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Resurgent Kostner drums up fifth European title

Sotnikova comes away with silver; Tuktamisheva delighted to win bronze

Carolina Kostner was emotional about landing the long-elusive triple Lutz in her winning skate.
Carolina Kostner was emotional about landing the long-elusive triple Lutz in her winning skate. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(01/27/2013) - The 2013 European Figure Skating Championships in Zagreb, Croatia, concluded with the ladies free skate, and for the fifth time, Italy's Carolina Kostner took home the gold.

In a close decision, Kostner's program components, which reached a high of 9.5 for interpretation, gave her the nod. Her free skate choreography to Maurice Ravel's "Bolero," created in Toronto with Lori Nichol last fall, proved to be a masterpiece, helping her amass 194.71 points, including 130.52 points for her second-place free.

Kostner began her program with an excellent triple Lutz, a jump which she had not shown in recent seasons. Three other triples followed, but toward the end of her program, she doubled two intended triple Salchows.

One of the program's highlights was a step sequence performed perfectly to the rhythm of "Bolero," just as ice dancers might show it. This element gained +3 GOEs (grades of execution) from seven of the nine judges.

"It is very exciting to be here and to win again, like in 2008," Kostner, 25, said. "This is my 11th European championships, and I think it was my hardest. I know that it will be difficult to defend my title at worlds, but I will try my best. I will meet with my choreographer, and we will look at a few things to see if I can do them a bit better, choreography-wise."

Kostner grew emotional when she spoke of her successful triple Lutz.

"It was my first clean triple Lutz this season in competition, and it makes me really happy," she said. "For years, I have been struggling with it, and it was my dream to bring it back ... There are so many emotional moments in the program that cost energy, but this is definitively the way I want it. I put all my heart and soul in it."

Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, who led after the short program, won the silver medal with 193.99 points, just one point below Kostner.

The young skater, just 16, was third in the free skate, earning 126.38 points for a program skated to "At Last." She opened with a combination of a triple Lutz and under-rotated triple toe loop, and then she singled her intended triple flip.

The rest of her program, including four triple jumps, was excellent, with Level 4 spins and steps that gained many +2s from the judges. Her components averaged about 8.0 points.

"I am fairly happy with how I skated today," Sotnikova said. "I showed everything I do in practice, except this horrible flip. There are things that could be improved, but now there is not the time to talk about it.

"It is my first European championships and I have a silver medal. It's like a party day for me. I might even have some chocolate to celebrate. The only mistakes I did were technical; I had no psychological problem."

Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, the other Russian wunderkind, won the bronze medal with 188.85 points, including a first-place free skate that earned 131.67 points.

The pupil of Alexei Mishin landed seven clean triple jumps, including a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, and defeated Kostner on the technical mark by 10 points. Her components were nine points lower than the champion's.

"I am incredibly happy. To be honest, I am shocked," Tuktamisheva said. "I was in a different mood from yesterday. I don't know if it was visible, but I was more sure of myself, more confident, and my legs were stronger. I tried to set the mood from the beginning and show more energy than yesterday when I was too calm."

The second Italian, Valentina Marchei, who trains at Detroit Skating Club, placed fourth with 171.06 points. Four of her triples were clean, but the triple Salchow was under-rotated.

"I am very happy with how I skated today," Marchei said. "I showed everything I do in practice. My coaches, Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen, are at U.S. nationals, but whenever I am in Italy, I train with the Italian head coach, Franca Bianconi, and she takes good care of me."

Sweden's Viktoria Helgesson placed fifth with 155.72 points after a free skate that included four clean triple jumps. The third Russian, Nikol Gosviani, was sixth at her first ever major competition.

Sonia Lafuente of Spain felt so inspired by the victory of her teammate Javier Fernández a few hours earlier that she skated the free skate of her life and finished seventh.

The whole competition was skated at a high level. Among the top 15 skaters, there were only three falls.