Ice Network

Tarasova, Morozov impose their will in Ostrava

Russians display dominant form to take lead; James, Ciprès slot second
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov have been nothing short of brilliant this season, and after registering 80.82 points for their "Glam" short -- which was a new personal best -- the Russian pair heads into the free skate with a sizable lead. -Getty Images

Russia may have found a new leading pair Wednesday night in Ostrova, as Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov won the short program at the 2017 European Figure Skating Championships with a new season's best of 80.82 points, some 6.66 points ahead of second ranked Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès. Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot will enter the free skate in third place, while another Russian team, comprised of Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, stands in fourth place.

Tarasova and Morozov carried the momentum they created at Skate America into Europeans with their upbeat short program, which was set to the "Glam Electro-Swing Remix." Competition after competition, this program has captivated audiences across the globe right from the start, as if bearing a magical effect. Their triple twist was perfect, as were their side-by-side triple toe loops and throw triple loop. All five of their elements (triple twist, death spiral, step sequence, lift and spin) received Level 4 grading, and they were the only team to achieve that result.

"The skate went really well," Morozov said. "From competition to competition, this program is working better, the emotions are stronger and the marks are higher. We skated better than at previous competitions, so I think that says it all about the work we did. I don't know what makes this program magical, but we just have fun. We're happy when everyone sees it."

James and Ciprès have been dreaming of this moment for so many years. Skating last in the 18-team pairs field to The Weeknd's "Earned It," they seemed to have overthrown their old demons for good. The French pair delivered a perfect program, including a Level 3 triple twist (a rare feat for them), a triple salchow, a beautiful throw triple flip and three Level 4 elements (death spiral, spin and lift). Their technical mark was the second best of the evening, but their components mark ranked just fourth. They amassed 74.16 points to beat their season's best by a decisive 8.13 points.

"It does some good," an ecstatic Ciprès said as he left the ice. "What's happening to us is super. We have prepared ourselves a lot, and we finally proved that we are at the height of our ambitions. We owe a lot to our coaching team; it's simply the perfect one."

"We heard Evgenia and Vladimir's marks when we entered the ice but managed to stay focused," James added. "I'm missing the words; I don't think anyone is happier than us right now. Tonight we are on cloud nine. We are very proud of the way we skated today, as it was a nice and clean short program."

Savchenko and Massot skated their most entertaining routine to Caro Emerald's "That Man." She in light pink, he in dark grey with a pink tie, they engaged the crowd right away. Their cat-like entrance steps set the tone for the whole program: It was precise, athletic, tender, emotional and fun.

The audience roared as Massot launched Savchenko up in the air for their incredibly high triple twist, which was rated Level 2. Their subsequent side-by-side triple salchows were perfect. Most dramatic, though, was the team's huge throw double axel: Savchenko had to follow the doctors' advice this time and managed to refrain from rotating a triple. Their other four elements earned a Level 4, with their main mistake coming at the start of their step sequence, as Savchenko fell on the first steps. The duo garnered 73.76 points to slot a mere 0.40 points behind the French.

"This is a super comeback for us," Massot said as the duo left the ice. "We fought for three weeks for it, after Aliona's ankle injury. We had a chance to train many elements, as we couldn't do the jumps, especially the throws. We really wanted to show that all our elements were worth a Level 4. We hold onto our programs, we hold on to our elements, and our components are there, too. We need to be very cautious, but our sensations are coming back fast."

Stolbova and Klimov were also making their comeback and debut this season. Their program, set to Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune," was choreographed to perfection. They served it rather well, with their usual precision and care of every detail. Their triple twist was crisp and precise, and despite Stolbova falling at the end of a throw triple flip, the team garnered 73.70 points.

Stolbova and Klimov, much like Tarasova and Morozov, and Savchenko and Massot, all scored 36-plus points for their components.

"We showed a good program, but we made some big mistakes, so we are a bit disappointed in the end," Klimov said. "Of course, we would be happier to show a better result. Today we made mistakes we usually do not suffer, even in practice. It was some kind of accident, maybe because of nervousness. Tomorrow is a new day and the final fight, and we are ready for it -- we will fight and hope for a great free program."

Russia's Natalia Zabijako and Alexander Enbert delivered a flawless program as well, and one of the most exquisite. They landed a huge triple twist, followed by their side-by-side triple toe and throw triple loop. The rather melancholic music they skated to -- Georgi Sviridov's "Snowstorm" -- emphasized the dramatic setting of their choreography. They displayed their three main jumps on anticlimactic musical phrases, most notably their twist -- which came during a silent break in the music -- and created some of the strongest moments of the event.

They garnered 72.38 points for their short program, a new season's best.