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Savchenko, Szolkowy win fourth European title

Frenchman Amodio wins men's short; Joubert falters

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy are the European pairs champions.
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy are the European pairs champions. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(01/27/2011) - Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy held off Russians Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov to win their fourth European championships with a solid outing of their Pink Panther free skate that earned 206.20 points.

The Germans' throws were as excellent as usual, even the triple throw Salchow done in the final seconds of the program. Their sequence of two triple toe loops; lifts; and other elements were also good, but they were a bit out of sync on their side-by-side double Salchow.

Their only serious mistake came when Savchenko stumbled at the beginning of their side-by-side combination spins and had to stop the spin in order to avoid falling.

"I don't really know what happened," she said. "I got stuck in the ice and did not know if I should continue the spin or not."

The mistake likely cost them first place in the free skate, but their three-point lead in the short program was enough to carry them to the gold medal, or as some have joked, "the cold medal," as the 20-30 degree Fahrenheit temperatures at Bern, Switzerland's PostFinance Arena have caused a scandal among skaters, spectators and coaches.

"I felt the cold even more than yesterday and I was afraid to end up like our teammates, Hausch and Wende, who missed a lift," Szolkowy said.

"I have never seen so many little wobbles and shaky steps in competition as today. The ISU should really think about adding a rule [that states] a minimum temperature in the rink. We are relieved we got through.

"After our performance I watched the Russian couple; they were very good and almost clean. The minutes before we knew we won were the longest minutes in my life. I can withstand the pressure before a competition very well, but I am not made for waiting. I thought it was close."

The Russians won the silver medal with 203.61 points after a flawless performance featuring triple toe loops; a sequence of two double Axels; and excellent lifts. Their linking steps were a bit less elegant than the Germans.'

"I think today we did our job," Smirnov said. "We are a bit disappointed about the result but that is sport. There are no excuses, the judges judged. Maybe because of the cold and the atmosphere in the rink we were not able to show our choreography fully. That was a minus."

The second Russian couple Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov were third with 188.24 points. Their elements were very clean, but they had less sparkle than the two top pairs.

The third Russian pair, Katarina Gerboldt and Alexander Enbert, who have skated together for only nine months, were fourth. She fell on the throw triple flip, but all of the other elements were clean. Italian champions Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek ended up fifth position, and the second German pair Maylin Hausch and Daniel Wende were sixth.

Amodio wins men's short program
France's rising star Florent Amodio, sixth at the Grand Prix Final in December, won the short program with 78.11 points.

Amodio opened with a very good triple Axel, followed by a solid combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. His highlight, however, was his showy circular step sequence to the music of Once Upon a time in Mexico. His biggest strengths are his excellent skating skills and his ability to skate in an entertaining style, so his program components ranged up to 8.50.

"My hard work paid off. I've worked like crazy in practice," Amodio said. "Now there is still the free on Saturday to come and I have to stay calm. I'm ready for it.

"To be in first after the short is magical for me at my first Europeans. I know Brian Joubert fell once, but he is still a great champion and the Federation has us sharing a hotel room here as we get along well."

Amodio's roommate, however, is only in seventh position (70.44 points) after over rotating his quad toe loop and falling on his triple Lutz.

"This triple Lutz is really annoying," Joubert said. "It is like I'm blocked. I had no problems in practice, and I did a perfect one in the warm-up. I've had so much bad luck with this jump. I injured myself twice. It is not a technical problem but a psychological problem."

Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic is second with 76.13 points. He did not try a quad jump and performed a faultless program to Kodo drums.

"I did a very good job today," Brezina said. "Finally for the first time this season I have skated a clean short program. One month after my stomach surgery in October I started to practice again, but I couldn't do that much at the beginning."

Artur Gachinski Artur Gachinski, Russia's 17-year-old rising star and a student of Alexei Mishin, is third with 73.76 points. He landed a solid quadruple toe, triple toe combination and a shaky triple axel, but got no points for his combination spin because he did not attain his final position in the air.

Kevin van der Perren from Belgium is fourth after a clean program including a good combination of quad toe, triple toe. Czech champion Tomas Verner, who fell on the triple Axel, is fifth.