Europeans 2018: Pairs Review

Last year, the pairs event at Europeans was one of the highlights of the entire season. Unfortunately, this year’s event didn’t quite live up to that standard. The competition lost a big star when Savchenko/Massot withdrew a few days beforehand, citing a desire to focus on the Olympics (plus an injury to Massot’s back). For the remaining pairs, Europeans 2018 was mostly a competition of missed opportunities, as few teams skated their best in Moscow. 

Euros-results

Tarasova/Morozov

After a subpar performance at the Grand Prix Final last month, this competition was show time for defending European champions Tarasova/Morozov. Competing on home ice, with the Olympics weeks away, and rivals Savchenko/Massot out of the event, this was their chance to win decisively and confirm themselves as medal favorites in Pyeongchang. Tarasova/Morozov got the win in Moscow, but it didn’t come easily. And I’m not sure how much it will boost their Olympic medal chances.

Tarasova-Morozov-lift
Tarasova/Morozov in short program

The pressure seemed to get to Tarasova/Morozov in their Rachmaninov short program. They started off very well, as usual, with their textbook level 4 triple twist. They earned a perfect score for the twist–+3s from every judge, for a total of 8.70. However, then they faltered. Evgenia has been struggling with little errors on her side-by-side jumps lately, and it happened again as she put a hand down on the SBS 3T. Then she took an awkward, sliding fall on the throw 3Lp, costing them -2.10 in GOE. They also missed a rotation on the death spiral, losing a level. Their remaining three elements were quite strong, and of course, the level of their basic skating was excellent. Tarasova/Morozov maintained great speed and power throughout, and presented the choreography well. I felt that their TES marks were fair, accurately reflecting the technical strengths and weaknesses of the program. The PCS marks were a bit more questionable. While some judges had them in the mid-8s—not unreasonable for a program with a major fall—other judges awarded low-9s. They totaled 70.37 for 5th.

Tarasova/Morozov’s “Candyman” free skate was definitely better, but still not great, by their standards. They just barely completed the rotation on their level 2 quad twist, and the catch was messy. Vladimir had a slightly imperfect, forward landing on the SBS 3S, but hung on. Their SBS 3T/2T/2T was strong and well-executed. The throw jumps (3S, 3Lp) had nice height/distance, but it was clearly visible in slow-mo replays that Tarasova 2-footed both throws. Artistically, I felt the program fell flat. Aside from my issues with the music choice and concept, Tarasova/Morozov just didn’t shine here. The flow and speed in their Rachmaninov SP is tremendous and seemingly almost effortless; but it’s less so in the LP. There are sections where the choreography/music cuts require stopping for choreo lifts or other moves, which interrupts Tarasova/Morozov’s usual flow. You can see them working a bit to re-gather speed for the elements. Although Evgenia/Vladimir did their best to sell the program, and their execution of it has improved over the season, many of the moves just don’t look comfortable or natural. The choreography feels like discrete pieces of movement strung together, rather than a coherent composition flowing from the music.

For this flawed free skate, Tarasova/Morozov earned a season’s-best score of 151.23, vaulting from 5th in the SP to 1st LP/overall. Reviewing Tarasova/Morozov’s LP score sheet, I can only say that I found the majority of their marks a bit hard to understand. I like Tarasova/Morozov as a team. I really do. But their GOE/PCS scores have been inflated all season, and that trend continued here.

Here are some examples of questionable scoring in this program:

Quad twist: Barely completed; catch low and not clean. Yet received only 2 negative GOE marks (-1s). Several judges awarded +2s. Total GOE: +0.29.

Side-by-side triple Salchow: Morozov clearly forward on landing, but no negative GOE marks. 5 of 9 judges awarded positive marks (+1s, +2s). Total GOE: +0.40.

Throw triple Salchow, throw triple loop: Both jumps clearly 2-footed on replay. ISU rules recommend -2 GOE for a 2-footed throw. So even if the throws started from +3 GOE, they should still have been no higher than +1, after the recommended deduction. Yet almost all judges awarded +2s or +3s for both throws. T/M received seven +3 scores for the throws. Total GOE: +1.80 for throw 3S, +1.60 for throw 3Lp. Meanwhile, every other pair with a 2-footed throw in the long program got at least some -1s or -2s in GOE, and had overall 0.00 or negative GOE. Why the preferential GOE treatment for Tarasova/Morozov?

PCS: Tarasova/Morozov’s PCS scores for their free skate were very strong. Only 2 of 45 PCS marks were 8.75s. All other marks were 9.00 or above, with a majority of 9.50s and even one 9.75. In its own documentation, the ISU states that 9-10 range scores are for “outstanding” performance. I would argue this was not an outstanding performance. The choppy nature of the choreography doesn’t even allow T/M’s speed and power to be shown to best effect. We know what an “outstanding” performance looks like; we saw Savchenko/Massot and Sui/Han deliver such performances at the Grand Prix Final last month. This free skate from Tarasova/Morozov was not in the same category.

I’m sorry for digressing into such a long score discussion here, and I realize this may be perceived as a rant. However, I was honestly a bit shocked by Tarasova/Morozov’s 151.23 for this program. Usually when I compare my notes on performances to score sheets, I see a strong connection. But not so with Tarasova/Morozov. Lately, their scoring seems somewhat divorced from the reality of their performances. I just worry about how this will affect placements and medals at the Olympics and Worlds.

Stolbova/Klimov

I must admit, my heart broke a little for Stolbova/Klimov at this event. The reigning Olympic silver medalists have tried hard all season to regain top form for Pyeongchang, but just haven’t been able to manage it. After Tarasova/Morozov’s problems in the short program, Stolbova/Klimov had a great chance to win here. However, they were unable to take advantage.

I really enjoyed watching Stolbova/Klimov’s “Besame Mucho” SP. I feel like this program has grown a lot in the past month, and Stolbova/Klimov are bringing so much more attitude and precision to it now. Technically, the program got off to a shaky start: Their triple twist was only level 2, and the catch was messy (6.10 points). Stolbova/Klimov followed with a strong throw 3F. However, Ksenia then missed the takeoff on the SBS 3T, launching herself into the air off the side of her boot, instead of her toe pick. She tumbled to the ice, and the fall cost about 3 points in all. The rest of the program was actually very good, and they closed with an amazing step sequence that was superbly performed, with wonderful timing to the music. Stolbova/Klimov came close to a perfect score for this step sequence; very well-deserved. They finished with 72.05 points, but were only 3rd.

Stolbova-Klimov
Stolbova/Klimov hold on for silver

Stolbova/Klimov still had a good chance to win the title. However, they made some crucial errors in the LP. Their triple twist was again messy, this time getting only level 1. Ksenia landed a strong throw 3F (7.00 points). However, then came problems on the SBS jumps. Ksenia hit a beautiful 3T/3T combination, but Fedor doubled the second jump. Then, she struggled on the SBS 3S, not getting enough lift and swing with her right leg on takeoff. She underrotated and fell. In all, they lost over 6 points on the SBS jumps. Ksenia also had a hand down on the final throw 3S. Well, at least Stolbova/Klimov’s other technical elements were pretty strong. But with so many critical mistakes, the program did lose some of its oomph. Ksenia/Fedor’s Carmen LP continues to improve artistically, but I still would like to see a bit more interaction between the partners, and a little more passionate quality from Ksenia. Stolbova/Klimov scored 138.96 for 2nd LP/overall.

As with Tarasova/Morozov, there’s a legitimate question if Stolbova/Klimov were overscored in their free skate. Stolbova/Klimov did receive a few questionable +GOE marks on their weaker elements (triple twist and SBS jump combo). However, for them it was only a few errant marks–as opposed to almost all the marks, as was the case with Tarasova/Morozov’s throws. Stolbova/Klimov’s net GOE on both elements (just +0.10 on twist, and -0.20 on combo) was not artificially high. In PCS, Stolbova/Klimov did receive very high scores for a program with multiple errors. Their PCS was almost identical to Tarasova/Morozov’s, with only 2 marks in the 8s and the majority in the mid-9s. I feel their high PCS was a bit more defensible: 1) Their LP is much more artistically coherent and satisfying than Tarasova/Morozov’s; 2) The Carmen program shows off their speed more effectively than “Candyman”; and 3) In addition to pure speed & power, Stolbova/Klimov offer more detail, nuance, and musicality than T/M.

But, truthfully, Stolbova/Klimov’s scores were probably a bit too high. They had a 6-point PCS advantage over Zabijako/Enbert in the LP; a generous margin that helped them sustain a slight lead in the overall standings. Arguably, the 2 teams could have flipped.

Zabijako/Enbert

It was a great event for Zabijako/Enbert, who broke through to win their first medal (bronze) at a major ISU championship. As mentioned, they probably could have placed one spot higher in Moscow. But I’m sure they’re just happy to have their first Euros medal, of any color.

I thought Zabijako/Enbert were excellent in the short program. They really went for it, skating with the most speed and intensity I’ve seen from them all season. Their technical elements were quite strong. The opening level 4 triple twist had more height than usual, and the catch looked clean (7.80 points). They were a bit out of sync on the SBS 3Ts, but the jumps were well-landed. Their throw 3Lp was very nice, with good height and a smooth landing edge. Alexander also had good speed on the star lift, which earned almost straight +2s. It was just a solid performance all around; their elements were all level 4. Artistically, I felt they had wonderful flow and grace in their Summer of ’42 program. Zabijako/Enbert can sometimes be rather languid performers, cruising through routines on elegant autopilot. However, in this program, I felt they really kept the emotion up, even in the step sequence. They scored a season’s-best 72.95 to unexpectedly take 2nd.

Zabijako-Enbert
First medal at Euros for Zabijako/Enbert

Zabijako/Enbert’s “ballet dancers” long program was perfectly fine; yet a tad disappointing, at the same time. The energy & attack I felt from them in the short program was missing here, as they reverted to a more milquetoast performance level. Their technical elements were mostly pretty strong. Again, they opened with a nice, high level 4 triple twist; quite impressive. They had a bit of a problem on the SBS 3T/2T/2Lp combo, with Natalia singling the last jump. However, the GOE damage wasn’t too bad; only about half a point off. Natalia then doubled the SBS 3S—not unexpected, as this is a weak element for them. But they recovered well with two smooth, well-done throw jumps (3Lz, 3Lp) that earned good GOE. Lifts were pretty strong, too, earning a mix of mostly +1s/+2s. Technically, this performance was about as good as it gets right now for Zabijako/Enbert. In terms of performance, I felt like they could have given it more. It was lovely, but didn’t pull you in. PCS marks were almost uniformly in the mid-8s. Zabijako/Enbert scored 137.23 for 3rd LP/overall. Their total score of 210.18 was less than 1 point behind Stolbova/Klimov.

I do feel that the long program here was a missed opportunity for Zabijako/Enbert. A bit more energy, passion, and attack might well have carried them to silver. Nonetheless, the bronze medal is still a great result and solidified their spot on the OAR Olympic team.

James/Cipres

With mistakes from the top Russian teams, and Savchenko/Massot out, the door could have not been open any wider for James/Cipres to step through and take their first European championship. Unfortunately, they just weren’t able to capitalize and wound up with a disappointing 4th-place finish.

James/Cipres started off with a pretty good short program to “Make It Rain.” Their technical elements were all completed, although maybe not at their highest quality level. Their opening level 2 triple twist wasn’t quite as high as it sometimes is, and there was some contact on the catch. The SBS 3S had good speed in and out, but Morgan’s landing was a bit scratchy. Their throw 3F was also landed, but a bit forward. Overall, I felt this wasn’t James/Cipres’s best performance of this program. There were no big mistakes, but it just lacked the ease and relaxed feel that they’ve had at other events this season. However, their GOE marks were strong—a majority of +2s—even on relatively weaker elements such as the twist. PCS marks were a bit mixed. About half the judges were in the mid-8s; the other half awarded low-9s. James/Cipres totaled 75.52 points to unexpectedly win the short program for the first time at a major ISU championship.

James-Cipres
James/Cipres:  So close, yet so far

Everything was in place for James/Cipres to win the long program and the title. But, it just didn’t happen. Unfortunately, James/Cipres just looked a bit off from the opening element in their “Say Something” LP. Their level 2 triple twist again didn’t get much height, and there was an obvious crash on the catch. Marks were, if anything, generous for this element; they avoided negative scores and had slight positive GOE overall (+0.30, total 6.10). In their SBS 3T/2T/2T jump combo, Vanessa doubled the first jump and singled the last for a base-value loss of almost 4 points. They recovered to land an exciting throw quad Salchow. Vanessa slightly 2-footed the jump, but the 2-ft didn’t disrupt the flow of the landing. They had several -1 marks, but still pulled in 8.20 points. They got through the SBS 3S, although Morgan’s was again scratchy. The throw 3Lz was fine and scored well. However, Morgan struggled visibly on the final 2 lifts. His footwork was off on the Axel lasso lift, messing up his set-down of Vanessa. Then he had to fight to get his arm locked on the final star lift, and the distress on his face was evident. “I know how it feels,” sympathized coach John Zimmerman, as Morgan skated off the ice. The technical errors did seem to affect the performance level, especially on Morgan’s side. Vanessa still sparkled and showed good emotion, but Morgan seemed a bit blank, perhaps feeling the pressure of the moment. James/Cipres still received fairly strong PCS marks, mostly in the high-8s and low-9s. They scored 134.65, falling to 4th LP/overall.

James/Cipres missed the podium in Moscow by an incredibly small margin: just .01 overall. A very frustrating result for their many fans, and for them personally. However, I can’t argue against their placement. The marks they received were fair for the elements they put out in this competition, in my opinion. If anything, the judges gave them the benefit of the doubt on some elements and on the PCS in the LP. It was clear the judges were prepared to put them in gold or silver position if they skated well. Unfortunately, James/Cipres just didn’t deliver in the LP.

I do love James/Cipres’ programs this year and continue to be so impressed with their growth as a team. So I hope they can regroup and skate their best in Pyeongchang.

Marchei/Hotarek

Like James/Cipres, Italian team Marchei/Hotarek exceeded expectations in the short program, but faltered in the free skate to place off the podium in 5th.

Marchei-Hotarek-pose
Marchei/Hotarek play to the crowd

Marchei/Hotarek were just so on in their short program. They skated with terrific confidence and energy. Their fast, fun, and cheeky “Tu vuo fa l’americano” program was a hit with the Russian audience, and Valentina/Ondrej sold it to the max, using every moment to connect and flirt with the judges and audience. Their musical timing, their flourishes coming in & out of elements, and their facial expressions were right on point. Europeans is a big competition, but Valentina/Ondrej made it seem like fun for a few minutes. They opened with a great set of SBS 3S, which had nice speed in & out. Their triple twist was low, with some contact on the catch. However, Marchei/Hotarek managed a level 3 on it, pulling out 6.10 points on their weakest element. Their throw 3Lz was great—very straight in the air and nicely landed. Once the jump elements were out of the way, they were on cruise control. Their star lift was very good. And their closing step sequence was a hit. I don’t think it’s among the more difficult step sequences this season; but Marchei/Hotarek performed it so well, with such great expression, that they earned all +2s/+3s. They totaled 71.89 for 4th, putting themselves in the final group for the free skate.

Marchei/Hotarek’s Amarcord LP was fine, but just seemed to lack the energy and sass of their short program. The Italians executed most of their elements fairly well, but nothing really shone much. Their level 2 triple twist had a low catch, and Valentina doubled the SBS 3T. Their SBS 3S/2T/2T was fine (despite a slightly wild landing from Ondrej on the 3S). The throw 3Lz was again very good, earning straight +2s/+3s, and is really becoming a signature element for this team. The throw 3Lp was good as well, with nice height. Marchei/Hotarek’s SBS spins were off sync, leading to some negative GOE, but lifts were pretty good overall (mostly +1s/+2s). It was a solid skate overall for Marchei/Hotarek, but just not enough to move them into the medals. They scored 132.31 for 5th LP/overall.

A good result, but the Italians probably hoped for more after their exciting short program.

Della Monica/Guarise

The other Italian team, Della Monica/Guarise, struggled a bit at this event. It had been an excellent season to this point for Della Monica/Guarise, as they won their first Grand Prix medal and third national title. However, Europeans didn’t go as well. They placed only 1 spot behind Marchei/Hotarek—but were almost 12 points behind their Italian rivals in total score.

Della Monica/Guarise skated right after Marchei/Hotarek’s crowd-pleasing performance in the SP. I don’t know if they were unnerved by the loud ovation/high score, but they looked tentative as their program started. Nicole doubled the opening SBS 3S and later appeared to 2-foot the throw 3Lp (-1s). Those jump errors cost over 4 points and basically put them out of contention in the SP. Which was too bad, because the rest of their elements were quite good. They got some height and a clean catch on their level 4 triple twist, and had nice speed in their star lift and death spiral. Actually, I could find no fault with most of the non-jump elements, so I was a bit disappointed to see a lot of +1s for elements that arguably deserved better. This was particularly the case for their level 4 step sequence, which in my view is one of the most challenging and best in the world this year. It was a quality performance overall for Della Monica/Guarise, despite the jump mistakes. But, it must be said that their operatic Magnficat SP came across as just a bit ponderous and serious after Marchei/Hotarek’s light-up-the-crowd SP. Della Monica/Guarise scored 64.53, well off their season’s-best, for 6th.

Della Monica-Guarise
Della Monica/Guarise: Not their best

Della Monica/Guarise’s Tree of Life LP was similar. Again, there were many quality elements in the program, but just too many jump mistakes. They opened with SBS 3S; Nicole’s looked slightly 2-footed, but they avoided negative GOE. Matteo then doubled the first jump in the SBS 3T/2T combo. Both throw jumps (3Lp, 3S) were two-footed, leading to straight -1s/-2s in GOE. The rest of the elements were strong. Their level 4 triple twist was neat, quick, and clean (7.40 points). They had good speed and positions in their spins. Lifts were strong, especially the two closing lifts, which received almost all +2s. I really enjoy this program and find it quite lovely. What also impressed me in this performance was the steady, consistent speed and power that Nicole/Matteo showed throughout. There was very little slowing down/speeding up as they went in and out of their elements; they just maintained a steady pace throughout, which speaks well of their conditioning. Despite the jump mistakes, I really enjoyed this performance. Della Monica/Guarise scored 127.85 for 6th LP/overall.

Della Monica/Guarise have improved so much the past few years. including on their jumps. They used to have a lot of bad falls on the jumps; now, it’s more pops and 2-foots. But they need to clean up these errors. I don’t think the judges will start handing out the higher GOE/PCS marks they often deserve until they become more consistent on the jumps.

Ziegler/Kiefer

It was fun to watch Ziegler/Kiefer in Moscow. Unlike many of the pairs, they had their best competition of the season at Euros. They brought a fun & youthful energy to the event.

Ziegler/Kiefer opened with a nice performance of their “500 Miles” SP. The only weak element in the program was their level 1 triple twist, which had a low catch and got negative GOE marks. Their SBS 3Ts were light, easy, and nicely synchronized. Miriam was perhaps a bit forward on the throw 3F landing, but there were no negative scores. Their other elements were clean, and Miriam/Severin had nice energy and presentation. They scored 63.94 for 7th.

Ziegler/Kiefer’s Coldplay LP was also quite successful. Their opening SBS 3S had good height and synchronization, earning many +2s. The level 1 triple twist was again problematic, with a low catch, but they got through it. The team had a bit of trouble with the SBS 3T/2T/2T combo—Miriam landed forward on the first jump and Severin singled the second. However, they still managed 4.60 points. From there, it was pretty much clear sailing. Both throw jumps (3F, 3S) were landed, and the other elements were good. Lifts were all completed without negative GOE. I really liked Miriam/Severin’s pacing in this program. They didn’t rush anything, as they’ve tended to in the past. They just kept calm, stayed with the music, and maintained a measured pace throughout. Their maturity and line has improved so much this season, especially Miriam’s. And I feel like the calm, simple style of this music suited them very well. In years to come, when they’re more developed and mature, Ziegler/Kiefer can tackle more “serious” music. For now, pieces like “500 Miles” and Coldplay are just right for them, in my opinion. Ziegler/Kiefer scored a personal-best 117.81 for 7th LP/overall.

It’s great to see the young Austrians continue to make progress. Hopefully they can skate this well again in Pyeongchang.

Hocke/Blommaert

It was also a good competition for Hocke/Blommaert, who placed 8th in only their first year together. Watching the earlier groups, there was a noticeable difference between this team and those ranked below them in terms of skating skills, speed, and power.

Hocke-Blommaert-camel-spin
Promising new team Hocke/Blommaert

Hocke/Blommaert had a decent short program overall, but some problems on the technical elements. Their level 2 triple twist had a low catch, and Annika struggled with the landing of the throw 3Lp (hand down/2-ft). Annika also had a little stumble in the step sequence. However, they landed their SBS 3T, and had pretty good speed in the star lift. I don’t love this Chicago program, but they performed it well, showing good skating skills and nice presence on the ice. Although Annika is only 17, she and Ruben have a mature look together. They scored 57.05 for 9th.

Hocke/Blommaert’s Romeo & Juliet LP went well. Their level 1 triple twist looked crashy and got negative GOE. Their SBS 3T/2T/2T combo was a bit off sync and far apart—but they landed it and scored 6.70 points. They had nice height on their SBS 2A. Annika 2-footed the throw 3Lp landing, but the throw 3S was pretty good. Lifts were adequate, but could benefit from faster turns and coverage. The program was lyrical and pleasant to watch, and Hocke/Blommaert skated with good strength and speed. They could use a bit more expression and connection between them, particularly for such a romantic program. Still, considering how new they are, this is an excellent starting point for them. Hocke/Blommaert posted a respectable 113.16 to pull up to 8th LP/overall.

I’m glad that this new and promising team will get a chance to participate in the Olympics next month.

Conners/Krasnopolski

The new Israeli team also did well at Europeans, placing 9th in their first season together. Like Hocke/Blommaert, they will represent their country at the Olympics.

Conners-Krasnopolski.jpg
Technical strength from Connors/Krasnopolski

Connors/Krasnopolski put out a good performance overall of their Ghost SP. Paige underrotated and fell on the SBS 3T, but their other elements were good. They completed a level 2 triple twist and a nice throw 3Lz, with a smooth, easy landing. Their star lift was also pretty well-done, with good speed. They had some scattered negative GOE on a few elements. Paige, in particular, has a nice quality to her skating—she interacts with the crowd and has nice line and expression. There was not much connection between the two partners. But it was an appealing performance, and Connors/Krasnopolski scored 52.32 for 10th.

The Israelis’ long program to Schindler’s List was solid technically, but a bit lacking in artistry and impact. Their opening level 3 triple twist was good, with a clean catch. Next they landed SBS 3S. There were a few issues on the SBS 3T/2T/2T combo—Paige turned out of the second jump and Evgeni singled the last—but they still secured 4.30 points. Both throw jumps (3Lz, 3S) were cleanly landed as well. The non-jump elements were all completed without major error, although not at a high quality level (GOE marks were mostly 0s and +1s). Technically, it was a strong program for a first-year pair. Artistically, however, it fell flat. The Schindler’s List soundtrack functioned strictly as background music in this program; nothing the skaters were doing seemed related to it in any way. Intentionality of movement, and purpose, were missing in this program. PCS marks were, accordingly, mostly in the mid-6s. Connors/Krasnopolski scored 111.23 for 9th LP/overall.

The Israeli team will next compete in Pyeongchang.

Esbrat/Novoselov

Rounding out the top 10 was Esbrat/Novoselov. The second French team, who have been very inconsistent the past few years, had one of their better competitions in Moscow.

I enjoyed Esbrat/Novoselov’s short program. Lady Caliph is such beautiful music that I tend to like almost any program set to it; but Esbrat/Novoselov did skate it well in Moscow, with nice flow and softness. Technically, they had a few issues. Their level 2 triple twist was low and crashy, and Lola stepped out of their ambitious SBS triple loop jumps. They lost 2.40 points in negative GOE on those elements. However, they also had some quite nice elements as well. They landed the throw 3Lz, and their level 4 death spiral was lovely, with nice speed. Their step sequence was also level 4, with pretty good edges and speed. Esbrat/Novoselov totaled 57.48 for 8th.

Esbrat-Novoselov
Esbrat/Novoselov:  Up and down

Esbrat/Novoselov’s Great Gatsby LP was not as strong. Unfortunately, they had mistakes on every jump element. Lola turned out of the SBS 3Lp and doubled the first jump in the SBS 3S/2T combo (Andrei popped the second jump). Lola also stepped out of both throw jump (3F, 3S) landings. Additionally, their level 1 triple twist was very low. Perhaps drained by these mistakes, Esbrat/Novoselov showed little energy in their interpretation. There was just no attack, no intensity, to their skating. I think the challenging Great Gatsby music is beyond their abilities at this stage. Esbrat/Novoselov earned 102.99 and fell to 10th LP/overall.

It’s tough to evaluate Esbrat/Novoselov as a team. They’re up and down from year to year and program to program, as we saw here. They do have decent skating skills (especially Esbrat); they’re trying ambitious content with their side-by-side triple loops; and they have the ability to hit their jumps (they just don’t do it all the time). Sometimes they’re quite pleasant to watch; other times, they’re a bit lost out there. I hope they can develop more consistency.

Other teams

Young Spanish pair Barquero/Maestu are nice to watch, with good line and presentation. I hope they continue to develop stronger technical elements, and more speed, over the off-season …. I enjoyed seeing Petranovic/Souza-Kordieru back in action. The Croatian team missed most of this season due to an injury to Petranovic, but made it back in time for Europeans. Their jump elements were nowhere near ready in Moscow, but their triple twist was as big & exciting as ever. Their long program was a bit whacky, yet also kind of fun. Hope to see more of this team next year …. Ioulia Chtchetinina, who skates for Switzerland, has a new partner, Mikhail Akulov. I thought they looked more promising together than her last partnership …. Karagodina/Stepanov, who skate for Azerbaijan, seemed a bit overwhelmed to be skating in such a big event.

Wrap-up

With the European Championships just 3 weeks before the Olympic Games, I’m sure all of the European pairs wanted to put their best foot forward in Moscow. Unfortunately, few managed to do so. Most of the teams here will be hoping for much stronger performances in Pyeongchang. I wish them the best in their final preparations for the Games!

Note: If you’re enjoying the articles on The Divine Sport, please take a moment to “like” the site’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/adivinesport/. You can also follow me on Twitter to get updates of new posts: @ClaireCloutier.

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