Ice Network

Swedish fika: Skaters have fun in gala practice

Korpi withdraws to dismay of press; Rich skating history in Sweden
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Javier Fernández had plenty to smile about while practicing for the exhibition gala after winning his third straight European crown. -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."

Oh no!

The news broke in the early morning Saturday: Kiira Korpi, who had made a successful comeback in the short program two days earlier, after two seasons marred by injuries, had to withdraw because of stomach issues and a fever.

Not only is Kiira a great skater, but she has also been one of the most coveted skating cover girls in recent seasons.

"My camera has been crying since," one very disappointed photographer offered. Icenetwork also had an interview with her in its objectives for the day, which had to be canceled as well.

Kiira, please -- don't let the photographers and journalists' objectives down for too long!

Royal wave in dad's arms!

Her Royal Highness, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, was in the stands Saturday afternoon for the ladies free skate, along with her husband, Daniel, and their 2-year-old duaghter, Estelle. The royal family took in Joshi and Viktoria Helgesson's great (and widely applauded) performances. At one point, the announcer asked for the audience to do the wave around the rink. The upper and lower sections of the Stockholm Globe managed to be in sync, and the wave reached the seats of the royal family, who took part in it as well. Estelle was in her dad's arms, and that was so much fun!

Radionova's image

Post-event press conferences are held for journalists of the written press but also for photographers. While the skaters talk, they are not moving at high speed on the ice, so it's easier to get good pictures of their faces. Plus, the three medalists are usually happy to be there, so they are smiling instead of grinning during a jump or a difficult spin. Russia's Elena Radionova, who won the silver medal, has devised a particular tactic for these press conferences. When every other skater leaves the microphone upward as it is, she bends it downward, so that it does not hide her face. This way her photos are completely clear.

"It's a Man's Man's World"

The 4,000 seats of the "Court," the second practice rink of these European championships, were particularly empty Sunday morning, as the best skaters of the championships were practicing for their final gala exhibition.

"Skaters, would you please clear the ice, except Florent Amodio, who needs to skate again", the announcer said at the end of their practice session. Sara Hurtado and Adrià Díaz, Maé-Bérénice Méité, Anna Pogorilaya and a few others left the ice. Two stayed: Amodio, and the new European bronze medalist, Russia's Sergei Voronov. Everyone in attendance erupted in laughter. The first beats of James Brown's song "It's a Man's Man's World" started to play, and for a while we wondered: That very song is in the first part of Voronov's free skate, as well as Amodio's second exhibition program. Would the two skate a program together? That would be like fire and ice!

It was not to be, however: Voronov had, in fact, left his guards on the boards at the other end of the rink. He crossed it, took them and left the ice.

When history meets history

A very special encounter took place in the concourse of the Stockholm Globe Sunday afternoon, as the final exhibition gala was about to start: Svante Julin came to greet one of Sweden's grande dames of figure skating, Jane Lago. Julin is the grandson of the late Magda Julin-Mauroy, the 1920 Olympic champion. And Jane Lago, a historian of figure skating and also the daughter of one of the main leaders of Scandinavian skating, has gathered an incredible collection of memorabilia from the first ages of skating, which she displayed during the championships.

"This one was a gift made by Czar Nicholas, second to Ulrich Salchow," she said, pointing at a silver horse statue on a carved rock. "And you see that white falcon statue? It's the first skating trophy. It was made for Nikolai Panin, and it has survived the Russian Revolution."

Both Salchow and Panin were the first Olympic champions of figure skating, in London, in 1908. She entitled her collection "The Treasures of Nybroviken."

"Nybroviken is an island in Stockholm where we used to skate, about 100 years ago. Unfortunately, winters are much milder now, and the ice would not be there anymore," Jane's son explained.

Those pairs girls

"Don't you think those girls skating pairs are crazy?" an official suggested laughingly. "Do you think that any of their partners on the ice would just accept being treated the way they treat them, being lifted in the air and thrown away and turned around like that?"

Italy's Ondřej Hotárek was quick to answer.

"Sure, they need to be!" he said with a wink.

His partner, Valentina Marchei, gave a more articulate answer.

"I'm a crazy athlete, but I'm not a crazy person!" she said. "That's funny -- in fact, we're all crazy. We just called our ice coach, who is currently participating in a camp in San Diego, in California. He told us exactly the same thing: 'You guys are crazy! And I'm crazy to be working with you, but even if we had the whole world against us, I would still believe in this project.'

It's because we're crazy that we make other people believe in us as well," Marchei continued. "I'm not afraid to throw myself in this project."

So, then, why should she be afraid of being thrown in the air?

Grand Finale

Sweden is known as one of the leading countries for synchronized skating. Quite naturally, the finale of the gala won't be the joyful mess it can be in other countries. This time, it will be precise with circles and straight lines and blocks.

Andrea Dohany, who coaches synchro's Team Surprise, was asked to organize the finale.

"She is a very strict and quite straightforward coach," a former pupil of Dohany's said. "Never would anyone dare move or talk on the ice unless she has asked something."

The newly crowned European medalists were a different story in gala practice, however.

Radionova was chewing gum, Pogorilaya seemed completely bored and Javier Fernández, for once wearing his glasses, couldn't help himself from doing yet another trick. In one instance, he pretended to be the conductor of an orchestra. In another, he distracted his neighbor, and then launched himself into a split jump.

Ivan Bukin was wondering what he was supposed to do, and Amodio was wearing a scarf on his nose. Maxim Kovtun, who could hardly be recognized behind the heavy glasses he wore, pretended that he couldn't skate or spin. Even Joshi Helgesson tried new lift with her sister, Viktoria.

Finally, Fernández (Javier...will always be Javier!) was just going backward too close to Maxim Kovtun and the two ran into each other and then exploded in laughter, taking one another by the shoulders as if they were true buddies. The world of skating is one…

That's all, folks!

"Sharing with someone else is so much bigger than sharing with you alone!" Marchei offered icenetwork Saturday.

Living a passion is the best gift life can provide to anyone. Being able to share it is a blessing. It's been one, as well as a true honor for me to share this passion with you throughout this week. Just like the ice dancers felt honored to skate a paso doble in Spain for the Grand Prix Final, it's been a great honor to be here, in Ulrich Salchow's country, for a major skating event. Thank you for following us. And please, stay tuned: Skating keeps going, and skaters have so much to give!