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Domnina, Shabalin crowned European champs

Controversial decision booed by crowd

Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin celebrate their European ice dancing championship.
Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin celebrate their European ice dancing championship. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(01/26/2008) - Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia are the new European ice dancing champions. But a lot of discussion came up after the competition. Most experts thought that the wrong couple had won and the really best free dance only came in third. Domnina and Shabalin, who are known to have a strong support from their federation, were second in the compulsory dance, which was the Yankee Polka. They did not make any mistakes, and skated with good flow.

In the Cossack original dance, they were also second. Most elements were very good, but Shabalin stumbled a bit on the twizzle. Here and in the free dance, they lacked a bit of dynamic movements because Shabalin was not yet in top shape after his meniscus operation from December. Up to then the judging was correct. But on Shabalin's birthday, they won the free dance by more than three points, which helped them to win the whole competition. Skating to the music of Aram Khatchaturian's "Masquerade Waltz", all elements got Level 4 and they made no mistakes. But again they lacked a bit of flow and speed.

While waiting for the victory ceremony, the Russian federation president Valentin Piseev kissed and congratulated the technical controller Halina Gordon-Poltorak of Poland right in front of all spectators for the decision of the jury in which Piseev's wife was one of the judges. Later Shabalin said: "It was very hard. This was the hardest competition of my career." And Domnina added: "I am just happy that we survived this competition. I have to thank Maxim. Only he know how difficult it was."

Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France had taken the lead in the Yankee Polka. They danced exactly to the beat of the music, had deep edges and a very good flow. The couple from Lyon also won the original dance to a theme from the French Celtic province of Brittany, in which they got many +2 (GOE). In their free dance to the soundtrack of "The Piano", they played the love story between a deaf woman and a hearing man. Their elements looked easy, all except one got Level 4, but overall they got less plus points and program components than the winners and therefore won only silver. After the competition Delobel said: "In spite of all the stress, we enjoyed performing and it was a moment of pure happiness to perform this dance tonight." Schoenfelder added: "We are disappointed because we lost this title. But there is one more big competition to come, and we will work to get ready for Worlds."

Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, the second Russian couple, were third in the first two parts of the competition, including the Russian folk dance "Two Guitars", which was correct. They were five points behind the first Russian couple and six points behind the French one. But their free dance to Modest Mussorgsky's "Night on the Bald Mountain" and Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" was by far the best one. Their speed, Khokhlova's flexibility, their spectacular elements, especially the lifts, and steps between the elements were superior. And their interpretation was also the best. They got a long and huge applause, the only standing ovation of the evening. And the crowd was booing loudly after the marks were shown, because the spectators and experts had understood. But the judges gave them only the bronze medal even in the free dance. Novitski commented: "It was fantastic tonight. It probably was the best performance of the season. We are well received everywhere, but here the crowd was just amazing."

Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy took fourth place in all parts of the competition. Their Italian Pizzica folk dance was very well done. It was the first time they got so high levels in an international competition. Their free dance to the soundtrack of Yentl sung by Barbara Streisand was the best up now in their career. The second French couple Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat ended up fifth after a dynamic Flamenco folk dance and a very modern free dance in which Pechalat plays the role of a crazy woman who Bourzat tries to calm down. Sinead and John Kerr of Britain got the highest technical marks of all couples in their Scottish original dance. John Kerr even wore a genuine kilt here. In the free dance to music of Enigma, Sinead fell on a linking step, but all elements were good, but they fell from fifth to sixth place.

The second Italian couple Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte from Milan were tenth in the compulsory dance, seventh in their Balkan Gypsy folk dance and seventh overall. They gained two places in the free dance in which they played two roles of the classical opera "La Traviata" with good elements and an interpretation from their heart. The Israeli brother and sister team Alexandra and Roman Zaretski finished in eighth and they cracked the top ten for the first time, sending quite political messages with their choice of music: an Arab peace folk dance and Louis Armstrong's famous gospel song "Let My People Go" for their free dance. The Lithuanians Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas made a huge improvement over last year's 18th place when they finished 12th with very dynamic programs.