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Repeat winners dominate national championships

Meier, Lambiel, Berntsson all defend their titles

Stéphane Lambiel won the Swiss national title for the eighth consecutive year.
Stéphane Lambiel won the Swiss national title for the eighth consecutive year. (Getty Images)

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By Todd Hinckley
(12/10/2007) - Switzerland, Sweden, France and Finland all held their national championships last weekend. Berths in the European and world championships were on the line, and many defending champions retained their titles.

Switzerland

There have been two constants at the top of the singles podiums in Switzerland for some time now. At the Swiss National Championships in Winterthur, those constants remained. 2007 European silver medalist Sarah Meier and two-time world champion Stéphane Lambiel each defended their national titles, with neither one of them getting threatened at all.

For Meier, this was her fourth consecutive Swiss crown, and seventh overall. No other woman has won the national title so many times. With the win this year, Meier broke the tie she was in with Maja Hug, who won the title six years in a row from 1945-1950.

Viviane Käser matched her highest finish with the silver medal. She also came in second six years ago as a 16-year-old.

On the men's side, Lambiel won his eighth national title in a row, matching the record for most consecutive wins, set previously by Oliver Höner from 1984-1991.

Perhaps the bigger news was who followed Lambiel. Four-time silver medalist Jamal Othman struggled with his technical elements all weekend and won the bronze medal. 2003 junior national champion, Moris Pfeifhofer, skated cleanly to earn the silver medal, his highest finish ever at the senior national championships.

Sweden

In March, Gothenburg will be the center of the figure skating world. For now, it settled for being the center of the Swedish figure skating world as it hosted the Swedish National Championships.

On the men's side, Kristoffer Berntsson won his sixth national title in nine years. This time, he won a head-to-head battle with Adrian Schultheiss, thanks to the withdrawal of Jimmy Karlsson. Berntsson struggled this season during the Grand Prix Series, finishing 11th at Skate America and 10th at the Cup of Russia. He hopes to use this victory, though, to propel him towards the European and world championships, where he finished a career-best 10th and ninth, respectively, last year.

Schultheiss, a two-time junior national champion, was attempting to regain the senior title that he won two years ago. Instead, he was left with his second consecutive runner-up finish.

Berntsson and Schultheiss, both Gothenburg natives, skated well, most likely buoyed by the home crowd that had a tough time rooting for one skater over the other.

Viktoria Helgesson kept the repeat theme going, winning her second straight Swedish ladies title. Malin Hållberg-Leuf, the champion from two years ago, won the silver medal.

Helgesson had a successful Junior Grand Prix season this fall, finishing eighth at JGP Austria and nearly reaching the podium, finishing fourth, at JGP Bulgaria. She is slowly trying to build up a resume that will rival her fellow Nordic competitors from Finland.

Finland

The Finnish National Championships did not follow the weekend's trend of repeat champions. Laura Lepistö and Mikko Minkkinen won the ladies and men's titles, respectively, for the first time.

Lepistö barely beat out Kiira Korpi, who fell short of the national crown once again, and defending champion Susanna Pöykiö, who was then left off the country's European championships team.

France

In Megève in the French Alps, Brian Joubert won the men's title at the French National Championships, and Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder won the ice dancing crown, each winning for the sixth year in a row.

The other titles were won by newcomers. Gwendoline Didier won her first ladies national championship, and Adeline Canac and Maxime Coia took the pairs top spot.