2017 European ChampionshipsThe 2017 European Championships get underway Wednesday, January 26 in Ostrava, Czech Republic. The ladies short program starts at 11:00 a.m. local time, followed by the pairs short at 6:45 p.m.

This this the first time in the sport’s history that Ostrava will host the European Championships. The city hosted the World Junior Championships in 2003 and several Junior Grand Prix events in the past. 166 skaters from 33 ISU Members have been entered for the Championships. Skaters/Couples need to have obtained a minimum total technical score in Short Program and Free Skating in order to compete at the European Championships. Three reigning European Champions are back and hope to defend their title.

Overview of the top contenders

In the Men’s event reigning European Champion Javier Fernandez (ESP) 25, is in the hunt for a fifth consecutive title, but he has to watch out for strong competitors from Russia, Israel and the Czech Republic. Fernandez, who won two Grand Prix events and placed fourth in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final earlier this season, travels with a season best of 292.98 points to Ostrava. The challenge should come from new Russian Champion Mikhail Kolyada (RUS/seasons best 245.30 points), two-time European medalist Maxim Kovtun (RUS/seasons best 230.75 points) and 2016 European silver medalist Alexei Bychenko (ISR/seasons best 255.52 points). 2013 European bronze medalist Michal Brezina (CZE/seasons best 227.42 points), counts on the home advantage to return on to the podium. Other contenders include 2016 World Junior Champion Daniel Samohin (ISR), Jorik Hendrickx (BEL), 2016 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalist Alexander Samarin (RUS) and Alexander Majorov (SWE).

The Russian Ladies are aiming at a third consecutive podium sweep at the European Championships, but returning five-time European Champion Carolina Kostner (ITA) wants to spoil their party. Reigning World and European Champion Evgenia Medvedeva, 17, so far has been in top form this season and is the one to beat in Ostrava. The ISU Grand Prix Final Champion set a new personal best total score of 227.66 points in Marseille, just short of Yuna Kim’s (KOR) highest score of 228.56 points set at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. 2016 World bronze medalist Anna Pogorilaya (RUS/seasons best 216.47 points) wants to add another medal to her collection and 2016 World Junior silver medalist Maria Sotskova (RUS/seasons best 200.35 points) is looking for a strong debut at the European Championships. Kostner (seasons best 196.23 points) sat out the past two seasons and started her comeback in December. She won her first European title ten years ago in 2007. Others to watch include Joshi Helgesson (SWE), Angelina Kuchvalska (LAT), Laurine Lecavelier (FRA) and Nathalie Weinzierl (GER).

The Pairs event is shaping up as a Russian-German showdown. Two-time and reigning European bronze medalists Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) look like the favorites following their win at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, where they set a personal best of 213.86 points. Defending European silver medalists Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER/seasons best 210.59 points) won their two Grand Prix events but then were sidelined as Savchenko injured her ankle at Trophée de France in November. They had to withdraw from the Grand Prix Final. 2014 Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) even missed the first half of the season completely as Stolbova recovered from injury, but they took the National title in December. Other podium contenders include Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert (RUS), Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA), Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) and Valentina Marchei/Ondrej Hotarek (ITA). Defending champions Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov (RUS) are not competing this season as she is expecting a baby in February.

In the Ice Dance event two-time European and World Champions Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) are looking for their third consecutive title, but they have to expect strong competition. The French claimed the silver medal at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final and come with a seasons best of 193.54 points to Ostrava. 2016 European silver medalists Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte (ITA/seasons best 180.50 points) and 2016 European bronze medalists Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev (seasons best 186.68 points) looked in strong form earlier this season. Other podium challengers are are  2015 European bronze medalists Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS), Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS), Charlene Guignard/Marco Fabbri (ITA) and Isabella Tobias/Ilia Tkachenko (ISR).




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