2015 European Figure Skating Championships Recap: Russians Rule
The 2015 European Championships took place between January 26 and February 1st. There was some great skating, with some favorites rising to the occasion and some faltering for the first time all season. For the fifth straight year, Russia rules the medal count, proving that while they may not win every event, they are still the strongest country in Europe.
Fernandez Still Rules European Men
Javier Fernandez of Spain proved that he still rules the men's competition, winning his third straight title by over twenty-five points. While he wasn't clean or perfect, he was solid. He had an eight-point lead over the rest of the field in the short program and extended with the free after what was a mistake-filled competition for the men. His total score was 262.49. He is the first European man to three-peat since Russia's Alexei Yagudin did it in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Reigning two-time Russian National Champion Maxim Kovtun climbed up from fifth after the short program to take the silver medal. While he wasn't clean either, his higher technical content gave him an advantage over the bronze medal finisher even though he still made multiple mistakes in both programs. Nonetheless, he was awarded 235.68 points overall and the silver medal. It wasn't his best, but better than last year where he finished fifth and the lowest of the the three Russian men.
Reigning Grand Prix Final Bronze Medalist and former two-time Russian National Champion Sergei Voronov was second after the short program, but mistakes in his free program - as well as a lower technical base value versus Kovtun - slipped him down to third overall, winning his second straight medal at Europeans. This time, it was a bronze, though, and he was awarded 233.05 points overall. This wasn't his best, and he knew it.
By far the surprise of the competition, Alexei Bychenko of Israel skated what was probably the only clean free skate of the competition, climbing from seventh with the fourth best free to place fourth overall. While he lacks the artistry of the men around him - he had the second lowest program component scores of the top ten men - he had the second highest technical score of the competition. He was awarded 220.22 overall and landed in fourth place, the highest finish for an Isreali skater in any discipline.
The Czech Republic's Michal Brezina, the 2013 European Bronze Medalist, fell from third to fifth with the seventh place free skate. He fell twice and had two jumps called under-rotated. He was awarded 220.11 points.
Tuktamisheva Continues Great Season
It was a fight for gold between two Russian teenagers. In the end, 2013 Russian National Champion and reigning Grand Prix Final Champion Elizaveta Tuktamisheva climbed up from second to first by just over a point to win her first European title. She skated a flawless program to earn 210.40 points overall and the gold medal.
2015 Russian National Champion and Grand Prix Final Silver Medalist skated wonderfully as well, but without the maturity of Tuktamshieva. Still, she amassed a total of 209.54 points to win the silver medal. There was a Russian sweep of the podium as Anna Pogorilaya finished out the podium, albeit distantly winning the bronze medal with a score of 191.81.
Swedish hometown sisters Joshi and Viktoria Helgesson skated decent programs to finish fourth and fifth respectively. Joshi scored 169.07 and older sister Viktoria scored 166.93. It was a great competition for ladies skating, in contrast to the mistake-filled skating of the men. It was the first time the Russian ladies have swept the podium since Irina Slutskaya, Elena Sokolova and Viktoria Volchkova went 1-2-3 in 2003.
Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov
Kavaguti and Smirnov Rally to Win Gold
2010 European Champions Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov took advantage of mistakes made by their compatriots to win their second title. They skated a clean program that included a Quad Throw Salchow to climb up from second to win the title by over six points, scoring 207.67, and put themselves back in contention for a medal at the Worlds in March.
Reigning Olympic Silver Medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia made mistakes and did not have their best competition. They took a fall on their Throw Triple Lutz and scored 201.11 to take the silver medal. Russians had their second sweep of the competition as Evgenia Taraosva and Vladmir Morozov climbed up from fifth with the third placed free skate to win the bronze medal with a score of 183.02. It's their second straight sweep of the pairs podium.
New pair, Italians Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek continued a great debut season as a pair by placing fourth with a score of 175.39. They are very strong for a new pair, and I look forward to seeing what they can do next year once they have a full year under their belt. French team Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres rounded out the top five, falling from third with the sixth place free skate. and scored 167.29.
Gabriella Papadkis and Guillaume Cizeron
Papadakis and Cizeron Continue to Shine
French team Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron continue to shine in their debut senior season. They skated a beautiful program to win their first European title by over eight points. They scored a total score of 179.97 and a surely a team to look for to be podium contenders come Worlds in March. They also showed more emotion in their programs, too, and their rise this season has been odd when in Ice Dance, it usually takes more time.
Reigning World and European Champions from Italy, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte showed great improvement from what we've seen from them so far this season, and climbed from third after the short to win the silver medal. They scored 171.52, and need to do something more if they want to challenge Papadakis and Cizeron for a medal at Worlds.
A Russian team landed on the podium - making Russians on the podium in every discipline - but it wasn't the team many thought it would be. Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin climbed up from fourth with the third place free skate to win the bronze medal with a score of 160.95. Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin of Russia - the top dance team this season - were second after the short but placed eighth in the free to land in fourth place with a 159.83. In
Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin of Russia - the top dance team this season - were second after the short but placed eighth in the free to land in fourth place with a 159.83. Sara Hurtado and Adria Diaz of Spain had the highest finish for a Spanish dance team climbed up from sixth with the fourth placed free skate to finish fifth overall, scoring 155.81.
I didn't get to watch it all live, but still it was a great competition. Four Continents start this week, and then we can piece together what might happen at Worlds, as most - but not all - of the major contenders will be at one or the other. Below, I have a poll so please vote on who you think had the best Free Program/Free Dance to win their title! Also, I have included a video I found on YouTube of Kavaguti and Smirnov's Free Program.