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Russians Bobrova, Soloviev hold slim dance lead

Late ruling deducts one point from previous leaders Cappellini, Lanotte
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Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev thought they'd be entering the free dance in second place, but after a late ruling discovered that Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte performed an additional element -- which results in a one-point deduction -- the Russian pair slid into the top spot with 76.18 points. -Getty Images

Following a remarkable short dance session, those following the 2017 European Figure Skating Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic, now look forward to the free dance, which promises to be highly entertaining as well, especially since three of the most recognizable teams in the world are separated by the slimmest of margins.

That margin became even smaller, as the referee and technical panel decided -- some six hours after the event concluded -- to deduct one point from the score of the afternoon winners, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, for an additional rotation. The act of adding an extra element meant the docking of one point from their score, which dropped them from first to second.

Despite the change, three former European champions -- Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, who won gold in 2013; Cappellini and Lanotte, the 2014 European and world champions; and France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the 2015 and 2016 European and world champions -- still held the first three spots after the short.

The top three teams stand within 0.70 points of one another entering the free dance.

Bobrova and Soloviev were perhaps the most powerful of all, with a permanent tension between them throughout the duration of their dance. Their twizzles, lift and blues were rated Level 4, while two additional step sequences received Level 3 grading. They garnered 76.18 points and hold a slim edge on the field.

"I must say that at first I didn't like the blues, and the moves were not mine," Soloviev explained. "Then, working at it, I started enjoying it. Katia (Ekaterina) really liked it, and she helped me a lot to work on it."

"I found the music for the blues," Bobrova added. "I really like Christina Aguilera's strong voice, which carries the blues atmosphere -- that of an erotic relation between a man and a woman. I also must say that I now have a very good practice of the man-to-woman relationship, as I am a married woman."

Cappellini and Lanotte may not be the fastest dancers on the ice, but they certainly are the classiest. The Italian duo skated an amazing routine to "Cry For Me" from the Broadway musical Jersey Boys and a special Choo Choo Ch'Boogie, which they began after their straight line lift. Their blues and partial step sequences received Level 4 grading, as did their lift and twizzles. The duo's final step sequence, the no touch, was rated Level 3 -- the best levels of any team in the event. They amassed 75.65 points for their short dance, which was 4.75 points clear of their previous season's best.

"We weren't able to skate this dance the way it could be during the first half of the season," Cappellini offered. "Now, finally in January, here it is."

Cappellini and Lanotte seem to have the unique talent of making you feel that their dance -- whatever style it may be -- is an Italian invention.

"This lays a lot in the choice of the music," Cappellini explained. "After worlds in Boston last year, I had a chance to go to Broadway. Luca had been so enthusiastic about the show he had seen, Jersey Boys, so I went to see it as well. I was so mesmerized. When you love what you do, you can project yourself into the dance. You don't need anyone to tell you what gesture to do. It all comes naturally. Maybe that's an Italian thing: Feel natural, as if it were yours."

Papadakis and Cizeron enter the free dance in third place after yet another solid display, and their program was a delight to watch. Skating to Lene Riebau and Maxim Illion's "Bittersweet," Papadakis and Cizeron managed to embody their blues, integrating both of their step sequences into it. Even their opening twizzles were bluesy.

After their stationary lift, they launched their lively swing to "Diga Diga Doo," and, despite a few hiccups, recorded a solid overall total.

Their twizzles, lift and blues step sequence were rated Level 4, and their partial step sequence received Level 3 grading. The duos final step sequence -- the no touch -- rated Level 2, which added up to a total score of 75.48.

"We made a few errors, but we're mostly happy with our performance," Cizeron said.

"I made some mistakes on the last elements, for which I am frustrated," Papadakis added. "But there is room to improve. We really strive at finding the right emotion and energy for our dances. Once you have found the proper image, all your movements will come to fruition."

Their component scores were the highest of the field, as they received 37.42 points, compared to 36.86 for the Russians and 36.43 for the Italians.

Italy's Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri continue to rise in the rankings through lively, yet emotional, dances. Their short dance was no exception. They duo became the fourth team to hit the 70-point plateau and will advance to the free dance with 70.46 points.

Israel's Isabella Tobias and Ilia Tkachenko are in close pursuit as well with 69.35 points after displaying a powerful program, and they'll enter the free dance in fifth place.