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National titles handed out across Europe

Winners include Tomas Verner and Gregor Urbas

Tomas Verner hauled in his sixth national title this weekend in Trencin, Slovakia.
Tomas Verner hauled in his sixth national title this weekend in Trencin, Slovakia. (Getty Images)

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By Todd Hinckley
(12/17/2007) - New national champions were crowned all across Europe last weekend. Austria, Poland, Slovenia, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all held their national championships. Two of the big winners were Tomas Verner and Gregor Urbas, while Stacey Kemp and David King performed well in a new environment.

Czech Republic and Slovakia

The Czech Republic's Tomas Verner was the highest-ranked skater participating anywhere last weekend other than Turin, Italy, site of the ISU Grand Prix Final. He was unquestionably the men's favorite at the joint Czech and Slovak National Championships, held in Trencin, Slovakia.

He did win the men's gold medal, his third consecutive national title and sixth overall, but the 21-year-old continued his inconsistent skating this year. Coming off a fantastic performance at the NHK Trophy two weeks ago, in which he won the short program and earned 151.30 points en route to the silver medal, Verner was expected to blow away the field.

He opened with a very solid short program to take a lead of almost 13 points over fellow Czech, Michal Brezina, who defeated Verner and took the gold at the Nebelhorn Trophy in September. But Verner was not as clean in his free skate, only earning 115.26 points.

Slovakia's Igor Macypura, who finished just behind Verner in fourth place at the Nebelhorn, won the free skate in Trencin. It was enough to earn him the silver medal. Brezina took the bronze.

Verner has shown glimpses of magic on the ice this year that make it possible to believe that he can repeat or improve upon his second- and fourth-place finishes at Europeans and worlds, respectively, last year, but he needs to become more consistent.

Meanwhile, Nella Simaova of the Czech Republic won her first ladies national championship, winning the free skate to erase the small deficit she faced after the short program. Jacqueline Belenyesiova of Slovakia came in second. She won the short program but only took the silver after struggling through her fifth-place free skate. Hana Charyparova of the Czech Republic finished third.

Kamila Hajkova and David Vincour won a head-to-head match up with Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak for the dance title.

Poland

The biggest stars skating at the 2008 Polish National Championships in Oswiecim were not Polish at all. Kemp and King, who compete internationally for Great Britain, moved to Torun, Poland, last summer to train with Mariusz and Dorota Siudek. Because there was only one other pairs team competing, the duo decided to skate with them. Kemp and King's scores were higher, but they were not crowned as national champions since they are not Polish.

That distinction went to the only other pair in Oswiecim, Krystyna Klimczak and Janusz Karweta, the 2006 junior national champs. Klimczak and Karweta, both Oswiecim natives, captured their first senior national crown in front of their home crowd.

Missing from action were the three-time defending champions, Dominika Piatkowska and Dmitri Khromin, the 15th-ranked team in the latest icenetwork.com World Figure Skater Rankings.

In the ladies competition, Anna Jurkiewicz cruised to her second consecutive national title, comfortably winning both segments. Aneta Michalek took the silver, Laura Czarnotta the bronze.

Konstantin Tupikov, skating in the Polish nationals for only the second time after representing the Ukraine earlier in his career, unseated two-time defending champ Przemyslaw Domanski by 0.26 points. Maciej Cieplucha came in third.

Tupikov won the short program by .80 points, but Domanski took the free skate. Tupikov had just enough of a cushion to win his first Polish national title. He won the bronze last year and won the Ukrainian national championship in 2003. Domanski now has a pair of national silver medals to go with the two golds he won the past two years.

Joanna Budner and Jan Moscicki were the only ice dancing competitors.

Slovenia

Veteran Gregor Urbas won his eighth consecutive national title at the 2008 Slovenian National Championships in Bled last weekend. Urbas was never threatened, winning by almost 28 points. His eight titles now match Jan Cejvan (1993-2000) for the most consecutive and overall titles. Urbas finished second to Cejvan in 1999 and 2000, so his two silvers and the eight golds make him the most decorated Slovenian male skater in history.

Damjan Ostojic of Bosnia and Herzegovina finished in second place, and Boris Martinec of Croatia took third.

In the ladies, Teodora Postic won her third straight national title. She cruised to victory, winning both segments by more than nine points. Kaja Otovic finished second, and Darja Skrlj, the 2005 national champion, finished third.

Austria

The 2008 Austrian National Championships headed St. Polten in Lower Austria. Denise Koegl finished fifth five years ago and has slowly moved up the ranks ever since. The 19-year-old won the silver last year and earned her first national championships with a strong performance this weekend. Stephanie Ellensohn took the silver, reaching her first national podium, while Kerstin Frank finished third for the second year in a row.

In the men's competition, Manuel Koll won his second consecutive national title, besting Christian Rauchbauer by nearly six points. Rauchbauer won the free skate, but it was not enough to make up the deficit he faced after Koll won the short program. For Rauchbauer, it was his fourth national runner-up finish. Mario Raphael Ionian finished third.

Meanwhile, Barbora Silna and Dmitri Matsjuk capped off a busy 2007-08 season with their third straight national title. They were the only ice dancers in the competition. Matsjuk won three Austrian titles earlier in his career with Barbara Herzog.

Estonia

The 2008 Estonian National Championships in Tartu was missing one the country's biggest stars. Dancers Grethe Grünberg and Kristian Rand did not compete, and there was any senior ice dancing competition. So, the lights shone instead on Maria Sergejeva and Ilja Glebov, the defending pairs national champs.

The whole weekend proved to be a victory lap for the Tallinn natives. They skated to their second national crown uncontested. Instead, it was a chance for the fans in Tartu to watch their best prepare for the rest of the season.

Viktor Romanenkov won his first men's national title, also uncontested. Despite winning the 2007 junior national title, the 14-year-old is still unpolished, and he struggled in the 2007-08 Junior Grand Prix Series, finishing 18th at home in Estonia and 16th in Germany.

Another 14-year-old, Svetlana Issakova, also won her first national title. The reigning national silver medalist actually had some competition and erased a teeny, 0.04-point deficit after the short program by winning the free skate convincingly. Johanna Allik won the silver, and Olga Ikonnikova, who won the short program, took the bronze after a tough free skate.

Issakova has a promising future. She reached the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final two weeks ago, where she finished seventh. She reached the Final by finishing third at the JGP Estonia and taking the silver at the JGP Great Britain, where she was 2.54 points away from gold.