2020 European Championships Pairs Review: Will The Real Clean Performance Please Stand Up?

Usually, the European Championships are an exciting event featuring some great performances. But sometimes, there’s just a year where chaos reigns, and 2020 was that year. I honestly don’t have too much to say about this event – it was, to be honest, a big mess (with a few exceptions, of course).

I will start my review of Euros in a minute, but first, I need to take a minute and address the elephant in the room. There was one key pair missing from this event, and we all knew it: Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres. As many of you know, they were absent due to the sexual harassment investigation surrounding Cipres, and it is uncertain if they will return to competition. I’ve heard some people bemoaning the loss of a great pair to the sport, and objectively, I agree. They were strong, innovative skaters who brought a breath of fresh air to the ice, and I will miss their performances. But at the end of the day, Cipres has only himself to blame. Nobody made him go harass an underage girl at his rink. He did something wrong and, for the safety of other athletes, he shouldn’t be allowed at competitions where there are dozens of young girls who could possibly be his next victims.

I am most distressed by the fact that no governing body has given him a real punishment. It seems that the only reason why James/Cipres aren’t at Europeans is because their coaches are in Florida and he can’t return to the United States because the Florida police know what’s up. Literally, they could get coaches outside of the US and return to competition at Worlds and nothing would stop them. Morgan himself posted an Instagram story hinting that they plan to compete again soon. The fact that the ISU, the French Figure Skating Federation, and the French Olympic Committee are aware that there is a criminal in their midst and have taken no action shows just how little they actually seem to care about real issues in the sport, especially considering the punishments that have been handed down to other athletes. Let’s not forget how Carolina Kostner was banned from skating for over a year just because she lied to officials about her boyfriend’s doping. Ivan Bukin missed out on the Olympics and we still don’t even know why. Clearly, these governing bodies have the power to bar athletes from competition for much smaller offenses, so sexual harassment of a minor should be at the top of the priority list.
I’m glad to see the general consensus on social media is that his actions must be condemned. However, all the public disapproval in the world is still not official punishment. Every fan in the arena could boo him as he takes the ice – or as one fan suggested, simply ignore his presence in silent protest – but they can’t forcibly remove him. To say I’m disappointed doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings on this situation.

Unfortunately, my words will not change the outcome of this situation, so let’s take a look at the pairs’ competition at this event.

Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitri Kozlovskii:
So far, it’s been a colossal season for Boikova/Kozlovskii. They picked up two gold medals on the Grand Prix, then edged out Tarasova/Morozov for their first national title. I think these programs really play to their strengths. They have such strong elements, lines, and posture that they don’t need a big, showy masterpiece to cover up their weaknesses. These programs take a back seat and let the skating do the talking. They aren’t trying to do programs that are above their maturity level or so intricate that they can’t focus on the elements. It’s a smart strategy and it’s clearly paying off this season. I really enjoy this team and I hope they have a bright, long career ahead of them. They came into this event looking strong, steady, and ready to claim their title. I never even doubted for a moment that they would win because they have been skating so solidly all season and didn’t even look nervous. Remember, this team is only in their second year as seniors, they’re already trampling the rest of the competition, and they don’t even seem afraid of it. Respect.

However, I will admit I’m a bit surprised at how quickly their scores have snowballed, particularly the PCS. They’re solid, well-rounded performers, but I think the boost in scores is thanks to their incredible consistency. Boikova/Kozlovskii soundly beat Tarasova/Morozov in all five categories of PCS, including Tarasova/Morozov’s specialty – skating skills. In short, I think the judges have channeled Dmitri’s exuberant enthusiasm when it came to punching in the PCS. They’re already winning by a mile; they don’t need help. Still, it was clear that Boikova/Kozlovskii brought their A-game and no one else could even come close to catching them. They deserved to win here without a doubt, and their performances were in every way deserving of credit. I’ve become quite a big fan of them this year, and I’m eager to see what’s in store for them in the future. I just really want the best for them.

Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov:
Tarasova/Morozov’s season got off to a shaky start, but they looked like they’d gotten their mojo back at nationals. The short program is strong, bold, and surprisingly sensual – and not in a cringey way. For a moment, I thought they were going to have a repeat of their fabulous SP from Nationals…and then they botched the lift. It was scary but I’m impressed at how he managed not to drop her. Warning: if you have anxiety, watching pair skating is probably not good for you.
I’ve never been crazy about this free skate music, but the choreography is good. They’ve never had an overwhelming amount of chemistry on the ice – not everyone is meant to be Virtue/Moir – but this program allows them to relate to each other between the elements. Unfortunately, the side-by-side jumps decided not to show up for them. They just seemed tight. I feel like this team just has really bad luck. Their elements are beautiful. Their skating skills are second to none. They finally have great programs. But every time they have a chance, something goes wrong. I don’t know why. One day it’s the side-by-sides, the next day it’s the throws, and the day after that it’s a lift. It doesn’t seem to be a technique problem, so I think it’s all about the nerves. They just looked out of it. It’s such a shame because these two SHOULD be on top. They’re more seasoned that Boikova/Kozlovskii and have a bit more refinement – they should be winning everything! I really hope they figure something out, because Russian pairs is a very competitive field, and I would hate to see them get passed up for consistent but less talented teams. I was surprised they ended up with the silver after their costly mistakes, but I think the judges respected the quality of their overall skating and made the right call. On a happy note, her free skate dress was the best part of the event. It really did make all the difference for my impression of the program!

Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin:
Daria and Denis came into the season as underdogs, but they brought their A-game to Nationals and slipped past Mishina/Galliamov for the third ticket to Euros. As usual, the short program was a stunner. It works to their strengths (easy, floating elements) and hides their weaknesses (chemistry and cohesiveness as a pair, which I think is largely due to their size/age difference). I believe if Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot had paired up when they were teenagers, they would’ve looked like Pavliuchenko/Khodykin. She is this tiny, deadpan lioness cub and he is a big teddy bear. This aesthetic is working for them in the short program, but in the free skate, it’s like watching a completely different pair. This Tron program is just boring and does nothing for them. To pull off a funky modern program, you need to have 1) two partners with godly skating skills, 2) lines that would make Bolshoi ballerinas hang their heads in shame, and 3) an intense presence that draws everyone into the performance from the first movement. It’s no easy feat, and unfortunately, they just missed the mark on this. I guess we have Tatiana Tarasova to thank for the short program and Daniil Gleikhengauz to blame for the free skate. I was keeping up with the event through Jackie Wong’s twitter coverage, and he thought Pavliuchenko/Khodykin would go ahead of Tarasova/Morozov before the scores came in. From a technical standpoint, I would agree – P/K landed everything cleanly except the throw jump, whereas T/M had two mistakes in the free skate as well as the botched lift in the SP. However, there’s a clear gap between T/M and P/K in the PCS department. I am usually the last person to support the idea of holding up skaters based on PCS, but there is such a big difference in the level of maturity of T/M’s free skate versus P/K’s. And I say this as a Pavliuchenko/Khodykin supporter. Call me up when they get a new free skate. However, I’m still happy that they got bronze here, and this should be enough to guarantee them the third spot to Worlds.

Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise:
After a strong season last year, Nicole and Matteo hit a bump in the road when Nicole injured her shoulder over the summer. Since then, they’ve really been trying to get their feet back under them in a tough field. For some reason, this slow, dark cover of “Crazy in Love” gives me serious Desperate Housewives vibes, but I kind of like it. Nicole looked so fierce and fabulous and Matteo’s always pretty to look at; I wasn’t sure about this program at first but it’s really growing on me. This new dress is a big improvement and doesn’t seem to be riding up so much. The free skate feels very much on brand for them, and I don’t mind it at all. With the level of competition and the surprising mistakes from some of the teams, they had an outside shot at a medal here, but they had too many mistakes in the FS. Still, it’s an improvement from what we were seeing on the Grand Prix for them, and fourth place at Europeans is nothing to cry about.

Minerva Fabienne Hase/Nolan Seegert:
This team has really grown on me. They’re light and lovely on the ice, especially in the short program. There’s something graceful and emotional about her skating that reminds me of Kaitlyn Weaver. They skated a clean SP and I thought they were a bit underscored – it was one of the best performances of the night for me. I’m still not a fan of this free skate for them because it fails to showcase that ethereal softness in their skating. You don’t put Sleeping Beauty in a rock-and-roll program. However, I think they’re doing the best they can with it, and it’s looking less awkward as the season goes on. There were a few errors on the jumps that didn’t help them, but I think they’re a promising pair with some good elements.

Miriam Ziegler/Severin Kiefer:
It was home ice for Miriam and Severin here in Austria, so I was hoping for two great performances for them. I’ve been a big fan of them for the past few years – they have a very pleasant quality on the ice. They’ve been skating together for many seasons now, and there’s a refinement in their packaging that you don’t see too often anymore. They chose to go back to their beloved short program from a few seasons ago: “10,000 Miles”. While I didn’t mind the flapper program they had earlier this season (and now that we’re in the Roaring 2020s, it would’ve been fun), I think this was the right move. This program is a huge crowd-pleaser, and when the home crowd gets behind you, so will the judges. They really got into the performance, and I’m so happy they had their awesome moment of the event. It’s too bad they couldn’t maintain that in the free skate – the jumps just got messy. Still, I’ve been in love with this program since they first debuted it; it’s beautiful and emotional in a quiet way, and when it’s skated well, it casts a spell over the audience. Which is why I need them to skate it clean at Worlds. #optimism

I regret to admit that I may not update this blog as frequently as I have for the first half of this season. I am halfway through my junior year of high school, and my schedule is quickly filling up with honors classes, studying for my ACT test in March, applying for scholarships, and trying to get into the National Honor Society. Although figure skating has been my passion for almost six years now, my top priority right now is graduating from high school and getting accepted into college so I can pursue a career and make a living (and maybe get rich enough to attend some skating competitions in the future!). I will continue to blog when I can, but I can’t guarantee weekly posts at the moment. However, you can always find me on Twitter (@mad4skating) and on my new YouTube channel, Fairy on Ice.
Until next time, happy skating, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

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