Ice Network

Bratislava Rolls: Tobias explains Israeli connections

Righini goes for a swim; Szolkowy observes former partner at practice
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Isabella Tobias said that she and Ilia Tkachenko chose to skate for Israel because both skaters have Jewish roots. -Getty Images

The mixed zone opens toward both rinks: The practice rink is the closest, on the left side (one can hear the music played there), and the main rink stands on the right side. A big automatic door separates the zone from the passage from one rink to the other. On Thursday morning, the door was opened several times to bring huge carts loaded with hundreds of water bottles to the rinks. "Oh, that's how they make the ice!" a journalist offered. The few journalists present erupted in laughter. Javier Fernández is not the only one who makes them laugh!

Who froze that water anyway?

Italy's Ivan Righini is a funny character. Upon falling during his last practice session Thursday morning, he found himself in the middle of the main rink, lying on his belly and surrounded by the five best skaters in Europe (at that point) trying their quads and triples. He stayed in that position for two seconds. He even tried to swim on the ice -- except it did not propel him any further. After all, you can stroke on the ice just as you can in the water, can't you? Yet, obviously, edges are more efficient on the ice. Righini bounced back nicely and started his practice at the same point where he had left it.

Another idea for Amodio?

The arena is located right in the city of Bratislava. Just in front of it sits an old U.S.S.R. building with heavy metal doors that squeak terribly when you try to push them: It's the University of Bratislava. Two of its schools, pharmacy and management, are located there. Could those be options for Florent Amodio, who ended his competitive career Thursday night?

Eastern spy?

Five-time world champion and two-time Olympic bronze medalist Robin Szolkowy (with Aliona Savchenko) of Germany discreetly came Thursday afternoon to watch the third group of pairs practice...a group in which Savchenko took the ice with her new partner, Bruno Massot. What does Szolkowy think about his former partner skating without him? "It feels strange at first," he said. "But it's OK. It's true that you spend a lot of time with your partner when you skate. But at the end, you have a brother-sister relationship. You love each other, you hate each other, you fight with each other -- but everyone has one's own life and does one's own things." He stopped for a while, smiled and said, "I'm coaching Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, the Russian team. That's why I'm here: to watch the concurrence (competition)!"

Tobias' new citizenship

Isabella Tobias and Ilia Tkachenko are skating together in an international competition for the first time since they teamed up in 2014. They elected to represent Israel. "We had four options," Tobias explained: "The USA, where I'm originally from; Russia, where Ilia comes from; Lithuania; and Israel. The U.S. would have granted him citizenship one year too late at best; Russia wanted me to give away my American passport, which I would never do; and the experts we consulted assured (us) that Lithuania would never grant him citizenship (I barely got mine). So we chose Israel, as I am of Jewish origin, and Ilia has also some Jewish roots via his mother, which makes it easier.

"Skating at nationals was incredible," Tobias continued. "It was in Tel Aviv, last November, under the sun and nearly on the beach!"

Together with Alexei Bychenko and Daniel Samohin, who skated in the last group Thursday night, this Israeli team is undoubtedly the strongest ever!.

Russian soul?

Russia's Dmitri Soloviev and his partner, Ekaterina Bobrova, elected to skate their short dance to Khatchaturian's "Masquerade Waltz" and Prokoviev's Romeo and Juliet. Asked whether the team's musical choices reflected their dramatic soul, Soloviev answered right away: "Oh no, there are absolutely no negative emotions, quite the opposite. We want to make the audience happy, to make them smile. We are skating for them!"

Can they truly be believed? The team chose yet another big drama for their free dance, Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Nothing to smile about there -- except for their beautiful and pure skating, of course!

Eternal Russia…

"Russian men are still behind," their female counterparts are quick to observe. Indeed, the Russian team aims for yet another sweep of the ladies podium Friday night, but it could not do better than a bronze medal in the men's category. When you watch the results, however, a different reality comes to mind. Altogether, no fewer than seven of the last 12 men's skaters to take the ice at these championships were of Russian or Ukrainian origin. They represented Israel (Bychenko and Samohin), Italy (Righini), Sweden (Alexander Majorov) and, of course, Russia (Maxim Kovtun, Mikhail Kolyada and Alexander Petrov). Even in the men's category, Russia is still the leading country in Europe.