Ice Network

Hungarian Goulash: Trankov gets engaged?

Russian world pairs champion stuns with announcement; Italy stands out
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Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov do not plan to end their partnership in Sochi. -Getty Images

A balloon for Monaco

Kim Lucine, who skates for Monaco, has always been a joyful character, both on and off the ice. Even though he could not fulfill his dream to qualify for the Olympics (he missed his qualification in Oberstdorf, Germany, earlier this season), he has managed to recompose and train for the 2014 European Figure Skating Championships. During his short program, a balloon suddenly emerged from the stands and flew over the ice as he was skating. It was a funny balloon, shaped as a note of music.

This happening would have distracted any competitor. Not Lucine, who likes to play with the crowd and with whatever happens.

"Yeah," he said enthusiastically afterward. "I tried to catch that balloon. Too bad I did not succeed!"

It added a special -- and not just musical -- note to his program.

An engagement … and a commitment

"This is going to be a very interesting announcement by Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov," the speaker said in the press conference room Friday evening.

Trankov then took the microphone and announced in Russian, "I would like to announce you our engagement." (An eternity-long silence crept in, packed with intense emotion: Why did they not have Mendelssohn's music for such an announcement?) ... "With our new sponsor, the Karusel company!"

The room erupted in laughter. Some journalists left the room, as the long-awaited for announcement was, in fact, a business one. They were wrong.

For this sponsorship "engagement" bears another promise, as it is a long-term engagement. Would that mean that Volosozhar and Trankov plan to keep skating after Sochi?

"We never said that we would stop competing after Sochi," Trankov confirmed. "We will keep skating as long as our bodies permit, hopefully until the 2018 Olympics."

The team was warmly applauded. May that engagement bring both of them lots of babies -- medals, I mean.

National cultures?

The Italian group is certainly the strongest and most visible national contingent in Budapest after the Russian one. Italian flocks come to the rink and cheer their own way each time one of their skaters is practicing (not to speak about the actual competition!). Let's put it that way: The Russians are more active behind the scenes (they still have to decide who will make their Olympic team, among other things), but the Italians are more active in the stands! The Italians have medaled in every event so far, and they have another podium shot in the pairs.

Indeed, the second strongest national team in these Championships!

Modern life

What do you do when you are the world pairs gold medalists, sitting together with your partner and your coach in the skating lounge and waiting for your turn to warm up before your daily practice? Well, you do what you do in modern life: You "socialize" … via social networks!

Volosozhar, Trankov and their coach, Nina Mozer, were sitting together at a small table, each one carefully watching his or her smartphone without exchanging a word. Nowadays, you can never be alone. Will we see one day a virtual championship performed via smartphones? Let me hope not!

An eye on skating

Jerzy Bukajlo, a Polish-born photographer, is one of the many "eyes" in Budapest.

"For ice dance, you really need to stand behind the judges because the lifts are performed for them," Bukajlo explained. "Still, the tough part is that now the dancers move all the time, especially during their lifts. Plus, they are difficult to perform, so the skaters grin all the time and it's difficult to get a good picture. You don't notice while you watch or on television, but photos just don't forgive anything.

"Those lifts … ice dance sometimes looks like a circus."

Bukajlo had not read the feature icenetwork published about ice dance Thursday night. If he had, he would have known that he was not so wrong, as the best ice dance teams in the world are working on their lifts with circus artists!

Hotarek's yellow pants

You can't imagine more yellow pants than that of Ondrej Hotarek, the Italian pairs skater who reached fourth place in the short program with his partner, Stefania Berton.

"If you've seen the movie The Mask, which we try to play in this program," Hotarek explained, "You will see where that yellow color is coming from. To be frank, my grandmother hates it. We spent three days at Christmas talking about it.

"She kept on telling me she would not say what she thought of it because that would make me nervous, she pretended. And then her next sentence was, 'Still, I don't like it!' As you can see, it did not bother me too much!"

Grandma Hotarek can now be reassured: Berton and Hotarek skated a flawless short program, and their number was well received by the audience.

Of course, Hotarek is not the only pairs skater to don yellow pants, with Trankov proudly showcasing them in his free skate throughout the season to much amusement.