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Bobrova, Soloviev win European title by a hair

Teammates Ilinykh, Katsalapov just 0.11 behind; Italians make first Euro podium

Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev captured their first European title.
Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev captured their first European title. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(01/25/2013) - In a tight decision, Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Moscow won their first European ice dance title in Zagreb, edging fellow Russians Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov by 0.11 points.

The Muscovites skated to a medley of Ennio Morricone's Man with a Harmonica soundtrack, mixed with an aria from Tosca. In the program, they play two sick people who try to nurse each back to health, but in the end, both die.

Since the skaters switched coaches last spring to work with 1994 Olympic silver medalist Alexander Zhulin, they skate with more fire and less caution. Six of their elements gained Level 4, with the two step sequences rated Levels 3 and 2. The majority of the judges awarded them +2 GOEs (grades of execution) for their elements.

The dramatic program earned 99.83 points and gave them 169.25 points overall.

"It was not perfect, and we did not show everything we can do," Bobrova said. "The diagonal step sequence got only a Level 2, but it was still a season's best for us. The main thing is that we are happy, and our coach, Alexander Zhulin, is happy. That is why we skate, to be happy for ourselves."

"We probably had a more emotional program at Skate America, but it was good today," Soloviev said.

Ilinykh and Katsalapov, who train under Nikoli Morozov in Moscow, won the free dance with 100.16 points but had to settle for silver with 169.14 points. A Level 2 spin in their program, set to music from Ghost, likely cost them the title.

Even so, their elements were a bit more showy and speedy, and they gained higher GOEs than the winners. Their highlight was the opening twizzle sequence, which was rewarded with five +3 and four +2 GOEs.

They got the highest program components score, with an average of 8.9.

"We did everything we could today," Katsalapov said. "The public was amazing, and we are excited, but we were a little bit disappointed with the marks. We won the free dance and we were very close, so we have to beat our rivals at worlds."

Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, who split their training time between Paola Mezzadri in Italy and Igor Shpilband in Novi, Mich., won the bronze medal with 165.80 points after gaining 99.27 points for their free dance to Bizet's Carmen. They had the highest technical scores, but their program components were lower than those of the top couples.

"We reached our goal tonight. It was a very good performance," Lanotte said. "There was a small mistake on a step sequence after the twizzle. The level of competition is very high, and even small mistakes are very costly."

The third Russian couple, Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko, sits fourth with 157.77 points after earning 93.25 points for its free dance to music from the soundtrack of The Godfather. They impressed with their high speed and extremely quick lifts. They train mainly with Shpilband, and plan to move there full time.

British champions Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland, who train in New Jersey under two-time Olympic champion Evgeni Platov, ended up fifth with 152.95 points after performing a modern free dance at high speed with showy lifts.

Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi of Germany are sixth after an entertaining "zombie" free dance. They play ghouls who dance all night, and then fall back into their graves in the morning.

Two-time European champions Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat could not defend their title due to Bourzat's groin injury. Péchalat, who is the French team captain in Zagreb, said in a press conference she hopes they can begin training again in two weeks to prepare for the world championships in March. Bourzat is in Lyon, France, undergoing medical treatment and physical therapy.