Ice Network

Swedish fika: Everyone was falling Friday night

Fernández sends well-wishes to Hanyu; Mixed zone a veritable UN
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
The skaters weren't the only ones falling Friday night at the European championships. -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!

On a mission

Right after the short program of a particular category finishes, skaters, coaches and officials gather in the conference room for a triple institution. First, the ISU "small medals" are presented to the skaters or teams who have placed first, second and third in the short. Photographers can take photos of that "small podium" (except there is no podium). Second, the draw: Group by group, all skaters get to draw the order in which they will skate in the free. The one who draws number 1 is usually widely applauded by his peers. Finally, the three "small medalists" stay for the press conference, from which several of the quotes provided in our articles come.

After the pairs short program Friday night, France's Morgan Ciprès was on a mission, as his team leader said aloud that he would have to answer all questions in English by himself, without relying on his partner's perfect English. (Vanessa James was born in Canada.) James and Ciprès were attending their first press conference at a European championships, and they received several questions. Ciprès did not even watch his partner, who was sitting on his side, and answered all questions perfectly and without hesitation. The exercise was not easier on James, however. She managed to just smile without saying one word. Pairs work extends way beyond the ice!

Get well, Yuzu!

Spain's Javier Fernández came off the ice breathless after his free program. He had a bit of time for the journalists, who had many questions for him, in the mixed zone before heading back to the "Wait-and-Smile" area (see yesterday's fika!). All of a sudden, a Japanese journalist arrived with his portable camera and asked the Spaniard to say a few words for Yuzuru Hanyu, who is recovering from a surgical intervention. Poor Javier was still completely breathless and had to recompose himself with a good smile to say his best wishes to his training mate. "Come back soon so we can compete again!" he kindly offered. Javier deserves a gold medal for generosity and friendship, too!  

Mixed zone impact

The mixed zone is…quite mixed, indeed. TV crew members, press officers and journalists rush back and forth at any moment. Coaches come to the main display to check the levels their protégés received. A lot is at stake in the mixed zone, especially at this Europeans. You can see journalists from a given country rush from the press center, three stages higher, when their skater is finished skating. For a few minutes, the skater, usually a national champion, becomes the ambassador of his or her sport to the media. Television channels, radio stations, newspapers and websites will relay the skater's words throughout the country. Austria, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Denmark, the Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Israel -- these countries can only count on their national champion to promote their sport in their country. Then, when they have found their story, they go back up again as their champion goes to the locker room, and another flock of journalists rushes to the mixed zone for their home competitor…

Serial fallers

Fernández, Maxim Kovtun and Sergei Voronov took part in the final press conference of the men's event Friday night, after they were awarded the three medals of the competition. Each one of them was explaining in his own words how difficult the evening had been, how tired he felt and how much he fell. "Everyone fell tonight," Kovtun repeated after Fernández. At the same time, a yell could be heard from behind the walls of the press conference room and a whole pile of supplies was heard falling on the floor, followed by another yell. All the journalists in attendance erupted in laughter at once, together with the three skaters, who suddenly stopped talking and stared at one another. Definitely, everyone was falling that night in Stockholm.

A big hand to the volunteers!

Some are from Lithuania, others from Russia, Finland, Spain. All of them are multilingual, highly qualified and ready to work endless hours every day, and they are paying their own expenses to be here. Taken together, they can speak any language you can think of in the skating world. Young Swedish volunteers can also be found all over the rink to prevent non-accredited persons from entering restricted areas. (You can't imagine the number of restricted areas there are in a competitive ice rink!) They, too, are quite deserving: They have to stand or sit still for the whole day, waiting for people to pass by and say either "yes" or "no." The entrance to the stairs going to the mixed zone is particularly boring in that respect. The girl assigned to it is reading her third thriller of the week. One floor below, the entrance to the VIP is certainly the most boring of all. Plus, it smells so good, with the food that is being prepared and served there. You have to be strong to resist! Two male volunteers were placed there, and they could be found…playing with a handball in the afternoon!

Maxiiim!

Of all the countries' journalists in Stockholm, the ones from Russia are certainly the most numerous. They also have a lot of work, with favorites in every category. They, of course, want to talk with each Russian competitor in the mixed zone. The "Wait-and-Smile" process does not satisfy them at all, however, as their best skaters have to wait there instead of talking with them. "OK, guys, you'll have two minutes with Kovtun during Fernández' public interview in the rink," the main security officer told the press Friday night at the end of the men's free skate. "You'll have to group [together] close to the rink entrance, and then you'll have to release him for the medal ceremony." Kovtun came out, talked a lot and then a voice shouted from the door, "Maxiiim!" He had to rush back to receive his medal, and that was it for the speeches.