Friday, January 15, 2010

European skaters enter final Olympic tuneup

The skating may be as hot as the weather is cold as Estonia hosts its first ISU championship when the 2010 European Figure Skating Championships open in Tallinn next week. This will be the final tuneup for the Olympic Winter Games for the skaters, some of whose participation in the Games is dependent on their performances at Europeans.

Among the 2006 Olympians who are fighting for a chance to return to the Games are Italy's Carolina Kostner, the two-time European ladies champion who was beaten at Italian nationals by Valentina Marchei and must place higher than Marchei to make it to Vancouver.

Kostner, the highest ranked European lady in the world rankings at number five, has faltered this season after placing only 12th at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships, a year after she won the silver medal at worlds.

Another tough battle looms among the Finnish ladies, who again have more top ladies than Olympic spots. Defending European champion Laura Lepisto, ranked seventh in the world, faces off against the two ladies who represented Finland in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. Those two ladies, Kiira Korpi and Susanna Poykio, are ranked 13th and 20th respectively in the world rankings.

Poykio placed 13th in the 2006 Olympics while Korpi finished 16th. Both Korpi and Poykio have also scored well at previous European Championships with Poykio winning the silver medal in 2005 and the bronze in 2009, while Korpi won the bronze medal in 2007 and has finished in the top six the past four years.

Russia finally has a legitimate contender for the ladies gold medal at the European Championships for the first time since Irina Slutskaya and Maria Butyrskaya dominated the event in the late 1990s and early 2000s with ten wins in eleven years.

Alena Leonova, the 2009 world junior ladies titlist, finished just off the podium in fourth place at Europeans last season. Leonova, who has jumped to eighth in the world rankings, medaled at two ISU Grand Prix events this season and placed sixth at the ISU Grand Prix Final. She was the only European lady to qualify for the event. Leonova has yet to win in Russia, but was seventh at the World Figure Skating Championships last season.

Leonova will be joined by 2009 Russian ladies champion, Ksenia Makarova, who finished fourth at the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final this season but has not competed as a senior internationally.

Full article.

ETA: Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder have officially withdrawn from the Europeans. The French Federation thought it was better to keep their programs secret until de Olympics.

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