come alone, as there was Timothy, her own personal bodyguard, an understandable move, as she just always looks like a million dollars and we all know about the Paparazzi, don´t we Ashley?

2.1 "I have very short waist"

What surprised me though, was how open minded one lady was, about a small problem with finding nice dresses, Brooklee Han. For her, having a "very short waist", as she said, causes quite some problems and so it was, that her long program dress arrived on Saturday morning and she put it on and it worked! Han´s dresses are designed by a lady in Salt Lake City - UT, Elena Pollak and as she mentioned the goal is to make her look a bit longer and less like just one line, which can be a bit hard, as she noted, so that the dresses need to be tailored in a very specific way.
The young Australian came 11th with 121.26 points, in a just 15 skaters strong field that sadly lost two very fine Ladies with Emmi prior to the short and Isa who went on the ice Saturday morning, but sadly had to leave almost instantly again, as her back injury was to severe to continue.

To continue young Brooklee want´s of course and her big goal are the Olympics 2018 and Oberstdorf is, as she said, an event with only positive memories for her, as this is the place where she qualified last time in 2013 and also where she practiced, between the opening ceremony and competition at Sochi. To achieve this goal, Brooklee left her old coach Serhil Vaypan after about 9 years, but not with regrets, as she noted.

" I am grateful for all the things he helped me achieve, he took me as a kid when I could barely land a single Axel up to the Olympics and I know, I couldn´t have done that, without him."

Her new coaching team, consists of Darlene and Peter Cain, who also offer advice to Amber Glenn and Ashley Cain and I have to admit, that I was listening a little bit into their practice conversations and I find it super charming how he is giving her advice in a very kind and supportive way and right now, both are working on a triple toe combination and polish her double Axel - triple Toe, an element we could already witness at her LP. Said program, "a dream within a dream", shows Brooklee how she wakes up in a dream at a ball in a trancy, enchanting environment in which she is dancing and towards the end, the spell breaks and she wakes up, with a sad mood, while trying to hold on to her dream.

Han, who has always been a skater that offered a huge intensity with her programs, noted, that it would be something that she always had as a kid, but lost a little bit when she became a junior.

"When I was little, it´s something I had a lot of, while I struggled technically wise compared to the other kids and when I moved on to juniors and started adding more difficult elements like the triples, I lost the presentation skills a little bit, but now that I am more comfortable with the elements, I am more free again and it allows me sell and express the programs."

I don´t know about you guys, but I think she is doing a damn fine job there! Another fine job she does by promoting the sport for her country, while being respectful and supportive to other skaters. Brooklee, noted how Kailani Craine, pushed her and that there is a young Holly Harris, who could become the future of Australian figure skating and is having a great year already and how she would be very happy to see their new juniors pair to maybe qualify for the Olympics next year.

Brooklee, who is a German Studies Major will keep on supporting Australian Figure Skating, with her big heart and open minded personality and now that I met both of these beautiful Aussie ladies, I am also looking forward to the last one, Holly, at the Junior GP at Dresden.

2.2 “I hope the crowd liked my dress

A young lady who I am always happy to meet is of course our Liza. One of figure skating's finest, who went through so much already in her life, that you could easily fill a book with her story. The Russian wunderkind, has grown up at Glazov, a small town with less than 100 thousand citizens and later moved to St. Petersburg in 2011, where she had her breakthrough, with not only gold at the Grand Prix Final, but also a world championship title in 2015. What sounds like a fairy-tale, isn´t one, as young Liza struggled with a typical problem for girls of her age, as she simple grew up.

Prior to her big triumph, the new body shape, the pressure and also the lack of understanding by so called “fans”, got to her and she lost her smile a bit, a smile that she however found quickly again after winning gold at Shanghai, with a record breaking score of 210.36 points and four triples including a gorgeous Axel in the short. Tuktamysheva, showed everyone, who doubted her, that she is still someone to be reckoned with. Sadly, a year later, she was unable to defend her title, as only an 8th place at a super competitive Russian nationals field, was just not good enough to be selected for the Worlds team.
If you now think, that the 19 years old, would say “ok, I have a gold, let´s buy a car and cruise the Atlantic and forget about skating” then you are wrong. Liza, loves her sport and she is a never letting go personality and a leader, who will help those who struggle, as Yulia Lipnitskaia and Serafima did report in the past.

Therefore, sharing a room at Nebelhorn with Sima allowed her to play that role again, but also another role, that of a returning champion, as Liza won gold at Nebelhorn 2014, the starting point to her big comeback and why shouldn´t her assignment this time, also serve as a springboard back on top?
Nebelhorn however, was not Liza´s first competition of the season, as she had a little “skate” at the Cup of St. Petersburg, her home town already, but it did not go too well, as she noted with a smile.

“I actually had a skate prior to this season, but it did not go to well, just like last season in which I could not skate a clean SP”.

Said SP, consists of three jump elements, including at least the double Axel and said elements she did without too much trouble, performing triple toe – triple toe and triple Lutz, just like the Axel, which was “only” a double by her standards, but a planned one, as she want´s to get her program steady at first, before she up´s the difficulty again, as she mentioned.

“The last season, the workflow with triple Axel in short and long, was just a bit too much and I first want to gain some more consistency, before I add further difficulty again and the triple might come later in the season, but in my Free”

That being said, during practice we could see a few triple attempts already and they did not look too bad, even though they were not fully rotated yet.
What we also saw was a young Russian lady, who really enjoyed her time skating to piano concerto no 23 an “unusual mix of Tango and Mozart” as she mentioned and for me, she convinced with a very calm and thoughtful performance, not rushing it at all, but skating calm and quietly, as the music demanded. Liza, is unlike any other skater I know, she want´s to skate slower & elegant, maybe a tad arrogant, she really want´s to lose herself in the music and show us a strong lady, a real woman and for me, she does succeed there, especially if we consider, that it was the first time for her, to have picked a more “lyrical” type of music.

Not the first time it was, however, that Liza brought something special to the table, something that we can easily call “the look”. In the short, elegant, calm, with a white blouse which was softly attached to her body floating in the wind and in the free, sexy, tight and hot, with a snake – that luckily was calm and not in the mood, to yet bite another Cleopatra.

“It was actually the second outfit we had and I really like it and feel comfortable with it, it has nice colors and resembles the Cleopatra theme well.”

As Cleopatra, the Russian was able to land a total of six triples, while performing in a very seductive way, with huge spins that all gained a level four, achieving a combined total of 185.93 points. What I liked a lot about her program, was how Liza showcased the life of Cleopatra, the Queen of all ages. We start with the snake, that slowly comes out of her basket almost unnoticeable, move on to a very sexy part with calm and slow oriental dance moves, enchanting every men watching and finish with the grand final and lot´s of speed, in which Cleopatra decides to end her life, well pictured with the hand at Liza´s throat.

I don´t know about you guys, but I fully understand why Cesar fell for Cleopatra and honestly, my heart surely was bumping as much as hisonce, when I saw “my” Cleopatra on ice.

2.3 But there was one..

While Liza conquered the world, there was one nation that did resist, a small and proud nation, with an even smaller skater than Liza is, Mai Mihara from Japan. With her uplifting attitude and outgoing personality, she put a spell on all of us here at Oberstdorf, edging Liza out with a combined total of 189.03 points.

Right from the first day, the skater from Kobe made clear, that she means business in her very first seniors season. Coming back from a severe rheumatoid arthritis, she did practice longest and hardest, always until the end, not wasting any time with looking for cows or drinking tea. As the very first lady on ice, she scored the second best score in the short, just trailing by 2.09 points, performing a clean triple Lutz – triple Toe combination right at the start, while finishing off, with the triple Flip and a huge smile, something that she especially looked forward to, when picking her piece of music.

“I am skating to Rondo Capriccioso and I picked that music, as it let´s me express myself and entertain, especially towards the end, when I perform my last element the triple Flip.”

Said expression is a never ending look up into the crowd, she want´s to know what people think and I like that! What a young Japanese started, a one day older Japanese finished and that was her LP, a flawless skate with high difficulty and seven triples! Skating to Cinderella, she clearly enjoyed her role as a “princess” on the ball and her posture showed that, big and proud arms and strong upper body only once going a tiny bit out of character when she lost a bit of her balance at one of the spirals.

“I was a bit nervous and am overall pleased. While I don´t have a specific element that I work on right now, I hope to polish up my skating for the next competitions”.

Said next competitions are going to be Skate America and the Audi Cup of China. Joining Mai at America, while not on the same flight, will be Gabby Daleman.

2.4 The best of both worlds

The 18 years old from Toronto came third with a combined total of 175.40 points, skating two very entertaining programs, but sadly lacked consistency with some of her jump elements. What she did not lack however, was grace and athleticism and I especially love her graceful work with the upper body and the power, especially at the Lutz – Toe combination. Gabby, combines the best of both worlds as seen in her short and that is very rare these days, as most skaters tend to focus on either one of these two.

"I am skating to Herodiade, a middle eastern movie and it shows my strength as a skater, but also my softness so that it shows two completely different sides of me and who I am as a skater, also on the component side, with all the edges and difficulty there."

Said difficulty, brought her mid 7´s for her SS and a level 4 modification at her Step sequence, where I especially like the end of it, with the little hops and turns, right on beat. To put fast and driving elements at the end of your program, is always a very special challenge, as most skaters, will not have the stamina to go all out in the last minute of their program.
Gabby however, seemed to have enough room for another two minutes on ice and this she showed impressively at the LP, in which she struggled a bit during half time, when she had a nasty fall on her Lutz - hitting her right ear, but then came back very strong with a triple Sal and double Axel in combination.

"I am very proud and happy, about what I have done here at Oberstdorf and fought brave in my long and never gave up the program, but also improved not only in the technical but also the components."

Said components achieved 61.06 points and were toying with the music and it was a real joy to see the young Canadian perform accordingly to the various phrases of music. If the music opened up, she did and if it got more uplifting, she put on her rocket boots and transitioned effortless into the next elements. For me, her musical understanding and on beat skating, is quite similar to those who are next in my list and just like her, they do love Hip Hop!

3.0 Dance with me

For the very first time, Figure Skating allowed it´s skaters to do something out of the ordinary, when Hip Hop became a thing. While I am not sure if our lovely Gabby, does Hip Hop on ice, the next three did and I was quite pleased to say the least, with what these skaters came up with.

3.1 It´s more than a dance, it´s a lifestyle

Back in the 70´s where said movement has it´s roots, nobody thought about making a lot money with just sampling other peoples music, leave alone, using it for something as traditional as Figure Skating. Musicians, just did it for fun like DJ Kool Herc, who was the very first who decided that looping samples from Soul & Funk music, while adding your own vocals creates something new.
Said “toasting” became very popular a decade later and was considered being cool and independent, it was something that nobody ruled or had a say over. Quite often, the very first artists, spoke about their life and the problems on street and the DJ movement of today, wouldn´t be where it is now, without those innovative people from the early days of Hip Hop.

Several decades later, it´s a billion dollars industry and the point of origin for more than 100 genres across the board and many people, myself included feel that it has all gone way too commercial these days. Nonetheless, was the addition of Hip Hop highly appreciated by athletes and fans, as it creates something fresh, while giving skaters the opportunity to perform a bit out of the box and especially our fellow Americans Chock & Bates did just that with their “Uptown Funk”, a piece of music that Evan originally chose for the couple!

3.2 Tradition vs. past and future

In Said program, which also featured the Blues rhythm Bad to the Bone by George Thorogood, both skaters showed their strong dance abilities and huge risk for difficult transitions as seen in the second part of their program where they brilliantly showcase the easy going feeling with Madi swinging and instantly going into a sequence of Twizzles, as it would be nothing.
It is one of those things, that just always stand out with the Americans and I am totally addicted to their no touch line already, the entry into it is fabulous, the music builds up and then kaboom, great speed - super alignment and totally expressing what the rhythm is all about, while covering lot´s of ice.

On ice, however, it is much harder for the athletes to control their moves, as Madison pointed out.

"It´s actually harder on the ice, because when you are on the floor you can stop and have more traction to do all the moves and hit really sharp and this is something we really had to focus on, to keep and perform our edges and elements, while yet keeping the spirit of Hip Hop alive."

Said spirit is a feeling and lifestyle and it is nothing that comes from sitting on a coach either, as both skaters explained further.

"We took a lot of Hip Hop classes and worked with our choreographer who specialized in Hip Hop, which was great fun and very different to what we usually do."

Said difference are 90 degree angles, drops, locks and pops, very fast movements that demand a perfect union and great overall awareness, as you don´t want to hit your partner in the face!
Not hitting their partners was also greatly achieved by two more couples, the Germans Kavita and Joti, who performed to a Michael Jackson medley and the Koreans Yura & Alexander. What I liked in all three programs, was the symbolizing of a music as a lifestyle, something that you can not read about, but that you either have or you don´t. We clearly saw the transition into a new era of ice dance there, in which skaters can just get loose and do something more hip.

Madi´s and Evans SD was choreographed by Rohene Ward and achieved 70.78 points, which was slightly less than the Italians achieved with their Broadway inspired performance to “Cry For Me” / Boogie Woogie - Choo Choo Boogie”, which gained 71.42.

Interesting is, how both skaters found their first peace of music, as Anna explained, music of a program, that hit higher levels than of all other couples that evening.

"Immediately after Worlds, I was in New York and asked Luca what Broadway show to see and he told me to go see Jersey Boys, so I did and afterwards we had our music."

Said music, was greatly interpreted by the Italians, one of many things that Anna and Luca have perfected over the years. The World champions of 2014 just know how to look as a couple on ice, he so cares for his lady and she just portraits that picture of a beautiful women amazingly well. There are people, who argue that their style would not change, but honestly, why pretend to be something that you are not?

I enjoy that couple, as they bring high difficulty to the table, just look at their straight line, the transition from Anna on the ice onto Luca´s knee, it just connect´s, no strength applied, no pressure, it is how judges want to see elements performed and the point difference in ice dance, does come from these type of nuances as Piper Gilles mentioned.

"We ice dancers, have to be perfect all the time, the depth is incredible, the top 10 are so tight and each little mistake can decide the competition."

Piper, who competed with Paul in a very joyful and entertaining program achieved 70.32 points and brought us back to the days of Disco, in which we all just went out to party as Paul elaborated the intention of their Short Dance.

"The program is about two people going out and having just a great time together and we are not afraid to make a fool of ourselves which is a little bit necessary at the disco."

Something I can totally sign after 15 years in the clubs and it´s that “letting lose, being free” attitude that both skaters are so known for, but decided to discontinue in the Free, where they wanted to show a more traditional skate with their Argentine Tango, as both mentioned.

"The Free is totally new for us, but we like to do new things, that challenge us each year and if we can´t do it, then we will force ourselves to and learn how to do it and that´s how we can become better skaters."

Personally, I love that attitude as always setting new goals is so important for creative people and it can of course, also backfire a little bit, as with last season in which the Canadians, had super creative programs but somehow, never really got the big rewards for it, which made them change their SD prior to worlds and it paid off with a 5th place on day one at Boston.
Therefore, the goal this season was to simplify things a little bit, so that judges can easier notice their difficulty and track it down in a points system, while the skaters themselves can focus on their strong skating skills again.

"Our goal for this season, was to show our best skating and with last year the programs were too difficult for us and them [the judges] and we couldn´t show our best skating, as there were too many things going on so this season, we decided to create little pictures, moments, while not overdoing it."

This new philosophy could be witnessed at their Twizzle sequence in the Free. Both skaters do each sequence of Twizzles in a different direction – clock and anti clockwise, to the one before, with having three in total and the last one going back to where they came from. Now for those who don´t know about force and gravity, just sit on a chair and turn first into one direction and afterwards into the other and then again into the opposite one. Not only, do you need a lot of force to pull the “stop” off, no also your balance system, will go all wonky. Not so, however, for these two! Perfect alignment until the end, greatly performed, no force or any stuttering noticeable.

A similar technique, could also be witnessed by the French Lorenza Allessandrini and Pierre Souquet who came 7th with 138.78 points and have incredible fire, especially her, who is quite a lady with a beautiful smile, I have to admit.

Our young Lady Piper, however was not allowed to smile during her Tango with Paul and I have to point this out, as it´s not unusual for skaters to break their role at times during their skating or while accessing and leaving the ice. Not so with the Canadians and yet they kept their transitions seamless, with not too much wrong on both days, wining the bronze medal with 176.84 points.

Who did not do much wrong either, were of course our winners Luca and Anna, who achieved a combined total of 180.50 points, after their Charlie Chaplin FD. That both skaters, could perform at such a high level already, seems to be one of those miracles on ice as Anna suffered a concussion during summer, limiting her practice times quite severe, including a total off ice duration of two weeks.

"I think we exceeded our own expectations a little bit in this competition, as we were not sure we were so ready for this competition already and our experience really came into play."

As Anna added further, their Charlie Chaplin program was created after the short and both skaters really tried to immerse themselves into their roles, by watching all kinds of movies, but also reading books. Luca portraits Charlie, a clumsy and different men to all the others, who lost his heart to a woman, the complete opposite of him, perfect and beautiful and yet, they came together, something that still has quite some relevance in our society, where beauty and money are often seen as more valuable than the true character of a person.

Character for sure had the program a lot, but also difficulty with huge lifts, two of them well placed during the hook line of the OST, with the straight line probably being the most impressive, when Luca goes backwards and Anna is sky high, above him – a huge balance point for the man who has nothing but one blade on the ice.
A good balance on ice, is also the trademark of Madison and Evan, who while only coming second with a combined total of 179.18, absolutely destroyed the ice with a completely different approach to the other two pairs above, as Madi noted.

“We really wanted to look different and take our skating to another level and take it somewhere, where we had not been before and I think we achieved that.”

Under Pressure is as I like to call it, an industrial piece of art, it´s fresh and unexpected, especially for those who do not follow Madi and Evan that much. To me, it does showcase their full potential as best modern dancers on ice, something that already came out so often during their Beyoncé program last season and it has a very unique ingredient as Evan mentioned.

"Igor's friend from childhood in Russia is a musician and helped us by orchestrating the middle section, as we wanted a rhythm change so he created a waltz speed for our slow section and just helped us with instrumentation to give us a different sound, which is recognizable but not just the exact same thing."

As someone who likes to spin the tides of music, I love skaters who think out of the box, not just with their elements, but also the music, so that we get new work on our ears and for me, these two Americans show what can be possible in ice dance, if you really look a bit across the river and don´t just put in the original master of a track.
Throughout the program, the Americans achieved the same amount of level 4 as the Italians (five), but lost out a bit in PC´s, which might be expected for something so unique, as the judges still need to find their groove I suppose.

Said groove, was always present with Chock & Bates and you just have to love how they play with speed and lyrics throughout their program, making it look so easy, while still having total control of their elements at the end, when they impersonate the musics uplifting character as seen with the rotational lift and diagonal step sequence as it would be really their last dance in life.

3.3 But there was more!

If you had hoped, this would be my last statement about the ice dance competition, then I am sorry, it was not! As always, I try to look a bit further than just the podium and there was one performance, actually there were tons of, but nobody want´s to read 10 more pages of my analyses right, so let´s just cut it short shall we?
The first couple are the Belorussians Viktoria Kavaliova & Yuri Bieliaiev who´s SD was really great, not just because of her very hot outfit of course, no she was so high above the ice at one point during a lift, that it was giving me the creeps as I am a bit afraid of the height myself....

But really, these two are very creative and think a bit out of the box as well and as mentioned above, I like couples who do that or of course our Germans, Katharina Müller and Tim Dieck who had such an amazing Ave Maria last season and always show great alignment and tight holds and didn´t she look lovely with that feather in her hair?

There was, however, one couple I have to point out here especially and it was once again a “British” couple! While Ekaterina Fedyushchenko and Lucas Kitteridge came last, they so nailed a perfect skate on ice, during their Free. I said it already, the best lyrical dance I have seen all week long, it was like watching a movie, incredible and touching. Katia and Lucas, portrait what is so special on ice, a floating performance that lets no eye dry. In their first season at the seniors and after switching coaches, it is of course hard to match all those super challenging levels, while having much more to work with, but this will come over time I am sure! What you can not learn, however, is chemistry and charm, which both have plenty of.

These two skaters had nothing but blades and a piece of music, but created an instrument for our all hearts. The first part more quiet and thoughtful, just a piano playing and some strings, while the second part with the vocals tells us a lot about our all life's and I love how they actually use the vocals and portrait them, like with the bow.
The former Canadians, with her being originally from Russia, have a huge talent for stories on ice, I really hope they keep working so hard and stick to their boots and don´t let anyone get in between them.
Thank you very much, for that beautiful skate!

4.0 Together through hard times

That beauty often comes along with hard times and lot´s of dedication is nothing new, but what our next two couples had to go through, was quite something and if you meet them off ice, it just shows. Both are, super happy to just skate, smiles everywhere, grateful for having another chance to pursue their dreams.

4.1 Luba & Dylan

To dream away, I could always, whenever I see these two, the chemistry on ice, is unbelievable, they just get along so well and this right from the beginning as Liubov mentioned.

"I would say it comes from the mutual respect about each other as an athlete and a person,"

Dylan added.

"the chemistry is something we had right from the beginning I think, but we also have beautiful choreographers that really work to exhibit our best qualities, to show what we are capable off, with our characters and personalities."

In the short, these qualities lead to 65.98 points and all of this, with a quite nasty fall in the warm up, when the Twist did over rotate a little bit, something that however wasn´t a big deal as Dylan pointed out.

"It was one of those weird falls, that sometimes happen when you are full of Adrenalin, luckily we are both fine."

Skating to Tango Jalousie by Jacob Gade, the Canadians showed that they also know a thing or two about Ice Dance, while skating in a dance hold, during their routine, while also offering a nice entry into their triple Lutz, which Luba put bravely on the ice, by going very deep into her knee´s.
If Dylan fell on his knee´s in 2014 when he asked the former Russian skater and juniors champion of 2009 about a date on the ice, I don´t know, but it was very charming to hear their story and how they actually met on a Facebook chat.

"I wasn´t sure if I wanted to keep skating, but I decided that I wasn't ready without trying it with a new partner and I knew her from before when we competed against each other and she was the only person around worth trying to skate with, but she didn´t appear on the international scene for like two seasons so I contacted her on FB and asked her “hey do you still look for a new partner” and ya..."

Liubov added with a wink,

"I was actually surprised, that you did not look me up on Icepartner search, as I put my profile up there, for like a year and yet you just messaged me."

Which made Dylan reply with,

"Well you know, I thought I could be standing there searching and searching and I just didn´t want to try this and try that, I had finished my Olympic season and was going to be 30 years old and I knew I wanted to skate high level and that´s where you came into play."

Into play came also a very romantic FS in which the couple achieved 118.42 points, skating to “When you say, you love me.” Besides a few issues on their side by side jumps, which Dylan just called “figure skating problems”, both skated a very clean program and you have to love the creativity as shown at the entry to the dead spiral after the no touch sequence in which both skaters let lose and then come together with a seamless transition in one of the most tricky elements in pairs-skating.

After the competition in which both skaters showed great presence and difficult lifts, all gaining level 4´s, while achieving a combined total of 184.40 points and a second place, it was just another day at the office with all smiles and a few jokes.

"We are happy and satisfied and we did a good job for the first time in a new season, both programs are difficult and we both tried to challenge us this year and we worked hard in staying connected as a team and we are on the right track," Dylan noted.

The Canadians who are working on a quad throw Lutz, but decided to leave it out for now to rest Liubov a bit, also mentioned with a smile, that they are working on a little bit more... as she explained.

"Of course, we have a bunch of incredible lifts, but sadly they are not eligible by the rules and there is also a choreographed element, which we hope to show in the next competition."

Dylan added,

"Liuba is so strong, she could lift me, but it´s against the rules!"

4.2 Aljona and Bruno

Not against the rules, it is to smile and it is just absolutely wonderful to see those smiles back on Aljona´s face. Just like Liubov, she had to face a tough time with federation issues, partner search and the unbreakable will, to get back on the ice.
With the former french skater, Bruno, she found a very funny guy and also strong skater, who absolutely improved a ton in his charisma and artistry on ice, which is one of those things, that made the former duo Savchenko / Szolkowy so great. He had to step into big skating boots and it really get´s better each time I see them.

Their short to “That Man” by Caro Emerald , is as Aljona called it “a dance” and showed a completely different approach to their skating this season.

"It´s a lot of fun, we dance and don´t have to think too much about our elements and it´s a very nice program."

Said program is still a "work in process" as both noted, but shows two skaters in a very joyful mood, featuring as of now a triple Axel throw and triple Sal side by side and you have to love the exit from their huge triple Twist as well, in which Savchenko “rolls” over the back of her partner! Very creative and diverse to what we usually see. In total, the Germans skated home with 74.24 points, in a performance that did not allow you to take your eyes off them for a second.

Their Free to “Lighthouse” while much slower and quieter, was not less entertaining, as it showed a very soft and different side, especially by Bruno, who was lifting and touching Aljona, gently and with great feel. Both skaters achieved 128.80 points in a program that while still with a few edges here and there, seems to be their strongest of the past “2” years, from a story telling point of view and we also have to consider, that Aljona had a bad fall earlier this week, so this might have played a role as well.

"The FS was hard, as it was our first this season and we saw it more as a practice run than a competition and it was important to see how it feels and what we can still do better," Aljona noted.

Without wanting to sound sassy, the side by side jumps really need some work, something however, that Bruno felt is understandable so early on in the season.

"It was just the first competition, so the focus was more on the lifts and pair elements, but also the choreography, as this program is pretty hard there and I also wanted to show a different side of me and focused on that as well".

Said different side, of course also needed a special outfit and style, so both skaters ordered their costumes at America and it actually arrived just two days prior to their Free and while Aljona´s was perfect, Bruno´s had a little problem, as it was just too big which Savchenko explained with a mistake on her side, as she might had measured him a bit taller, than he actually was.
In the end however, the style matters and what happens on the ice and in the end, it granted them a comfortable win with 203.04 points, just 13 points below their current PB, from the bronze medal skate at Worlds last season.

Said skate, makes Germany eligible for sending two teams to Helsinki 2017 and it´s certainly the big goal, of our couple “Nr. 2” who came third in total with 162.38, Mari Vartmann & Ruben Blommaert, to compete there. While not flawless, the couple showed a very energetic FS, with some tempo variations into a more quiet section towards the end, before they finished with an uplifting sound and a planned triple Sal that sadly wasn´t there yet. But, the program has lot´s of potential if the elements come, it shows a lot of variety and bravery!

Last but not least, I also want to say a few words about Hase & Seegert, who were so incredible charming with their Romeo & Juliet in the past. This season, they brought completely new programs and I really like how they do what they can do and therefore skate clean and keep in mind, she is still just 17 years of age and they practice about 15-20 hours a week and they are far from just a “third” pair in Germany. These two connect on ice and I so hope, they keep working hard, also on the level of expression, so that it looks a bit more effortless, as they have the alignment already and she is such a strong young lady too, landing things like triple Loop and Sal throw, while being one of very few who managed with the side by side elements and she looked beautiful in that red dress as well – really nice job by both skaters from Berlin and surely the future of German pairs skating after 2018.

4.3 Special notice

Over the past years, pairs skating became very technical and for me, lost it´s original creative side of story telling a little bit. It is similar to what happened at Ice Dance once and just like in Dance, it worried me a bit that those great story lines, would leave the ice, as it is so often the case nowadays with the men, where difficulty is so high, but something is not there anymore and why I welcome for instance what Jorik or Grant are doing, skating with heart and new music.
Therefore, I want to point out not just Minerva and Nolan who were indeed clean, but also the Swiss team Ioulia Chtchetinina & Noah Scherer, who skated a super charming program in the Free, to “ MY Immortal” in which the choreography reflected the vibe and feel of the instrumental and lyrics wonderfully. Yes it was a bit edgy with the elements, two footed landings at times, not as high in execution or level as with others, but they have charm, they have something I just like and I believe, that if she can gain a bit more strength in those legs while he smooths out his skating skills and expression a bit, then this could be a really great couple on ice.

I mean, she is so brave already, Lutz and Sal throws, high in the air, lovely no touch lines and alignment, the choreography is well done, good music chosen, I just like it – I have a soft heart I agree, but they have huge potential!

5.0 Cool & Brand new

Huge potential, is also what I see at the men event´s, but quite often, I see only this. While we all know about the great Hanyu or Javi, we also know, how often it happens that our men, want to show their quads and if they don´t work, the programs become a little bit, difficult to enjoy, as there is not that much more, than the jumps.
Therefore, I was very happy to see skaters at Oberstdorf, who gave me back that feeling of more than just quads, even though, we had quite a lot of falls in our men´s competition.

5.1 Silence

When I heard the vocals of Sarah Mclachlan, I thought I am back at Ibiza or some huge rave at the Netherlands. It is one of the most remarkable voices in history of electronic dance music, remixed more than a 100 times, I myself have about 11 Vinyl and one guy from Belgium, felt it was about time, to introduce that sound to our figure skating society. Said skater was Jorik Hendrickx, who came second with a combined total of 223.04.

"The short program is a bit out of the box, as I picked Silence by Delerium and I want expand my creativity and try different styles, as seen in the short and I hope that I can please the judges and audience with it."

Said judges and audience, I believe, were not fully ready for it plus as Jorik told me, it still needs some work, especially from the skating skills perspective and also the fall on the triple Loop as he mentioned, kind of interrupted the program a little bit. That being said, the music shows, that there is much more than the always same - always old, that we know and why not bring something new to the table?

His Free Skate, is a totally different approach in which someone had a car accident and has a battle with life and dead. In said battle Jorik showed eight triples and a pretty flawless program, in which he was able to get the maximum levels for all his elements, such as a the step-sequence which was well placed within the musical phrase and the hunting vocals, great expressive skating there and I really like that the Lutz – Toe combination, doesn´t interrupt the flow at all, it´s hard to put into words, but it´s just a brilliant part of his program, well done, just like the choreographed sequence prior to the Axel at the end.

In the future, he also want´s to add a quad to his programs and together with his sister Leona, we have two skaters that are quite different, as also her programs, have quality, especially her edges, steps and spins stand out! Overall, it looks like a very talented family to me and I am already curious about what these two will come up with next, when they once again have their little practice competitions, which are the source of their creativity.

5.2. “I am not cool, I like to read Harry Potter

Creative is also our next candidate, Grant Hochstein. He, who said about himself, that he is not “cool” and yet looks pretty relaxed and cool to me, showed a great quad toe – triple toe combination in the short and scored 75 points.

"It´s a different style for me, as usually I do classical, so it´s the year prior to the Olympic season and I wanted to challenge myself and Peter brought “Rhapsody in Blue” and at first I did not like it, but then he brought a more jazzy version and now I like my program, as it´s totally out of the box for me."

Out of the box at least for me, is also the story of his Free program which upped his combined total to 217.25 points. A clown, a cheating girlfriend and a lot of confusion!

"I am a clown who finds out that his love of life, is cheating on him and I lose myself and go in and out of reality and lose my mind, it´s a very complex story and I hope I did not lose anyone in the audience "laughs.

The program, that as he mentioned, “suits me a bit more”, was well performed on an artistry level, with graceful arms in a very balletric and expressive style, in which the American was able to land five triples in all his confusion, of which three were part of a combination.

"I left a lot of points on the table, but it was a start into the right direction, I did quad – double at Lombardia and yesterday Quad – triple and even today, I had a good attempt at it."

Grant who started his sports career in Taekwondo and today settles with reading Harry Potter books, has a very good style of skating, it just clicks with the audience, something you guys can experience live, at Skate Canada and NHK soon.

5.3. "I am a Wizard"

Not sure if he read Harry Potter, or at least the Russian Version of it, but Petrov decided to be a Wizard, who is making fire. With said fire, he scored 75.13 in the short with four clean triples, something he want´s to up in future, with a working quad toe right at the start.

Said quad, was sadly also missing in the Free, when he had to pop it right at the start of the program. That being said, what came afterwards was pretty good, when he landed a total of eight triples. Skating to music by Frank Sinatra, Petrov gained 232.21 in combined total, showing great flexibility and style on his spins, while still leaving some room to improve.

"The performance today was good, but I popped my quad and I wanted to skate a clean program today, which I did not do, so my goal is to do the quad and a clean program at my next event, Finlandia Trophy."

Personally, with or without the quad - I felt that he did quite well with impersonating Frank, as seen with the opening pose and general attitude throughout the program, it had something of a cool fellow, maybe a tad arrogant at times, proud and elegant – easy going you know, using the music for his elements, while the expression was spot on as well.

6.0 Medals for all

Last but not least, we are coming to my favorite part of each column, the medals for all, or What I like about you!

6.1 Ashley & Timothy

I met Ashley a few years ago, she appeared with that million dollar look, glamorous and beautiful, someone to fall in love with. I was sure, she was my next lady, if you know what I mean. Sadly, she later disappeared or better put, never came back to Oberstdorf, probably because of that weird guy in the blue jacket, nobody likes the guy in the blue jacket, right?! Therefore, to my surprise she came finally back to Oberstdorf, but this time, she did not come alone, but brought this tall guy with her and I asked myself, why..? What does he have, that I don´t!? After I saw them skate, I knew what he had. He looks good, has more muscles on his finger than me on my whole body, is flexible like a cat and most likely can actually talk to women without completely babbling nonsense and no I am not like the guy at the Big Bang Theory, alcohol does not help at all!

On a more serious note, however, these two are such a lovely pair on ice, with just three months of being together and Ashley is quite a tall lady, so this add´s more difficulty to their elements, as well. Nonetheless, they seem to understand each other blindly and would easily win each prom party at college. Alignment, flexibility, expression, outfits, speed, smoothness and the perfect music with Andreá and Celine, it´s big music, something you have to show in your skating and they do just that wonderfully.!
I love how Ashley is a little bit “ahead” at times and Timothy has to catch her again, it´s just so spot on and they both have an elegance and grace in their movements, hardly to be find at another pair these days. Also to note is of course the quality of Ashley´s landings, she is just not letting go as seen with the Sal and especially the Flip throw, where she was completely low on on the ice, down in her knees, what a power to get up from this quad position, she is the Agi Radwanska of figure skating for sure. Great choreography, wonderful spirals and spins by two skaters, that mirror the others personality and skill brilliantly. It takes a hell of a men to not go down next to Hollywoods Darling Ashley and Timothy has done this amazingly well to be honest.

6.2. Karoliina Luhtonen

Karo is my sunshine to be honest, whenever I see her, she is smiling and we had a great time together in which she mentioned that she admires Kiira Korpi, but also added with a big smile, that she isn´t as popular yet, as her idol and how she isn´t afraid of anything, as it is a skaters job to land those elements and how her short skate, is about a woman who kills her husband and children...
To me, she just shines through, so to speak and I was super happy for her, when she did land her triple Lutz – triple Toe in practice, she came to me and was just super happy and sadly I did not have a few flowers for her, as it was a super big achievement and something she can be very proud of, it´s one of the hardest things to do for the ladies and she has done it!

At the competition itself, Karo went for it and even though she was one of the last Ladies after the short, she fought back and skated the 9th best FS and never lost her positive attitude and it´s just so nice to see, that a skater is enjoying every minute on the ice, no matter if it all goes well or not. Keep it up young lady and please come to Germany soon again.

6.3.Emmi Peltonen

This lady here, had to sadly pull out prior to the short, so nobody except me and a few other nerds, were able to see her programs this time, but I can tell you this, she is rocking on ice. Her Libertango makes your blood freeze, what a ice cold expression, it gave me the creeps, really!
I think she is a very talented skater from Finland, who can play with you, hot and cold as she pleases and already owns a triple – triple combination and a nice pop up in the air when she jumps, as seen with the triple toe´s in practice. What I also like is her posing in that short, she takes the blade off the gas at times, greatly choreographed program and her Free is also very nice, she has a good natural ability to work with her arms and hands, it´s all part of her performance and add´s to said.

6.4 Karly Robertson

Another of our ladies and she is coming from GB and is a former national champion and has wonderful abilities to sell her programs. She has so much heart to give, skating must really mean the world to her and she is telling us something from her life and that´s why it´s so real and uncensored.
In the Free, to “one day I´ll fly away” she is telling us something that is while a fictional story so real right now, the wish to escape it all into a better life filled with love and happiness – something that a lot of people at Syria or Yemen must be thinking right now. Sometimes, I wish all those stupid politicians in our world, would go to a figure skating event, and see those great programs, that have so much relevance to our crappy world these days.
Her program resembles hope, that no matter what, we can have the ability to choose what we want for our lives. I also want to say, that I absolutely loved her SP outfit, so much elegance, probably my favorite of the whole day.

6.5 Amber Glenn

This lady here, was my big discovery at Oberstdorf. From the very first moment on, she took my heart with flying colors. Amber, who I always felt looks and behaves like a snowboarder, has so much style, that you just have to love her. Each day I was looking forward, to what new hairstyle or clothing style, she would bring to the table and she is the very first skater, who I have met, that is able to do Spirals, while joking around with her coach. Said coach, is the dad of Ashley Cain, Peter who coaches her with Darlene at Texas and what I already said about Brooklee applies here as well. That coach is brilliant, a super relaxed fellow who really gives the skaters a lot of friendly advice and doesn´t shout or anything, it´s beautiful to see.

As for Amber, she does everything a bit different, but exactly this, I like so much about her. The Clowns SP, is not a sad program, it´s an emotional program for her and she has the charisma to pull this off.
The last time an American got to me like this was with Gracie and we all know how this ended up, me having lost my heart to this lady...
Anyways, Amber I believe, is a skater you have to see live at the ice, as close as possible, she is a lively person and you must be there, to fully understand this.

6.6 Serafima Sakhanovich

This young Russian Lady is quite a special fellow isn´t she? Sima, looks like a million dollars, has programs that are worth a million dollars, sells them like a Hollywood Diva and yet, is not getting across the river that lies between her and success. In her short, she portraits a little girl that is just living her life, while in the Free, she is a person who is on the edge of life and dead, who is ultimately saved by a positive call. Said positive call, would had been greatly appreciated for her as well, as it was so sad to see how she pulled off all her elements in practice and yet, did fail in competition.
Sakhanovich, has the talent to make you care for her and to create lot´s of pictures on ice, pictures that will just stick with you, just like her ice cold expression, that at times, gets in the way of her beautiful smile, which by the way was all there again at the Exhibition, when she was watching her friend Liza skate.

Liza actually, would have missed the victory ceremony after the Free, if not for Sima, who gave her a call and told her to please come back and pick up her medal, as in Russia there are no team leaders, so the skaters have to kind of manage their own all the time, which can be quite difficult if you don´t speak English.

6.7. Lutricia Bock

This young lady here, is a real addition to Germany, as we really need someone in the spotlight again, who has that little bit of something, that little bit of glamour and who likes to be out there as well.
The 17 years old, who had to go to school until Thursday, only had a single practice at Oberstdorf prior to the short and yet, she took it easy and performed her “Love in Venice” while not flawless, but with great charm and character. For me, she has everything that you want a skater to have, the elements like triple Lutz – triple Toe, great spins and flexibility and that very calm and friendly expression on her face. She is really skating for the audience and that is so key about our German skaters, who do not have that natural “talent & education” as Americans or most of the Russians, that are almost born with attitude and figure skating etiquette.

As a skater, you don´t skate just for you, as silly this may sound, you are a performer and an artist on ice and you tell others something about you and therefore have to keep your temper and don´t just rush off without a bow and exactly those qualities the Chemnitz based skater has. I like her speed, the easy transitions into the elements, the posture on ice and what she does with her arms, very easy on the eyes, our lovely Lutricia who kept her “The Artist” Free and finished 8th in total with 129.62 points.

Of course we had many more skaters at Oberstdorf, Leona with the great edges and spins, Yura Min who competes with Alexander Gamelin and fought super heavy in the Free, while not feeling that well, which happens every year to one skater!
I honestly do not know why but it must be something with the food here, maybe one of the cows wasn´t that yummy, I don´t know, but it did not interfere much with them, they created beautiful pictures on ice or what about Erika Smith & AJ Reiss coming 5th at pairs, who got two teddy´s and a Santa Claus (me thinks) as presents in the free while performing a super strong last lift or the lovely Swizz girl Jeromie Repond, who was able to skip three years of school and still managed to win nationals in her age groups and to those who bullied her all the time, "Jealous Bastards, you suck!":noshake:... Anyways, what a smart girl she must be and if I ever need help with my homework in future, I know whom to ask if I ever manage to talk to women that is...

So much has happened, so much more I could tell you, but as always, I need to find an end, so that´s it!

7.0 Final Words

Or not yet, as I still want to say how pleased I was with the whole welcome culture at Oberstdorf, as I am coming to Nebelhorn now for many years and each year I tell myself it will be the last time, as I am sadly not a professional figure skating reporter and therefore have to find time and money, to be able to go there.
After the Trophy however, I always say it was totally worth it, as these skaters and people behind the scenes work so hard to give us a few minutes of peace and tolerance. Skaters, just like spectators come in all sizes and shapes, from all around the world and everyone seems to get along just fine.

We had So Youn Park from South Korea who came 4th in the ladies, who is such a lovely figure to meet and she has huge charm and the ability to slip into various roles, while giving you the feel that she would only skate for you, or Julian Zhi Jie Yee from Malaysia who did clean the ice for us at the exhibition and almost impaled his own coach with the broomstick.
Another aspect is, that several skaters do come every year, like Madi & Evan, or Elizaveta Ukolova, who I so wish could finally do in competition what she always does in practice. It is you know, like a family meeting each year and the moment skaters greet you on street, is the moment when you realize that you have become a part of that family!

If you talk to skaters or journalists about the sacrifices they have to make, to be able to pursue that sport, then you realize that they don´t do it for money, but because it´s where their heart is.
Figure skating is losing more and more the spotlight but not because of skaters like Promsan Rattanadilok na Phuket who came third at nationals in Thailand, but because of an industry that does not have the patience to broadcast 10 hour long competitions, so that fewer nations are present at big competitions and therefore, less young kids can be inspired to get on blades. Another aspect is of course, that it has become a super expensive hobby for spectators, if we look at ticket prices for several thousands of dollars, hotel rooms of 500 a night and at times, the view is just horrible and so on.

At Oberstdorf, I met a young lady, who went to the 4 Continents at Chinese Taipei to see Patrick Chan and she was still completely blown away by it and it´s people like her, who keep our sports alive, just like one lady who came from Tokyo all the way down to Nebelhorn, to support the skaters and as she told me to take many pictures of her Liza.
Anyways, if you have come that far, then I want to thank you for reading my column and maybe we will see us at a competition in future, as I like to meet people, but I am shy and like to hide, so come and find me, but be gentle! ;)

Evan about Paul

I think Paul's mustage stole the show, the best part of the whole event.

Dylan about coming late to the press conference

We are still working on the German punctuality.