The 2006 Swedish Nationals
The junior boys skated their short program on the first day of the competitions so we'd missed it, but we didn't miss the freeskate! Alexander "Sasha" Majorov was in the lead and it wasn't hard to see why. The 14-year old kept the long program from last year and skated to Russian folk music. He speeded across the ice with incredible energy and no lack of charisma. His program was action packed and there was never a dull moment. Emjo made a remark that he was from a different planet, and I could only agree while the crowd cheered and clapped. Of course he won and LuleÃ¥ earned a second gold medal. Justus Strid from Gothenburg came second and Erik Hannerstam third.
We knew and anticipated the men to be the biggest and most exciting battle of the competition, and the guys didn't let us down. One surprise was the participation of Michael Chrolenko from Norway. He's a great skater and placed 4th, but the result didn't count towards the Swedish Championships, but well towards him qualifying for the Europeans, which he did with a dramatic version of "Pirates of the Caribbean". We're looking forward to seeing more of this handsome young man in Lyon.
There were 8 men competing including Michael. The podium was pretty much reserved for Kristoffer Berntsson, Filip Stiller and Adrian Schultheiss, the big question was who would stand on what level.
Kristoffer was first out of the three in the short. His music was salsa and the program was choreographed by Zerjon Abede, the same dancer who has made the last couple of years' fun and different short programs. Kristoffer landed a nice 3 Lutz - 3 toe combination, but got deductions on the other jumps. The step sequences were impressive. It was interesting to note that some judges gave him 4.75 on skating skills, others 6.50, and the variations were even bigger on the other program components. Hmm.
Filip Stiller is an exceptional spinner and his jumps are high and powerful! He uses controlled arm movements and comes across as a great actor. His Metallica short program offered several wow moments and was over way too soon, we wanted to see more!
Adrian Schultheiss, last year's junior champion, competed as a senior this time. This talented 17-year old now resides in Gothenburg and shares coach with Filip. Adrian has a unique style and doesn't mind sticking out, which the costume, the eyebrow piercing and the wild hair confirm. He skated up a storm to a modern version of Bach, and got higher technical marks than Kristoffer. Still, the program components were a little behind and he had to settle for second place.
The battle of these three men was even more interesting because Sweden has two spots for the men at Europeans. Many feel it would be fair if Filip and Kristoffer could go, since they have fought each other for one spot for so many years.
"It's kind of funny", Kristoffer said, "for years there were two of us competing for one spot, and now that we finally have two spots, there are three of us who want it!"
"My life won't fall apart if I don't get to go", Filip said. "They should send the ones with the biggest potential regardless of history. I've lived without Euros for six years now and I can do it again. The best people should go!"
Filip is an exceptionally nice and big hearted guy. Who goes to Lyon is up to the Swedish Figure skating association. They will make a decision shortly. If Filip doesn't get to go Europeans, he can at least be sure that many, many will love hearing him commentate the event on Eurosport.
For the free program Filip was greeted with very loud screams from the audience. He had looked a little nervous while getting last minute instructions from his coach, but now his face cracked into a big smile. He skated to music from the movie "Beetlejuice" and we would have liked to see Michael Keaton pull off the things Filip did! The opening combination was very impressive and the best we saw from any man during the whole competition: 3 Salchow - 3 toe - 2 toe. Bravo! And again we were blown away by the speed and the varied positions of the spins.
Kristoffer's free program was set to music from the Swedish movie "Bombay dreams". The dark purple costume suited him very well, as did the blondish hair. Kristoffer is sponsored by his hair stylist and has experimented with a few different looks. When asked about his natural hair color he said:
"It's called no color at all so I need to do something. I like this, and many others do too, so I think I'll keep it for a while."
Good, we like it too. But the jumps were not on his side this time either and apart from a nice 3 Flip - 3 toe combination, there were deductions and downgrades on all. This was sad and we know he can do better. Still, it was a good program and the audience cheered. So far Kristoffer was still in the lead.
But one man remained - Adrian. Dressed in a blue costume that would put Johnny Weir to shame, Adrian took position and started his free program to mystic and dramatic music. He opened with a clean 3 Axel, took a fall on the 3 Axel combination but came back with a clean 3 Salchow - 2 toe. He also showed us he can spin and the steps weren't bad either. He slipped in a spin and fell, and that's when the music died. This caused confusion all around, he didn't know what to do and no one else seemed to know what to do either.
It took a long time to bring the music back, but determined to finish, he picked up where he left off and skated the rest of the program. We hadn't seen very many spread eagles during the competition but now we got one! In spite of the music problem, Adrian skated well, and everyone anxiously awaited the judges' marks. Adrian and Kristoffer both took a two point deduction for falls, but when all was said and done Adrian was ahead by 1 point! Kristoffer or Filip have won the Swedish Nationals the last seven years, but now there was a new champion - Adrian Schultheiss! Of course he was thrilled but admitted he'd had no expectations.
"I was very nervous", he confessed, "and I only came here determined to do my best, I wasn't thinking of medals. And I was so confused when the music stopped!"
Anyone would have been and we admired him for being able to put it behind him and continue the program.
Later on Saturday there was a qualifying skate for the junior synchro teams. Team skating grows on you and the girls must have taken lessons in cheering and getting pepped. It was fun to watch although these teams aren't quite at the level of World Champions "Team Surprise" yetÂ…
There are many good things to be said about this competition. One more is about the boys. There aren't enough boys in skating and some of them are teased for being in a sissy sport. To encourage the boys, they have their own get-togethers and special practice sessions with male coaches. We were able to watch some of those sessions through the glass window and it looked like the boys had a lot of fun. The idea of all-boys activities is great and hopefully more federations will apply it.
The gala on Sunday drew a slightly bigger crowd, but more people should have taken the opportunity to watch skating during the week. Maybe there should have been more advertising since many people had no idea Nationals was even going on. But that can probably be said about any competition in any city.
The gala featured the champions from the competitions and some of the local clubs. Some drummers were also brought in which was very different and very entertaining. But the high point of the gala was the performance of "Team Surprise". They skated to various Christmas songs, and showed that team skating is more than formations. They did jumps and lifts and skated together with Filip and Kristoffer and some of the winners. Apart from the music we guessed that this was one of the numbers the people attending Synchro Worlds in Gothenburg last spring had gotten to see. It was beautiful and touching and a very nice way to close five excellent days of competitions.