Yesterday morning I woke up to the loss of a certain tennis player, with all the attendant talk of the changing of the guard that’s been going on since Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open the first time three years ago. Whether that’s really happening or not remains to be seen, but if we take a detour to Roger Federer’s home country for the European Figure Skating Championships, we can see evidence of it here.
Exhibit A, the strongest exhibit: The Men’s Short. On a day when old guns Brian Joubert and Tomas Verner both struggled, their younger countrymen rose the occasion, and found themselves accompanied by an even younger boy. Florent Amodio and Michal Brezina especially have enough of a lead that they are more likely than to to stay on the podium. Artur Gachinski’s position is less secure; more usual suspects Joubert, Verner, Kevin van der Perran, and Samuel Contesti(who finally got a decent skate out of that magnificent short program! 😀 ) are breathing down his neck, but they predict he may one day be the most successful of the three, and certainly his short program did nothing to indicate otherwise. Further down, Peter Liebers is back to being the top German probably for some time yet, young Javier Fernandez continues his quest to bring a new country into the mix in the form of Spain, and Laurent Alvarez does his best to fill the skates left vacant by Stephane, who now sits to the side and interviews the winners of each competition.
Exhibit B: The Short Dance. If only because it exists in the place of the compulsory and original dances. At the beginning of this year, if anyone had said Frederica Faiella & Massimo Scali would be 9th going into the free at Europeans, they would have been greeted with scornful laughter and reminders of the nationality of the ISU president. But one mistake on a twizzle and that’s how many couples were able to pass them by. Not all new, and of course it’s looking like the title itself will go to Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat, who having just missed the podium twice do not wish to be denied, but even they are trailed closely by the new top Russian team, and their new short dance. Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev may insist on going for unorthodox music choices, but their use of Chess carries a striking impact, and they may even threaten for the podium at Worlds, though how open said podium is will depend heavily on how well Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir skate. Behind them two even younger Russian teams contend with the Kerrs for bronze, and with each other for the second Worlds berth. Two hundredths of a point between them and you hate that they can’t both go.
Exhibit C: The Ladies Short. Fewer new faces here, but relative newcomer Ksenia Makarova once again rises when Alena Leonova falls, and when it’s between her and Kiira Korpi for the European title in the Battle of the Evitas…well, the odds start to look in her favor. Though perhaps this event will be more a farewell to what was, especially if Sarah Meier, in her final competition, can round out the podium; one wants her to pull it off. Carolina Kostner of course is not out yet despite her two falls, but her chances of winning gold are much lower, which means likely a first-time champion here too. In the final group Elene Gedevanishvili and Viktoria Helgesson likewise have chances, though smaller. The former, after all, as been here before; the latter has not. Next year there will certainly be more new faces in the mix, as the oldest of the Russian baby ballerinas become eligible to compete in ISU championships. And speaking of waiting for more infusion:
Exhibit D: The Pairs Competition. Of the 15 pairs to skate the competition, 8 were attending their first Europeans together; most of the skaters involved hadn’t skated there with other partners either. Near the top there may have only been a single pair of first-time medalists, but over the entire podium loomed they who beat both the silver and bronze medalists at their own nationals, and only couldn’t compete because her year wasn’t yet up. Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy might be able to hold off Kavaguti & Smirnov even with a blown spin, but can they afford such mistakes against Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov in the future. We will get our first indication in two months time, but even that may be overridden by the time next year’s Europeans rolls around; one would expect Volosozhar & Trankov to be even stronger next year than they are this year, both in their ability and with the judges.
The free dance is this afternoon, the longs for the two singles competitions tomorrow. When those conclude, we’ll see which of the young men are ready to skate up to the pressure, which of the two new Russian teams will (probably) accompany Bobrova & Soloviev to Worlds, and whether an older or newer girl will claim the Ladies title. Possibly also if any of the officials will acknowledge the overly cold temperatures, or if the British Eurosport coverage, which I’ve been lucky enough to be streaming, can get any more entertaining.