Europeans 2011 - Day 7: The exhibition and Sarah's goodbye
January 31, 2011
By Nadin Vernon
Photos © Absolute Skating
After an emotionally draining Saturday, it was nice to get up to a more lightweight schedule on Sunday, just some gala training, a couple of small medal ceremonies and the actual gala. The realization that this was my last day in Bern, however, wasn't that nice at all.
So off I went to training thinking that it would probably be quite a warm day in the arena, with many people expected to fill the stands. As it turned out, it was the coldest it's been all week. As the skaters rehearsed the opening routine and finale with Salomé Brunner, they wrapped up more and more. By the end of training, most skaters were covered in blankets and had become unrecognizable under all the layers. As usual, the gala training offered several funny moments to those who had braved the cold, mainly led by Alexander Smirnov who couldn’t get enough of entertaining everyone. At one point he skated to the middle with his partner Yuko Kavaguti, both of them completely covered in blankets.
The small medal ceremony where Carolina Kostner was awarded the gold for her free skate, also acted as an opportunity for the audience in Bern to extend its congratulations to the new European Champion, Sarah Meier. The men’s ceremony felt a bit like a French party with Florent Amodio and Brian Joubert displaying their friendship, while Fabian Bourzat in the audience was trying to convince Tomas Verner to compete for France so they could have a French podium. Brian joked that this could easily be achieved, as Tomas could get married to Nathalie Péchalat and as such obtain French citizenship.
The opening of the exhibition featured newly formed pair Anaïs Morand and Tim Leemann and we were treated to performances by Denise Biellmann and Stéphane Lambiel. Stéphane was busy all week commentating for Swiss TV and conducting interviews in the arena with all the newly crowned Champions. He also introduced the participating skaters of the exhibition. During exhibitions you usually get to see the new talent that the hosting country has to offer and in Switzerland’s case this is Peter Grütter’s student Alisson Perticheto. The 14-year-old pulled off triple jumps with ease and showed her beautiful routine for the audience to enjoy.
This season Brian Joubert decided to try out new styles in his competitive programs, but his show program was characteristic of his usual style and trademark footwork. Kevin Van der Perren chose to skate to Totentanz and came on the ice with two burning flames.
During the dance event, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov really stood out for me as the new team to watch. I loved their free program and here they skated to Nina Simone’s I put a spell on you. Silver medalists Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev also showed an expressive dance.
Overall, we had quite a few comical numbers with Jamal Othman opening the second half of the exhibition to Swiss rapper Bligg’s Rosalie. He even brought Rosalie on the ice with him. Earlier in the week, Jamal - who now works in Malaysia as a coach - also commentated on the competition.
French ice dance gold medalists Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat showed their George of the Jungle program where Fabian saves his partner from a giant inflatable crocodile. He should have received another medal for turning up to the exhibition bare- chested.
Florent Amodio’s free program is often described as a show program, so it really lent itself to be shown in the gala; it was a slightly different version with lyrics and Florent showed many triples in the spotlights; quite remarkable when considering that he celebrated his win from the night before until the very early hours.
Aljona and Robin meanwhile took on their roles of Barbie and Ken for their fun program to Barbie Girl. Inflatables clearly are the prop of the season, with Robin sitting on an inflatable pink chair at the beginning of this routine.
Last to skate was Sarah Meier. When the European Champion 2011 took to the ice, it was another emotional moment – both for the audience and Sarah herself. Sarah showed her Amélie program with the beautiful flow and grace that really makes her skating stand out. When it came to say goodbye, it felt like the audience didn’t want to let her go, but what a way to send her off.
It’s been a great week in Bern where we had new champions in three out of four disciplines. But clearly Sarah Meier’s win here was the fairytale that will stay in everyone’s mind. Bye bye European Championships, see you next year!