The ISU Challenger and Junior Grand Prix series continued this weekend in Finland and Poland respectively with much anticipation focused on the international season debut of two-time World champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron at Finlandia Trophy. (more…)
Four titles were up for grabs as the European Championships came to the Czech Republic for the first time since 1999. (more…)
It’s officially the start of a new season, but we thought it might be fun to take a look back at our highlights of 2014/2015.
1. Fantastic French
Waiting your turn used to be a tradition in ice dance. At the start of an Olympic cycle, teams would move up to fill the empty spaces above them. The rulebook was rewritten last season by Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. It was due in no small part to their stunning free dance to Mozart’s “Adagio from Concerto No.23” which propelled them to their European and World titles. Hailed as a masterpiece from early on, it might be the most sublime piece of ice dance choreography since “Bolero” and has other teams flocking to Montreal to work with coaches Romain Haguenauer, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon. We can’t wait to see what they will come up with this season.
2. Russian Rebound
It seemed that wherever you went this season Elizaveta Tuktamysheva was there. The diminutive Russian skated at a whopping 11 competitions and more impressively she only lost twice – Skate America and Russian Nationals to Elena Radionova. Her consistency was phenomenal, but the courage it took to attempt a triple Axel in the short programme at the World Championships blew us all away. After her disastrous Olympic season, Tuktamysheva is without a doubt the comeback kid of the year.
3. Super Spain
If anybody had told us even five years ago that Spain would have a three-time European and a World champion and host a Grand Prix Final, we would have been sceptical to say the least. However, this season all the above came to pass. Barcelona hosted the Grand Prix Final so consummately that the event will be heading there again in December. It is the first time ever that the Grand Prix Final has been held in the same city two years in a row. Our personal highlight of the event was the Spanish audience enthusiastically shouting “Olé!” during the Paso Doble short dances.
Sara Hurtado and Adrià Díaz managed to finish fifth at the European Championships in Stockholm in January, but once again the MVP of Spanish skating was Javier Fernandez. He captured his third European title in Sweden and his first Worlds in Shanghai much to his own disbelief. He also announced that he is dating Miki Ando (we like to call the couple “Fernando” for short). All in all it was a very good year to be Spanish.
4. Pairs Pleasure
There is no shortage of drama in figure skating, but this season, in our eyes, it was the pairs event that really drew our attention. Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov were back after sitting out 2013/2014 with their mesmerising Manfred Symphony free which brought them a memorable gold medal at Europeans. At the same competition Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov came in second after Klimov tripped before their final element, a throw triple Salchow. At the end of the routine, Stolbova just stood and stared at him with her hands on her hips and a death stare not seen since Barbara Fusar-Poli in 2006. We were scared.
There were also exciting new pairs, like Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek and Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch. Qing Pang and Jian Tong came out of retirement for one last go (we think) at Worlds and Meagan Duhamel was uncharacteristically speechless when she and Eric Radford won Canada’s first pairs title since 2001. Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov return this season and we are looking forward to an even more thrilling year ahead.
5. Machida Moves On
The Japanese public was stunned when Tatsuki Machida announced live on TV that he would not be accepting a berth on the Japanese team for the World Championships. The 2014 World silver medallist had finished a disappointing fourth at Japanese Nationals and had decided to call it a day and concentrate on his studies. The void left by Machida meant the Japanese men struggled at Worlds and will have only two places this season.
6. Broken China
Anyone who watches figure skating is used to witnessing all sorts of spills, but seeing blood on the ice is never a good sign. Yuzuru Hanyu and Han Yan locked heads with each other on the warm-up for the free skating at Cup of China in November. Incredibly and perhaps foolishly, both of them then skated after being seen to by a doctor with Hanyu performing with a bandage wrapped around his head. The Olympic champion scraped through to the Grand Prix Final which he won, but then was diagnosed with a rare bladder condition that required surgery. Hanyu will be hoping for a less eventful season this year.
7. Green Glimpses
In order to make the sport more appealing to television audiences, there have been many innovations over the past few years. This season we really loved the green room that was installed behind the kiss & cry where the leaders of the event waited while the competition continued. It was probably uncomfortable for those skaters who weren’t pleased with their performance or scores, but the reactions behind the scenes were almost as entertaining as the skating itself.
Here’s hoping for another great season of skating memories in 2015/2016!
As Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron finished their free dance to Mozart’s “Adagio from Concerto No. 23” at a sparsely attended Thursday night session of the 2015 European Figure Skating Championships at the Globe Arena in Stockholm, there were few people inside the venue who weren’t moved by the pure beauty they had just witnessed. European audiences tend to be tough and not as generous with their appreciation as North American or even Japanese crowds of late. The emotions that emanated from the French team on the night touched the hearts of those of us lucky to be there that night and it will remain long in our consciousness.
This time last year Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron ended the European Championships in fifteenth place. What a difference twelve months makes and their rapid ascent to the upper echelons of ice dance continues with no signs of slowing down. Even in the half empty Globe Arena in Stockholm, there was an intangible magic to the mood they created on the ice during their performance to Mozart’s Adagio from Concerto No. 23. It was perfect and total intimacy and you felt that they would have danced exactly the same way if no-one or twenty thousand people had been watching.
There has been no rise more meteoric this season than that of France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. From 13th place at the World Championships in Japan in March of last year, they made everybody sit up and take notice when they claimed gold at Cup of China in November and defeated World champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte in the process. They proved that they are going to be a force to be reckoned over the coming years by subsequently winning the Trophee Eric Bompard and taking bronze in the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona. Romain Haguenauer, the man behind the team, believes that they timed this season to perfection.
“It’s a new Olympic cycle so we knew it was the time to be good. You always have to be good, but if they wanted to aim for a high place at the next Olympics they had to start this season because so many couples stopped competing.”
In the second part of our review of the ISU Grand Prix Final 2014, we take a look at the ice dance and pairs events.