Smaller Nationals Roundup
National Championships held this week include Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and Four Nationals in Eastern Europe.
The week after the Grand Prix Final is when most of Europe hold their Nationals. A few countries do it earlier; Australia did it the week of. And the bigger countries do it later. But it was still a busy week. Some of the National Championships held this weekend were too small for anything of significance to happen there, and quite a few would’ve been far less exciting if there hadn’t been Olympic berths at stake. Although unlike some of the bigger countries, the smaller ones rarely decide the fate of those on Nationals alone. More typically they combine the results of Nationals with the results their skaters get at various international events, including the European Championships in January. So only two of the many countries holding Nationals decided their full Olympic teams this week. But when these Nationals do often determine who goes to Europeans anyway, they were still a very vital part of the qualifying process.
Still, these competitions are small enough four of the countries involved even hold their Nationals as one big competition. The bigger ones this week included the stalwarts of Western Europe: Italy, France, and Germany. A number was livestreamed, while French TV actually broadcast their Nationals.
Four Nationals in Kosice, Slovakia, might have had the skaters of that country, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland in it, but it went on without some of the top ones. Top home skater Nicole Rajicova was out due to health issues, as were Czech pairs teams Anna Duskova & Martin Bidar, and Czech star Michal Brezina and ice dance team Nicole Kuzmichova & Alexandr Sinicyn also sat the event out. This meant that while the four countries have seven Olympic berths between them, most of them weren’t affected by the results here. Only one truly was-but that one saw a shock result.
With Brezina out, the top of the standings saw a Polish and a Czech battle. Initially Poles Igor Reznichenko and Krzystof Gala went 1-2, the former landing the segment’s only clean triple axel jump, if not his quadruple jump, and the latter his quad-triple jump combination, if not his axel. The both landed the axel but not the quad in the free, but then Gala made enough other mistakes to drop to fourth, handing Reznichenko his second Polish title. Reznichenko had just enough errors to lose the segment, but still topped the leaderboard, just ahead of young Czech brothers Jiri and Matyas Belohradsky.
Matyas won the free skate by .13, his free clean but for one double. But when neither brother tried the triple axel, an unclean short had left him sixth, and he could only pull up to third. Jiri, third in both segments, claimed his second straight Czech title. His short had been clean, and his free was very similar to his brother’s. In seventh and eighth respectively, Hungarian Alexander Maszljanko and Slovakian Michael Neuman both claimed their second national titles. Neither skated their best, but everyone else from their countries fared much worse.
The first surprise of the ladies competition was when Czech newcomer (in multiple ways; she’s a recent immigrant) Dahyun Ko topped the leaderboard by .14 after the short. But she followed up a good short by struggling with all her triples in a sixth-place free, and dropped to fifth. Eliska Brezinova had missed her combination in the short, but rose up to take both the top spot and her fifth Czech title. She did it mainly on the first half of her free skate; a few jumps went wrong after that. The other two expected Czech contenders, Michaela Lucie Hanzlikova and Elizeveta Ukolova, both skated badly and came in seventh and eleventh. Behind Brezinova in second and third came two Hungarians, but the big shock was the order they were in.
When Ivett Toth had earned Hungary an Olympic berth at the World Championships, she was thought safe for it. But she didn’t recover from her fall injury fast enough, and a disastrous short left her four points behind Fruzsina Medgyesi. Medgyesi didn’t land anything harder than the triple salchow through the competition, but Toth didn’t landed anything harder than a toe. Toth managed to squeak the free skate out sheerly on her presentation scores, but by less than a point. Medgyesi’s lead held and she claimed her first National title. But there’s berths for them both at Europeans, so one imagines the decision of whom to send to the Olympics can wait until after that.
Elzbieta Gabryszak won her second straight Polish title in fourth. She had a fall in the short, but her free was more clean than not, despite singling her salchows. The triple loop was the hardest jump she tried. With Rajicova out, the Slovakian title went to another American import: young Four Nationals debutante Silvia Hugec, who finished sixth. She too tried nothing harder than her loop and struggled with her salchow in both programs, as well as the back half of her free in general.
Duskova & Bidar out meant there was no pairs competition. Of the six senior ice dance teams, three of them were Polish, including Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev, who took their fourth straight national title. Despite a transitional slip, their free dance was one of the week’s highlights:
New Hungarian team Anna Yanovskaya & Adam Lukacs narrowly edged out second over another Polish team, Justyna Plutowska & Jeremi Flemen, and Cortney Mansour & Michael Ceska, who claimed their second straight Czech title. They’d had the highest short dance tariff of the three. Plutowska & Flemin actually had the highest free dance tariff, but didn’t do their elements as well; Mansour & Ceska stayed behind them only because of a low short dance tariff. Lucie Mysliveckova & Lukas Csolley claimed their second straight Slovakian title together, but were further behind. Hungarians Villo Marton & Daniel Semko won the junior ice dance, Four Nationals’ only junior event.
View full results here.
French skating officials are infamous for doing whatever they want, and just how much impact the France Elites will have on the Olympic team is hard to predict. It may even be decided purely on European results. But this did determine who got to go there in the first place. Indeed, Chafik Besseghier put himself in good position here winning his second title. He won by being the cleanest, and while he struggled with quads and triple axels, he still landed a quad salchow in his free. Kevin Aymoz narrowly claimed silver and the second Europeans berth over Romain Ponsart, rebounding from a bad short. His free had some early errors as well, but Ponsart fell on both quad and axel, and when he’d already fallen on the former in the short too.
They probably really want to send Laurine Lecavelier to the Olympics. But it’ll be hard to justify when Mae Berenice Meite, who claimed her fourth title, has now made their head to head this season 3-0. She was the only lady to land a triple-triple, a triple flip-triple toe in both programs. Her short was clean, and her free not far off, though after fighting for a couple more jumps she did fall on a late lutz. Lecavelier missed the triple-triple in both programs, underrotating two combinations in the free, and doing an unplanned third got her three-jump invalidated. In contrast, bronze medalist Lea Serna did only two combinations in her free. But landing most of her easier jump content got her second in the segment, if by only a point. Lecavelier’s silver will take her to Europeans, though, so it isn’t over yet.
Pairs there’s no dispute who’s going to the Olympics, even when they didn’t skate here. Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres withdrew after she injured her shoulder, although the reporter who tweeted it claimed it was “precautionary.” That gave Lola Esbrat & Andrei Novoselov a chance to win their first national title together, which they did, even when most of their jump elements went wrong. At least that got them the second European berth.
Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron were always winning their fourth straight, and that remained true even after she slipped and fell in a subpar short dance. Especially when they returned to their more typical divine perfect selves in the free dance. The judges gave came very close to giving them the highest score it’s possible for an ice dance team to get. This was partially nationals scoring, of course, but only partially:
France’s second Olympic dance berth may be decided by eligibility. Angelique Abachkina & Louis Thauron both have citizenship, while the prospects for Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain le Gac are uncertain when she doesn’t yet. The former outskated the latter in the short dance too, but got a technical tariff a point lower in the short dance, and so finished only seven hundredths below them. But then late in the free dance, it was Abachkina’s turn to slip, coming out of a lift. Lauriault & le Gac then delivered for silver, and even maxed out a combination lift. All three teams will go to Europeans.
View full results here.
Italian Olympic qualification makes direct use of scores earned at international competitions through Europeans, but also of scores at the Campionati Italiani in Milan. But they’ve only one men’s berth at Europeans, so after winning his first ever National title here, Matteo Rizzo was confirmed as in. Technically, he was clean in both programs, though he had to hold onto things in the free and was unable to manage one combination. Silver medalist Ivan Righini, who also skated well, actually had more technical content than him there. But he fell on an underrotated axel, and even his clean short was behind Rizzo’s. Bronze medalist Maurizio Zandron also skated pretty well, but not quite cleanly in either program. Indeed, he needed his presentation to hold off young Daniel Grassl.
There were plenty of impressive performances in Milan, but Carolina Kostner’s short program was on another level. With her artistry, expressiveness, and skating beauty at full power, and her even throwing in a difficult triple flip-triple toe, Kostner did a skate worthy of an Olympic champion:
Her free was pretty good too, even if she still didn’t manage a triple-triple there and struggled with her salchow (which she made a point of landing in a victory lap). Fifteen years after her first national title, she took her ninth by nearly sixty points!
The gap was partly because normal number two Robert Rodghiero withdrew due to health issues, and the other seven ladies in the field all struggled with their triples. Silver medalist Giada Russo, who started the week even with Micol Cristini in the race for Italy’s second Olympic berth, rotated none of her hard ones, and not all of her easier ones. But in her short especially, she showed herself the best performer after Kostner, which helped hold her up. Meanwhile, Cristini had two far worse programs, and finished a distant fourth. Bronze instead went to Elisabetta Leccardi, who has mostly skated junior internationally. She rotated only two triples throughout the whole thing, but one of them was a triple flip. She is old enough for Europeans, where Italy has three berths, though it’s not yet clear who’ll they’ll send.
With the only other team in the field far behind, Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise and Valentina Marchei & Ondrej Hotarek had their usual face-off for the senior pairs title. Skating clean in the short when the other team didn’t initially gave Marchei & Hotarek the advantage. But while Della Monica & Guarise’s jump elements were rough in the free too, Marchei & Hotarek fared far worse on theirs, and botched a lift. Della Monica & Guarise won their third straight. Happily, Italy has two pairs berths for all the big senior events, so neither team actually has to worry about qualifying.
Competing against three other teams, Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte were never better in winning of their seventh straight dance title. Their free dance was especially beautiful. The judges were deeply generous in rewarding them, with their maxing out both their sets of twizzles and all their lifts except the last. For the second week in a row, Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri gave their all, and it simply wasn’t enough for more than silver. The judges still scored them pretty high, though, and they too maxed out their free dance twizzles. They’re probably very happy there’s a second Olympic berth for them too. There all also three for Europeans, so bronze medalists Jasmine Tessari & Francesco Fioretti should join them there.
Nik Folini won a junior men’s contest where the top three were pretty close in the scores. He had to come back from a bad short, but in the free was the cleanest of the three. In contrast, Lucrezia Beccari blew the other junior ladies out. She was the only one among them to land multiple difficult triples in both programs. Sara Carli & Marco Pauletti also blew out the only other junior pair, managing at least some of their elements well; the other team didn’t. Chiara Calderone & Pietro Papetti likewise won the junior dance by a sizable margin.
View full results here.
Germany’s qualification process for the season’s later events runs throughout the fall, making use of the top scores of skaters from all their international competitions, and their World Championship qualification process will finish at Europeans. Their Olympic qualification process, however, finished at the Deutsche Meisterschaften im Eiskunstlaufen in Frankfurt. (Officially, only two berths have been filled, but there’s no further opportunity for things to change for the other berths either.)
Paul Fentz started the week at a disadvantage in the race for the Olympic berth he earned at Worlds, with Peter Liebers slightly ahead. None of the other three men competing were anywhere near them. But while Fentz’s short program wasn’t good, Liebers’ was worse. His free program also had a couple of falls, including on his quad attempt, but he still pulled off enough technical content to win his first ever national title, and by more than enough over Liebers to claim the ticket to Korea. Liebers improved in the free, but still had axel issues, and wasn’t trying any quads. He will have to console himself with Europeans, after which he plans to retire.
Nicole Schott had already pretty much won the ladies berth she too earned at Worlds, and she sealed it with her third National title. She skated well, too, despite exactly one error in each program. She landed an easier triple-triple in both programs; the only other skater to land one was silver medalist Nathalie Wienzierl in the short. But Wienzierl had errors on her other jumps, including two falls in the free. Her international results have been weak enough she didn’t even make Europeans, bronze medalist Lea Johanna Dastich beat her to Germany’s second berth there. She was the only lady to go for a harder triple-triple, which wasn’t clean, and she too had free skate errors. She still pulled off far more technical content than Wienzierl; she was third only due to presentation scores.
The two pairs berths had also pretty much been settled by the earlier results. Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot were even officially qualified already, thanks to their Grand Prix Final gold. With three of their free skate elements maxing out here, they had no trouble winning their third title together, even without any clean side by side jump elements. They didn’t need those to be the best thing in Frankfurt either:
The other two teams had similar struggles on side by sides, though Minerva-Fabienne Hase & Nolan Seegart at least had decent triple toes. That and more or less pulling the rest of their free off helped them beat a slightly messier Annika Hocke & Ruben Blommaert for the silver. But it wasn’t by nearly enough to overtake them in the Olympic race.
Technically all four ice dance teams remained in the Olympic race, but the only real threat to Kavita Lorenz & Joti Polizoakis were Katharina Mueller & Tim Dieck. In the end, they took care of things easily by winning their third straight. They were firmly the strongest team, especially in the short dance. Mueller & Dick had to hold of Shari Koch & Christian Nuchtern, who got the highest technical tariffs of anyone in both segments, though they ultimately did for silver. There was a junior ice dance competition as well, which Ria Schwendinger & Valentin Wunderlich won by a large margin.
View full results here.
For Spain, too, the qualifying process ended with the Campeonato de España in Jaca. None of the senior fields had more than three entries, but two Olympic berths were in play, both decided based on the contenders’ combined scores from here and the Golden Spin of Zagreb last week. Although Javier Fernandez was granted their first men’s berth when the criteria were released in the summer, since it would’ve been the height of absurdity not to send him. Nor was winning his eighth national title ever a problem. In the short, he managed the quads, fell trying a spin, and maxed out his step sequence. His free had a clean quad and quad-triple, a fall on his third quad, and doubled and singled axels.
Javier Raya, originally favorite for the second men’s berth, came in needing to make up over twenty-five points on Felipe Montoya. He made eleven of them up by getting through his short program with a couple of stumbles. Montoya’s program had less technical content, plus a fall. But then Montoya outscored him in the free by almost as much. Raya underrotated and fell on his only triple axel attempt there, and with another underrotation he lost his technical advantage, even when Montoya had one and a double. Despite these mistakes, Montoya’s was still the cleanest free of the night. Raya won silver, but Montoya won the second berth.
There were no senior ladies competition, but there were two senior pairs. New team Laura Barquero & Aritz Maestu were firmly the stronger of the two, even pulling off some harder jump elements in a fairly clean free, though their short had been less good.
Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khavalian came in with a four-point advantage over Olivia Smart & Adria Diaz from Zagreb. Then they had a loose set of twizzles, with Smart & Diaz being perfect, and they’d lost all of it going into the free dance. But there Smart & Diaz were hit with level twos on their step sequences. Meanwhile, Hurtado & Khavalian held their twizzles better, and the rest of the program was good enough to win the segment by two points.
Smart & Diaz still hung on to win their first National title together. But when the scores combined with those from Zagreb, Hurtado & Khavalian won the Olympic berth by .95. The Spanish federation did, however, give Smart & Diaz Worlds as a consolation prize.
Alex Gabara trounced four other junior men, mostly by making fewer mistakes. Belen Alvarez likewise easily won the junior ladies; her triple toe loop in each program were the only two triples anyone landed. Isabella Gamez & Ton Consul were the only junior pair; their short went a little better than their free. Of the two junior ice dance teams, Malene Nichita-Basquin & Jaime Garcia won firmly, having a better free dance than short.
View full results here.
Australian Nationals was a seven-day affair, having competitions for most of the levels of figure and synchronized skating that anyone Australian competes in. Some of those events had bigger fields than others, but the senior and junior fields were all small, the largest being the junior ladies. It was perhaps a little less suspenseful because their Olympic team has already been named, but who would get sent to the various ISU Championships remained at stake.
That he’s already on the Olympic team certainly must have been reassurance to Brendan Kerry after one of his more disastrous shorts left him in fifth. But he was better enough than the other seven men that he made the eight point gap up with his free skate even when he had some doubled jumps, including the quad attempt, to claim his sixth title. Mark Webster, who had won the short, made too many mistakes and slipped to third, behind Andrew Dodds. Even when he had a couple of falls himself and no triple axel, Dodd’s performance ability earned praise and the highest presentation scores in both segments:
Kailani Craine had a far smoother path to her fourth straight, since main rival Brooklee Han was out with injury. Her programs were pretty good, too, although he she did underrotate her harder combinations. She was the only one of the six skaters to even have consistent triples, and neither silver medalists Amelia Scarlett Jackson nor bronze medalist Katie Pasfield even partially rotated any of the ones they attempted, though not attempting any in the free allowed Jackson to have a pretty good skate.
With Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya & Harley Windsor off winning the Junior Grand Prix Final, Paris Stephens & Matt Dodds were the only senior pair. They took their fourth title with a pair of very messy skates. Andrew Dodds this year also starting ice dancing with fellow singles skater Chantelle Kerry, and they easily won the two team senior dance event with their general skating and artistic ability, though technically they especially had issues with the short dance twizzles.
Darian Kaptich came back from third to win a six-skater junior men’s competition by skating the only half-decent free program. Australia allows skaters to compete in multiple levels, and Amelia Scarlett Jackson came back from second and won the junior ladies, this time trying no triples anywhere but skating a completely clean free. Kaitlyn Ineson & Tremayne Bevan were the only junior pair, and were even messier than Stephens & Dodds. Like Kerry & Dodds, Jessica Palfreyman & Charleton Doherty won the two-team junior dance competition by a huge margin.
View full results here.
At Finland’s National Championships in Vantaa, all eyes were on the ladies. When Viveca Lindfors earned Finland an Olympic berth in the ladies at Nebelhorn, the federation said it would send whoever earned the highest combined technical score of the season. Here, she actually came in second behind Emmi Peltonen, who won her second straight national title. But it was entirely on presentation scores; Lindfors was technically superior in both programs. She had the harder content in the short, and went for the harder triple-triple in the free, though both ladies made multiple mistakes. Both got their highest combined, and will go to Europeans, where it remains to be seen if the race will change. Jenni Saarinen won bronze some way behind them; no one else skated a good free at all.
There were three senior men. Initially Bela Papp led by more or less landing his jumps, while Valtter Virtanen singled his axel. Papp skated cleaner in the free too, where Virtanen fell twice and rotated neither axel nor quad. But when Papp tried neither, Virtanen still had more technical content, and enough so that he pulled ahead to win his fifth title. There were no pairs, but there were also three senior ice dance teams. Cecilia Torn & Jussiville Partanen managed to take their third straight, but Juulia Turkkila & Matthias Versluis kept it relatively close, especially in the free dance, where they were even the stronger team technically.
There were also junior singles competitions. Benjamin Papp had a disastrous short, but once his free was half-decent, he was better enough than the other four junior men to come back from third and win by a large margin. In contrast, Sofia Shula had to win the junior ladies on the strength of her clean short. She had rough enough a free to concede that segment to silver medalist Vera Stolt, who was far cleaner, though she’d had more trouble in her fourth place short.
View full results here.
At the Championnats Suisses in Neuchatel, too, the country’s one Olympic berth was in play in the ladies, though they are also second alternate in the men. Swiss sports officials are demanding enough, though, that they’re unlikely to send anyone other than the two skaters who earned those positions at Nebelhorn, Alexia Paganini & Stephane Walker, and even for Paganini things aren’t certain. The singles competitions were the significant ones here; technically they had pairs and dance competitions, and their only non-senior event was junior ice dance, but all three of those competitions had only one entry.
Walker must have gotten a real scare, too, when his short went so badly he actually ended up in fourth, even when the top three didn’t skate well either. But by foregoing the triple axel he more or less managed things in the free, and was better enough than the other seven men to win his fifth title by over twenty points. Silver medalist Nicola Todeschini was the only man to land the axel; it helped him improve in the free. Bronze medalist Lukas Britschgi, who won the short program, also tried it, but without success, and his free was messier.
Alexia Paganini won both segments of the senior ladies to claim her first national title, skating a clean short with an easier triple-triple, though one of three doubled jumps in the free cost her a harder one there. Initially Yasmine Yamada, who also pulled the triple-triple off in a slightly technically stronger short, tailed her closely. But she fell three times in a fourth-place free, and dropped to third, about a point behind Yoonmi Lehmann, who didn’t try anything harder than a triple loop, but landed most of her jumps.
View full results here.
The Swedish Championships in Skelleftea were another one where the singles competitions where it was basically singles at the top levels. There was no senior pairs competition, and the senior and junior dance competitions and junior pairs competitions all had only one entry. The men’s competition was small too, with Alexander Majorov beating two other skaters to his fifth title by nearly eighty points. But he didn’t skate a good short, and while his free was close to clean and included a quad, his score was still not far above 230. The question remains whether Swedish officials will allow him to use the Olympic berth he earned at Nebelhorn.
And meanwhile, the ladies’ berth has been thrown for a loop when she who earned it finished nearly twenty points behind the winner. Anita Ostlund wasn’t clean in either program, but her free included a hard triple-triple and by far the most technical content for her first ever national title. Matilda Algotsson had a terrible short, and even in the free she had two singles and a fall. She was barely able to pull up to second over Josefin Taljegard, and when the latter had a bad free herself. Sweden does have two berths to send them both to Europeans to settle it, if they so wish. But with the high demands of Swedish officials, there’s even the possibility they won’t send anyone at all.
There were five junior men; Gabriel Folkesson won by nearly twenty points, though he narrowly lost the free skate to Alexander Majarov’s younger brother Nikolaj. Folkesson was the only competitor to land the triple axel, which he did in the short program only; it was one of multiple free program mistakes. Selma Ihr also won the junior ladies by a comfortable margin, even landing an easier triple-triple in the free skate.
View full results here.
Next week is both Russian and Japanese Nationals. Also Chinese Nationals, but we may not get news of that one so quickly.