Europeans 2020, day four: shocking win for Sinitsina, Katsalapov, gold also for Kostornaia

January 26, 2020
By Titanilla Bőd
Photos © Joy

The unexpected happened in ice dance as Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov defeated the five-time and reigning champions, while in the ladies' competition the queen of the triple Axel, Alena Kostornaia, took the gold.

The wait

"The scores, please..." But instead of the scores there came an awkward silence. The technical panel and the judges took their time after Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron finished their free dance. For many people, it was the first moment when they realized something unexpected was going to happen.
The smiles of Gabriella and Guillaume started to seem a bit forced then the smiles even disappeared. Meanwhile, Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov hugged each other tighter in the green room. Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, waiting for their turn on the ice, hoped to keep their muscles warm. And then the scores appeared: Gabriella and Guillaume had missed the gold medal just by 0.14 points.
Viktoria and Nikita could celebrate their first European title.

The question

What happened? It's easy to get moved by ice dancing but it's much harder to understand the nuances of it. The technical details are difficult to notice if you are not an expert.
Comparing the protocols of Gabriella and Guillaume from the Grand Prix Final and the Europeans there is a difference in the level of the one foot step sequence on the lady's part: previously the French received level three for it, however, in Graz it was only level two. The difference of the base value was 0.38 points, already more than the gap between the two first couples.
The components for Gabriella and Guillaume were also slightly lower than usual.
Conspiracy theories immediately appeared, even Guillaume reposted on social media a link to an article in which Romain Haguenauer stated the judges were advised in the judges' meeting not to give too many 10s in the components score, which is obviously a disadvantage for skaters who receive a lot of 10s.

The soulmates

But it would be unfair to Viktoria and Nikita to talk only about their biggest opponents, because they have earned their first major gold medal with a very consistent and emotional free dance. "We came up with the story after listening to the piece and deciding to skate to it: imagine it's a person perhaps close to you or one you don't know and that person is desperate and has lots of troubles, and then suddenly he meets a soulmate who supports and comes just on time to tell you the world is not bad, don't give up and move on. This connects us to the music and to each other during the performance," Nikita explained the story of their free skate.

The force of a habit

It was a moment that encapsulated the last five years of European ice dance: at the victory ceremony Gabriella Papadakis automatically wanted to climb up to the highest step of the podium. She laughed when she realized her mistake, and her partner admitted that was not their only mistake in Graz. "We felt we had made mistakes during the program so we kind of already knew the final result. Of course, we are disappointed with our results but happy with our performance. Every moment on the ice is unique. We always were surprised to win and now for once we are surprised to not be in the first place," he added.

Those who also entertained us

It was not only the first two couples who delivered outstanding performances. Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin were powerful and passionate dancing to "Cry me a river" and it's always a pleasure to watch their creativity and energy on the ice. They took the bronze medal. "We are pleased that we are on the podium. Most of all we're happy that we skated well and with emotions. The arena was full today and it motivated us even more. We heard how the audience supported us and it gave us an extra energy," Ivan commented on their performance.
It takes guts to skate to "Survivor" - it's a music that can overwhelm you if you are not strong enough. Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro dealt with the task in the best possible way and the music perfectly highlighted their performance. In the end the Russian couple placed sixth. "I think that we both feel that we didn't deliver as much as we would have liked to in the short dance, so today we really wanted to please ourselves. And I think we pretty much did that. There were a few small mistakes, but overall we are pretty happy," Tiffani said.
Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri payed a tribute to David Bowie by their free dance. They dropped from third to fourth, which obviously didn't make them happy, and their skating might have been a bit affected also by the long wait for Gabriella's and Guillaume's points. But Marco didn't want to find excuses: "I don't know what happened before we skated. We stayed focused and talked to each other a bit, and somehow we succeeded to keep our focus. But still it was hard to skate after this long wait because you need to keep the right intensity in your muscles for a long time. This somehow interrupted our routine, in terms of being nervous and also physically. If you keep the tension in your legs for too long, you feel tired much earlier. But it's ok, it's part of the sport."

The Russian children's choir

At a quick glance they could be easily mistaken for flower girls. (Flower girls with genius skating skills, to be more precise.) Somebody started to search for the Austrian law whether children of that age are allowed to be at a public place after 10 pm. Somebody pointed out one of them skates to the soundtrack of a TV-show she is too young to watch.
However, the Russian A team - Alena Kostornaia, Anna Scherbakova and Alexandra Trusova - doesn't care about the comments. They are not the ones who write the rules and they, guided by their coach Eteri Tutberidze, use the rules to the fullest to maximize the outcome. And they do it well: even though all of them had at least one fall in their free skate, they swept the podium with ease.
Alena Kostornaia was standing in the middle of the podium - skating to "New Moon" and "Supermassive Black Hole", she landed two supermassive triple Axels and five other triples, missing only the triple Lutz. Even though she was just second in the free skate, her advantage from the short program secured her the gold. "I didn't think I would be a European champion. I'm happy, it's a real surprise - my free program had a few mistakes and I'm happy I could do it. When I fell on the Lutz I imagined now I'm going to lose by something like 0.03 points so I just continued to skate my best. Skating the program is not the easiest task, but all I felt in the practices - the pain, the humiliation - first and most of all it all was worth it," Alena told the press.
Just like her compatriots, pairs champions Alexandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovski, she also pulled up the other two medalists to the top of the podium for the Russian anthem. All the three girls were singing loudly - it looked like a performance of a children's choir.

The quads

Both Anna Scherbakova and Alexandra Trusova had three quads planned in their free programs, but both of them landed only one clean quad in the end. Anna opened her Firebird routine with a wonderful quad Lutz-triple toe loop combination, but her quad flip was underrotated and she fell on the second Lutz. Despite the mistakes, Scherbakova had the strongest free skate Saturday night. "I was surprised and upset, the beginning was so good, the first jumps were so good but then the emotions went down because I was not raising the program, so it was not what I was looking for," she told the press.
Alexandra had even more problems in the free skate. She fell on the opening quad Lutz and even though she landed the quad toe, triple toe combination, she fell again on the solo quad toe, so she had no chance to climb up from the bronze medal position. "After Nationals I was told never cry even if something goes wrong like today. So now I am learning how to perform well after that. It was really hard for me to bring together everything for these last two competitions. I don't think that it's a kind of technical thing. I probably became taller a bit, but don't think it could affect my jumping skills. It's mostly a mental question. I want to do my best, but it doesn't work sometimes. Anyway, I want to keep on jumping all the quads whatever will be going on," she declared.

The conclusion

Russia took 10 medals of the possible 12 at this European Championships, leaving only one silver for France and one bronze for Georgia. It was not by chance that some people were joking it was Russian Nationals with international participation - held in Graz, Austria because of the Wiener Schnitzel, Apfelstrudel and Mozartkugeln. But once again it was a memorable event, and not only because of the unusual tent-style venue a bit further than the end of the world, but mostly because of the four new champions. For them, Graz will always stay glorious.

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