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Men and ice dancers qualify at Europeans

Promising Belgian dons long johns to win preliminary

Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak won the qualification round with an 80.45 point-free dance.
Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak won the qualification round with an 80.45 point-free dance. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(01/24/2011) - The 2011 European Figure Skating Championships got underway at an under-heated rink in Bern, Switzerland, with the men's and ice dance qualification rounds.

Fifteen couples competed in ice dance, with nine gaining a spot in the short dance event and the remaining six left out in the cold. They will join 12 teams entered directly into the main event.

New Czech champions Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak, 16th at worlds last season, won the qualification with an 80.45 point-free dance thanks to their speedy feet and high program component scores.

"The low temperature in the rink was quite challenging for me because of my asthma, but our performance was all right," Mysliveckova said. "We had some little mistakes in the twizzles."

New German champions Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi were second with 79.27 points.

"If you go out and skate your program [the cold rink] is fine but the 30 minutes practice felt long, and it was chilly at the end," Zhiganshina said. "There is definitely room for improvement in our program."

"It is cold, but we are happy with our levels, six Level 4s and two Level 3s," Gazsi said.

The top two couples skated much better than the rest of the field. Both teams are coached by Rostislav Sinicyn, who works in Prague as well as in Oberstdorf.

Great Britain's second-best couple, Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland, qualified third with 73.79 points. The following other couples also qualified: Federica Testa and Canadian-born Christopher Mior (Italy); Sara Hurtado and Adria Diaz (Spain); Irina Shtork and Taavi Rand (Estonia); Allison Reed and Otar Japaridze (Georgia); and Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas (Lithuania). As the host country, Switzerland also qualified a team.

Talented 18-year-old Jorik Hendrickx of Belgium won the men's qualifier with 118.46 points.

Hendrickx, who aims to succeed Kevin van der Perren as his country's top skater, excelled with his easy-looking jumps, even if two planned triples became doubles.

"The beginning was almost perfect; I did all my triple jumps," he said. "Quite challenging was the cold temperature in the rink. I was freezing in practice so I decided to wear long underwear for the competition."

Kim Lucine, who formerly competed for France, has been injured for two seasons and did not think he had much chance making the European and world teams skating for his home country. Therefore, he decided to skate for Monaco, because his father and coach Didier Lucine has good connections to the small monarchy.

Lucine was second in the qualifier with 115.12 points, showing six triple jumps.

"It felt good and it was a good moment for me today," he said. "The Salchow was missing, but overall it was a good set up for the rest of the competition."

Denis Wieczorek, second at German Nationals three weeks ago, skated a clean program with seven triples, got 111.96 points and ended up third.

"My first European championship is very different from the other competitions I have been to," the 19-year-old said. "There is more tension, but I was quiet inside."

The following other skaters also qualified for the men's short program: Zolzan Kelemen (Romania); Javier Raya (Spain); Moris Pfeifhofer (Switzerland); Justus Strid (Denmark); Maxim Shipov (Israel); Maciej Cieplucha (Poland); and Stéphane Walter (Switzerland). Ali Demirboga (Turkey), who placed eleventh, also qualified because Slovenia had a skater in the top 18 last season and did not send a men to Europeans this season.