As the calendar heads into a new year, many countries held their figure skating national championships, and a few surprise winners emerged.
Three Nations Championships
There were an unexpected men’s winner, Michal Březina, at the Three Nations Figure Skating Championships or “Common Championships" as they are referred to in the Czech press, which took place last weekend in Cieszyn, Poland. For the second year, the competition combined the Czech, Polish and Slovak nationals into one event. While medals were awarded for the overall competition, the highest-placing skaters in each discipline for each country were crowned national champions.
The event had Olympic implications. The Czech Republic has two men’s and one ice dance spot for the 2010 Games. Poland has earned one entry each in the men's, ladies, and pairs events. Slovakia, meanwhile, has just one spot—in the ladies' competition.
The most thrilling event was in the men’s discipline in which Czech skater Březina emerged victorious. The reigning World silver medalist upset 2008 European champion Tomáš Verner.
Březina skated two solid programs to score a competition mark of 223.53. He handily defeated Verner, who scored 203.21 overall. “To the layman it might appear that it was clean, but small errors there were,” Verner told Česká Televize, a public service broadcaster. “But I'm happy. I did all the triple jumps I had planned."
Verner struggled a bit, missing on his quad toe. He earned the competition’s overall silver medal. "I'm sorry, but for me it's not peak season. [It] comes mid-January," Verner told Česká Televize. A report on the network’s website indicated Verner is recovering from health problems.
Maciej Cieplucha was the bronze medalist overall, and in the process claimed his first Polish title. Slovakia’s Peter Reitmayer claimed Slovakia’s national men’s title, placing fifth overall.
Ivana Reitmayerova won the ladies gold medal and her second consecutive Slovak title. She edged Martina Bocek, who snagged her first Czech title. Aneta Michalek earned the Polish ladies crown with a fifth-place finish.
In pairs, Poland’s Joanna Sulej and Mateusz Chruscinski won gold and repeated as Polish champions. Gabriela Cermanova and Martin Hanulak won their second Slovak crown.
Kamila Hajkova and David Vincour won the ice dance gold and the Czech title. Anastasia Vykhodtseva and Jan Moscicki took the silver and the Polish title. Nikola Visnova and Lukas Csolley finished with the bronze and the Slovak title.
NEWS FROM HUNGARY
In Hungary, Julia Sebestyen won her ninth title recently by over a 60-point margin of victory. The win cemented her spot as Hungary’s representative at 2010 Olympic Games (the country will be represented in Vancouver Olympics by one lady and one ice dance team).
In the ice dance competition, Nora Hoffmann and Maxim Zavozin, won their second Hungarian title. Zavozin formerly competed for the United States (he was the 2005 World junior champion with Morgan Matthews). Hoffmann and Zavozin punched their ticket to Vancouver as well.
Stefan Lindemann, the 2004 World bronze medalist, won his seventh German title recently. He rallied from third after the short program to win the gold medal. He slipped past defending champion Peter Liebers by less than two points.
Sarah Hecken won her second German gold medal. An injured Annette Dytrt, a five-time champion, did not compete. With one ladies pot on the line for the 2010 Games, Europeans will likely decide who claims the trip to Vancouver.
Two-time and reigning World pairs champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy sat out the competition (it was recently learned Savchenko was sick). Maylin Hausch and Daniel Wende won the title. In ice dancing, three-time champions Christina Beier and William Beier claimed their fourth title.
The John Wilson/MK British Championships saw a record number of participants competing in Sheffield, England. Jenna McCorkell won her fourth consecutive ladies title and seventh overall. Mathew Parr repeated as the men's champion. Sinead Kerr and John Kerr won their seventh national ice dance title while Stacey Kemp and David King won their fifth straight pairs title.