Ice Network

Italians, Russians dance to near draw at Europeans

Cappellini, Lanotte outscore Ilinykh, Katsalapov by 0.04 points in short
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
By the slimmest of margins, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy won the short dance, slipping past Russians Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, 69.58 to 69.54. -Getty Images

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy emerged first from quite a competitive short dance event Wednesday night at the 2014 European Figure Skating Championships in Budapest. They are ahead of Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov by the slightest margin, 0.04 points (69.58 for the Italians compared to 69.54 for the Russians). Finishing a surprising third were Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland from Great Britain (61.76 points). Victoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin, and Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko, both from Russia, sit in fourth and fifth place, with 60.69 and 60.35 points, respectively.

A short dance event is like a wildfire. It starts little and slow, and progressively the heat becomes higher and higher, and all of a sudden it gets out of control. That was quite visible tonight, as the two last groups took the ice.

Twenty-nine teams competed Wednesday, and, rather amazingly, six of the final 12 (coming from five different countries) were coached by Igor Shpilband!

Cappellini and Lanotte were ranked first in the technical elements (34.28 compared to 33.71 for the Russians), while Ilinykh and Katsalapov got the highest components score of the field (35.83 compared to 35.30 for the Italians). The two first teams being so close to each other, the free dance should bring a lot of fire again into the arena. Both teams hugged each other strongly as they reached the draw room to decide the order of the free dance. (The Italian team will skate second in the last group, whereas the Russians have drawn to skate last.)

Cappellini and Lanotte's compulsory Finnstep earned them Levels 3 and 4, just like the Russians. Their circular step sequence and twizzles were rated Level 3 and 4 (compared to 2 and 4, respectively, for the Russians).

"We've been training really hard since the Grand Prix Final," Cappellini explained. "Our performance tonight was exactly the way we wanted to skate."

"It's not the best of our season, though," Lanotte indicated. "It took some time to feel our heart beating together, and you know that this is how to get out the best programs. At the start, I must admit I was a bit nervous. The second part of our program was much better."

Nevertheless, their routine, skated to the musical 42nd Street, was a delight to watch, as it emphasized the team's clean edges and ample moves. They manage to state their presence in every step they dance, and to charm both themselves and the audience with it.

"Our strength has always been to create programs that would be beautiful to watch," Cappellini emphasized.

Ilinykh and Katsapalov's Quickstep and Foxtrot were brilliant. He in black, she in red, they displayed an energy-packed Foxtrot at an incredible speed entering their twizzles, which they kept until their final rotational lift.

"We feel great about today's performance," an exhausted Ilinykh said at the end of the program.

"It went easy and strong for us tonight," Katsapalov added. "This was like a run-through for us. The ice was excellent."

Coomes and Buckland were skating earlier than their major competitors. They displayed a brilliant dance, and were precise in their elements and clean in their edges. Seeing the British School back at this level (although the team is coached by Evgeni Platov in New Jersey) was also a delight, as they brought a long forgotten class to the event.

"Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean have told us that they would follow our progress, so I suppose we can count them among our supporters!" Buckland said jokingly.

"We worked really a lot in the last five weeks leading to this event," Coomes explained, "And I really pushed my body limits in that period. You can be sure that we did everything that we possibly could for this competition. So when I arrived here, I really felt that we just had to enjoy [ourselves]."

"Indeed, that third place was rather open," Buckland added. "But I have to say that anyway you have to focus on your elements. The ranking comes as a bonus!"

The continent's top two teams, Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat of France and Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, being absent did not change anything in any of the teams' skates, they said.

"You never compete against your competitors." Cappellini offered. "You just push your own limits."

"It's all a matter of skating your best, whoever is here or not," Katsalapov added.

"Sitting in first after the short dance is definitely a confidence booster," Cappellini concluded, "But it's something we have to forget. We would have to skate the same free dance tomorrow if we were sitting in last place tonight."