Sinitsina and Katsalapov

It has been a season of change in the ice dance ranks with many teams making quantum leaps in the standings and emerging as victors on the international stages.

The rhythm dance at the 2020 European Championships signalled a possible change at the top of the podium. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron had not lost a competition since the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. In the hunt for a sixth consecutive European title, the French duo knew the main challenge would likely come from Russia’s Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov. Though Sinitsina and Katsalapov finished sixth at the 2019 Grand Prix Final, they went home, revamped their free dance, and claimed a runaway victory at their home championships two weeks later.

Papadakis and Cizeron won the rhythm dance portion of the competition but lost a level on the step sequence and the diagonal steps. Their score of 88.78 narrowly edged out Sinitsina and Katsalapov by 0.05 of a point. If both teams skated to their full potential in the free dance, it would be a close call that could go either way.

Sinitsina and Katsalapov produced one of the best free skates of their career to “Songs My Mother Taught Me” by Anton Dvořak, but Katsalapov lost a Level on the one foot step sequence and the serpentine step sequence garnered a Level 3. But it was enough. With a new personal best of 131.69 points for the free dance and 220.42 in total, the Russian team captured their first title by just 0.14 of a point.

With their win, they broke a seven-year drought for Russian ice dance at a European Championships. The last team to claim a European title was Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloyvev in 2013. “Vika and I wanted to show our performance, to show our program the way we trained it and, if possible, to skate clean and show all we can. I think we did that today and we are so happy,” said Katsalapov. “I can’t say we expected to be sitting in the middle. To get anywhere near Gabriella and Guillaume seemed impossible for all the skaters.”

The French duo performed well in their free dance set to “Find Me” by Forest Blakk with music by Olafur Arnalds. But it was not smooth sailing with the four-time World champions losing levels on two of the elements. With a score of 131.50 for the segment and 220.28 points in total the team finished in second place. Papadakis acknowledged that “we can’t always win and we accept that. It is a lesson for us that we probably needed. We knew the competition was very close, so yes, we knew we did not have room for mistakes … and we made them.”

Fourth after the rhythm dance, Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin captured the bronze with a solid performance to “Experience” by Ludovico Einaudi and “Cry Me a River.” The 2019 European silver medalists earned a personal best score of 127.64 for the free dance and 211.29 points overall.

“Last year, we were silver medalists, so bronze this year … I wouldn’t say it is a step back as the competition was extremely tough,” said Bukin. “We are pleased that we are on the podium. Most of all we’re happy that we skated well and with emotion. We are so happy for Vika and Nikita. It has been long since Russia won the ice dance event. But we also love the French and wish them the very best.”  

Italy’s Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri, third after the rhythm dance, dropped to fourth with 205.58 points. Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson of Great Britain continue their rise up the ice dance ladder, finishing fifth (192.34), and Russia’s Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro rounded out the top six with 188.03 points.

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