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Pechalat, Bourzat lead Russians at Europeans

Germans win short; Szolkowy fears cold snap will harm partner

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat were tops in the short dance at Europeans.
Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat were tops in the short dance at Europeans. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus Reinhold-Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(01/26/2011) - After the two days of qualification, the "real" European Championships started on Wednesday with the short dance and the pairs' short program. The biggest news is the rink in Bern is still cold.

Skating to music from the fittingly chilly Dr. Zhivago, favorites Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France won the short dance with 66.91 points, gaining Level 4's for their twizzle sequence; the first sequence of the Golden Waltz; and the rotational lift. The midline step sequence and the second Golden Waltz sequence rated Level 3. Most of the judges assigned +2's and +1's to the elements.

"We are happy because we finished in first place but we did not skate as free because of the pressure of a possible title and, of course, the cold," Bourzat said. "It was not our best performance. I think it's more interesting for us to skate characters. It makes the Golden Waltz less obvious in the pattern."

Just over a point off the lead are Russian champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, who showed a completely new short dance to the Waltz "Where I Want to Be" from the musical Chess. Their previous Waltz, used on the Grand Prix circuit, had been widely criticized.

The Russians skated in a dynamic style and, in the opinion of many observers, should have merited first place.

"After the new year, we came back to practice on Jan. 3 and changed our short dance," Bobrova said. "I think we managed to create the kind of dance that really suits us, and to perform all the elements with the music and with emotions. We are very pleased with our result and our scores show [how well] we did."

Britons Sinead Kerr and John Kerr had a solid program with no mistakes, and are third with 62.87 points.

"We couldn't have skated it much better but in the end it is up to the judges," Sinead said.

Two other Russian couples, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, and Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkatchenko, also skated well and are fourth and fifth respectively.

German champions Nell Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi, who are seventh, were the couple to receive Level 4 on both sequences of the Golden Waltz.

2010 European silver medalists Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy, who train in Aston, Pa., under Natalia Linichuk, are mired in ninth because Faiella stumbled on the twizzle sequence and they got low levels for most of their elements.

Germans rise to the top in pairs
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, winners of the Grand Prix Final in December, placed first in the pairs' short program with 72.31 points.

The pair gave an excellent overall performance to Russian folk music, with their throw triple flip gaining a +3 grade of execution from six of the nine judges. One judge gave them a perfect 10 for performance. This is the second time the Germans have received a 10 and the first time it has been awarded in international competition this season.

"The cold temperature was just bearable; it was really a competition on the limit," Szolkowy said. "Our first three elements are the hardest, although you can also make a mistake on the footwork. Still, when the first three elements are done, you almost can let it flow. Obviously it is a relief.

"Tomorrow we want to prepare against the low temperature. I am a little worried because I felt cold halfway through the program, during the step sequence. Tomorrow we will have the side-by-side triple Salchows, the other triple throw and three lifts in the second half. I am not so much worried about myself, but about my partner, that something may happen to her."

Defending European champions Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov from Russia are second with 69.49.

The Russians skated to Richard Strauss' "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" and also gave an excellent performance with no mistakes. The triple throw loop was their best element.

"It's really freezing in here, like the Moscow winter," Smirnov said. "There were not so many spectators, but their applause warmed our hearts."

Another Russian pair, Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov, was third with 62.89 points. Their triple throw flip was shaky, but the other elements were safe and elegant.

"We are upset about the throw. We usually don't have problems with this element," Bazarova said.

Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek from Italy are fourth with 60.08 points after a career best performance. New Russian pair Katarina Gerboldt and Alexander Enbert, who have been skating together only for eight months, are fifth with 57.50 points. The second German pair Maylin Hausch and Daniel Wende are sixth.