Legends Plushenko, Joubert headline 2012 Euros
Kostner, Savchenko and Szolkowy look to secure more titles
|At 2010 Euros, Evgeni Plushenko captured gold and Brian Joubert grabbed bronze. (Getty Images)|
Skaters from countries with competitors who placed in the top 18 for singles/top 12 for pairs and ice dance in the 2011 Championships are entered directly in the short program or short dance. Member countries that are unable to fill their quota through direct entries may enter the remainder of their competitors in the preliminary round.
The preliminary round takes place before the official competition starts. The top 10 men and ladies, top six pairs teams and top eight ice dance couples are then qualified to compete in the short program/short dance with the skaters entered through the direct entries. In total, 28 men's and ladies (18 direct entries and 10 preliminary round entries), 18 pairs teams (12 direct entries and six preliminary round entries) and 20 ice dance couples (12 direct entries and eight preliminary round entries) compete in the short program/short dance. As there are 19 total entries in the pairs event, there will be no preliminary round for pairs. Competitors placed in the top 24 in single skating, in the top 16 in pairs skating and in the top 20 in ice dance in the short program/short dance qualify for free skating/free dance.
Overview of the top contenders The men's event is highlighted by the battle of the veterans against the youngsters. 2006 Olympic champion and six-time European champion Evgeni Plushenko (RUS), 29, once more returns to competition. He will go through the preliminary round, as he is the Russian entry with the lowest world ranking after not competing internationally since the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Plushenko will face his long-time rival, Brian Joubert (FRA), 27, who has won 10 consecutive medals at the European championships since his debut in 2002. The Frenchman had to skip the Grand Prix series due to injury but recaptured his national title in December. There is a strong group of young challengers, led by Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Javier Fernandez (ESP), who became the first Spanish skater in history to win medals in the Grand Prix Series (season's best 250.33 points). Grand Prix finalist Michal Brezina (CZE/season's best 226.35 points), reigning world bronze medalist Artur Gachinski (RUS/season's best 222.54 points) and defending European champion Florent Amodio (FRA/season's best 201.34) are ready to challenge the veterans as well. 2008 European champion Tomas Verner (CZE) and two-time European bronze medalist Kevin van der Perren (BEL) shouldn't be counted out either.
In the ladies event, three-time European champion Carolina Kostner (ITA) is aiming for her fourth European title. The reigning ISU Grand Prix champion comes with a season's best of 187.48 points to Sheffield. Competition should come from ISU Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Alena Leonova (RUS/season's best 180.45 points) who wants to take her first medal at the European championships, but also from two-time European bronze medalist Kiira Korpi (FIN/season's best 160.92 points). Other contenders include 2010 European bronze medalist Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO), Skate America bronze medalist Viktoria Helgesson (SWE), Junior Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Polina Korobeynikova (RUS) and Ksenia Makarova (RUS).
Three-time world pairs champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (GER) are looking for their fifth European title in Sheffield. The Germans posted a season's best of 212.26 points when they won the Grand Prix Final last month. Their strongest competitors are world silver medalists Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov (RUS), who finished a very close second to them at the Grand Prix Final with 212.08 points. Volosozhar and Trankov will compete in their first European championships as a team. Reigning European bronze medalists Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov (RUS/season's best 184.91 points) want to be on the podium again. Other contenders are Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek (ITA), 2011 world junior silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov (RUS) and Maylin Hausch and Daniel Wende (GER).
In the ice dance competition, Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat (FRA) are seeking to defend their title but will have to expect competition from a group of young teams. Pechalat and Bourzat claimed the bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final with a season's best of 169.69 points. 2011 European silver medalists Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (RUS/season's best 163.53) want to challenge the French. Also aiming at a podium finish are Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (ITA/season's best 154.87 points) and Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (RUS/season's best 149.98 points). Other couples to watch include Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi (GER), Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko (RUS), Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas (LTU) and Pernelle Carron and Lloyd Jones (FRA).
Please note that for the seasonal best total scores only the ISU Grand Prix competitions (senior and junior) have been taken into consideration -- not other international competitions or national championships.
The ISU awards a global prize money of $350,000 at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships to skaters/couples placed first to 12th.
The schedule of is as follows:
Monday, Jan. 23: Preliminary round ice dance, preliminary round men's
Tuesday, Jan. 24: Preliminary round ladies
Wednesday, Jan. 25: Pairs short program, short dance
Thursday, Jan. 26: Men's short program, pairs free skating
Friday, Jan. 27: Ladies short program, free dance
Saturday, Jan. 28: Men free skating, ladies free skating
Sunday, Jan. 29: Exhibition gala