Ice Network

Swedish fika: ISU introduces 'wait-and-smile' area

Zhiganshina, Gazsi put own unique spin on 'Swan Lake'; Syncho's big day
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In addition to the traditional kiss and cry, the ISU is experimenting with a new area in which the leaders of the event will sit and watch their competitors skate. -Getty Images

What is fika?

A Swedish fika is a whole world of shared friendship: When you want to have a meeting with someone around a cup of coffee and a piece of pastry, then it's a fika. These tidbits I will send you from behind the scenes during these 2015 European Championships can be considered "fikas." These championships should provide for much ice (both in and out of the arena), talent and great competition!

Life after skating is warmer…if you don't come back to a rink!

The Annex, the first practice rink of these championships, may be the coldest of the three rinks used here. As the last group of men was practicing, Alban Préaubert, the former European and world competitor from France, was found chilling along the boards, watching and trying to warm himself up in his coat. "It's freezing cold in here!" he said in laughter. "I had really forgotten how cold this could be…" Préaubert is now working in finance, and does some commentary work for Eurosport, the leading sports channel in Europe. Beware of the cold, skaters, when you retire: You may be warmer for the rest of your life, but it might be even more terrible when you come back to a rink!

Meanwhile, in the Court…

More than two days after the start of these European championships, one category has not even appeared yet: the pairs. They have not remained inactive, however. Pairs have kept practicing, day after day, in the second practice rink, which they were the only ones to use. The Court is a permanent rink, home to the local hockey team. It's rather dark, holds about 4,000 seats, and you can tell it's been used. These stands have lived through so much passion. The place has a soul. In a way, it's well suited for pairs, who strive at expressing just that through their sport: a soul. As the pairs were practicing Thursday morning, those 4,000 seats welcomed a total of 25 people (and even 27 at one point). Thirteen coaches and officials were around the boards, and six skaters (three pairs) were -- of course -- on the ice practicing. In just a matter of hours, flocks of journalists and fans will be running after them. From darkness to glory is sometimes just a matter of a few hours, and a lot of effort and stress…

The Viking and the bear

No, this is not one of Selma Lagerlöf's famous stories from Swedish folklore. The thing is that Italian fans are particularly loud and energetic in the rink -- but not too precise in their launches. The teddy bear one fan sent to Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri, the sixth-place finishers in the ice dance event Thursday night, fell short of the ice, behind the boards, close to the telescopic mobile camera in the corner of the rink. The cameraman, a huge Swede with a thick beard and long, blond hair, left his camera for a second and grabbed the teddy bear to throw it over the board. The teddy bear did not land upright, but at least it could safely join his new Italian masters. The life of a skating teddy bear can be rough, sometimes.

A new trick for television viewers: the Wait and Smile area

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron were so excited when they left the ice Thursday night after their gold-medal-winning performance. They came to the mixed zone and were giving their first comments to a television channel when Peter Krick, the ISU sports director, rushed away from the rink and asked them to come back quickly. "This is a new feature we are testing this year for the first time," a communications official explained. The skaters leading the rankings in the last group are now requested to stay in a special area, where they are filmed watching their competitors skate and tracking their own placement in the standings. That area is just next door to the kiss and cry, facing away from the ice. Please, skaters, wait and smile (anxiously, if possible!) while the marks of your competitors are being announced. The skaters leaving the kiss and cry go congratulate the leading teams, and then leave if they have not overtaken them. "It's a first, and it's quite complicated!" the officer concluded. Meanwhile, journalists won't have their quotes anymore!

Raise the flags!

After the medals were awarded at the end of the ice dancing event Thursday night, the audience rose as the French Marseillaise (national anthem) started to play in the rink. The French, Italian and Russian flags started to rise at the same time. Unfortunately, one of the rings holding the French flag did not stay where it should have and one end of the flag fell off. The skaters on the podium kept their dignified pose throughout, and the audience did not laugh either. The flag was taken down and up again, and it stayed where it had to be. No victory is easy, and as most skaters say, "It's not over until it's over!" Flag included. "This way, we're sure we won't forget that moment!" joked Gabriella Papadakis, who was standing on top of the podium.

An Unidentified Dancing Object seen in the Stockholm Globe!

Who were those star warriors in their intriguing dark costumes, skating to a kind of a Swan Lake music, as if it had been altered by technology, intergalactic fights and the complexity of city streets? Germany's Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi intrigued Europe again with their "Swan Lake Reloaded" free dance. "In fact, this is street dancing," coach Martin Skotnicky explained. Fredrik Rydman, the Swedish choreographer, has imagined a scenario where the swans would be prostitutes and the sorcerer would be a dealer. For those who have some difficulty with the Germans' piece, they can reassure themselves that the ice dance version is much more conservative than Rydman's original story. The Swedish audience remained silent throughout, contemplating this new unidentified dancing exhibition, but it erupted in applause at the end. After all, Rydman is Swedish and Tchaikovsky composed his masterpiece not so far from here.

Synchro's big day

ISU Council member Mary Lundmark is the ISU representative at these European championships. "But now she is in France," ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta told the press Friday morning. Lundmark flew to the French Cup, the international synchronized skating competition in Rouen, Normandy. She will assist some International Olympic Committee members in assessing the possibility of including synchronized skating in the Olympics. "We are doing the utmost to have synchronized skating admitted into the Games, to increase and improve our presence in the Games, because that's what the public wants, and we follow the public and our sponsors," Cinquanta offered. "We are convinced that synchronized skating shall keep developing. The problem is the number of skaters: 10 synchro teams would mean 200 more athletes, at a time when the IOC is willing to reduce the number of athletes present at the Games. So, it's not easy," Cinquanta concluded.