Ice Network

Hungarian Goulash: Toys, video games and Verner

Czech skater gets call from old sponsor; Judges showing patriotism?
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The revival of Tomáš Verner continued Thursday, as the Czech -- who has won all three of his competitions this season -- piled up 85.51 points in taking third. -Getty Images

Hungarians love ice dance … and video games!

The stands of the arena were built up for these 2014 European Figure Skating Championships. If you venture behind the tricky metallic construction that holds these stands, you'll find a ton of cables lying on the floor in a dark end of the arena. In front of these cables, half a dozen electric racks are gathered. They monitor the whole energy supply of the arena, and their green and red LEDs sparkle in the dark.

Thursday night, the stands were nearly full for the free dance and were more cheerful than ever. Supervising the electrical monitors was a man sitting in the dark. What did that man do, while some of the best ice dancers in the world were displaying their art and science to the crowd? You guessed! He was playing video games on his tablet. What else could he do? Thanks to those without whom no competition would ever be possible.

Joubert's popularity

Brian Joubert's popularity in Budadpest can be measured also among journalists. The press center is located close to the warm-up room, where skaters prepare before their skate. Even though a gate separates the two rooms, it is rather low, and everyone can throw an eye now and then to check who is there. As soon as Joubert started warming up, an undisrupted flock of journalists, photographers and TV crews gathered to watch and maybe get a quote (icenetwork was lucky to get a full interview before the championship started!). Joubert played with them, smiled, exercised a bit, and then new journalists came in to see who was in…

By the way…

Many journalists do go check who is warming up in that room next to the press center, but we need to admit that we don't see many athletes coming to check what journalists are doing on the other side. Don't worry, we're working hard!

Plush toys

Some of them reach world fame, as the skater who receives them plays with the best ones in the kiss and cry. Two special mentions Friday: Javier Fernández received a big, lazy, laying Mickey Mouse plush toy from the stands after his short program.

"Yes," he commented with amusement. "Usually, I get Winnie the Pooh. This time I am glad I get Mickey Mouse!"

Another special mention has to be for a big and fluffy black grizzly that was sent over to Sergei Voronov. It was wearing the same white jacket that Voronov was wearing on the ice. Some fans are so creative, and they love you skaters so much!

Are national preferences still around?

If you have a chance, always keep an eye on the judges' details per slater. They are usually quite informative. One judge -- the second on the list, but they are randomly placed, so we can not tell who that was -- awarded a 7.00 mark for Carolina Kostner's otherwise highly praised transitions (she got a 9.0 from another judge). The three Russian girls scored higher than she did, at least in that judge's opinion.

"That's incredible!" said Tomáš Verner, who trains with Kostner in Oberstdorf, Germany. "That's a junior score!"

What would have Verner said after the free dance? Judge No. 8 (still anonymous) awarded a 6.75 for the choreographic component of the new European gold medalists, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte. Strangely or not, the components scores that this judge awarded to the three Russian teams were higher than the Italians'. Actually, only three judges gave higher components to the Italians. Three, like the number of judges coming from the Western "hemisphere" in the judging panel.

On the other hand, one of these three judges gave Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland, the new European bronze medalists from England, the same components total as he or she awarded to Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov. Fair?

New season's best

A new feature has appeared on the Grand Prix and in ISU championships this season. On the screens above the ice and on television in the upper left corner, a small gray box is now included throughout the skater's performance. It displays the technical score of the skater, as compared to the technical score of the current leader, pretty much like it is done in alpine skiing. The interesting part is the skater's technical score is displayed live, as the technical panel is recognizing elements and levels. Once the skater has ended his or her performance, you can see the influence of the technical panel's replay and judges' GOEs (grades of exection). It is hoped, however, that TV commentators will not spend their time talking about the gray box more than about the skater's performance.

Has Verner found a sponsor again?

During the press conference after the men's short program, and as he was due to answer one question from a journalist, Verner received a call on his cell phone. He stared at the calling number long enough to be noticed by Dobor, the general press officer of these Championships.

"Can you tell us who was calling you?" he asked Verner in a friendly way.

"It's one of my former sponsors," Verner answered laughingly. "He stopped sponsoring me during my tragic years. So, who knows why he is calling me now?"

Skater's dreams…

Want to try?

"Five years ago," Sara Hurtado, the Spanish ice dancer, recalled, "We said that we could skate together in order to go to the Sochi Games. And that's exactly what happened!"

Too bad we did not know that trick one year ago. We could have gone to the 2018 Games. Next time?