Mark Kondratiuk smashes personal best by over 36 points to be crowned European champion

Kondratiuk wins from Italy's Daniel Grassl and Latvia's Deniss Vasiljevs as the top three men all record new personal bests. Sinitsina / Katsalapov lead the ice dance from Russian teammates Stepanova / Bukin.

By ZK Goh
Picture by 2021 Olympic Channel

The Russian sweep is on at the 2022 European Figure Skating Championships.

Mark Kondratiuk, the Russian national champion in men's singles, ensured a likely lock-out of all four events for the country after breaking his personal best score by over 36 points to claim gold on a scintillating Friday (14 January) in Tallinn, Estonia.

The top three men – Kondratiuk, Daniel Grassl of Italy, and Latvian Deniss Vasiljevs – all posted new personal record scores, while earlier in a high-quality rhythm dance, ice dance world champions Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov edged out a slender lead. More on ice dance below.

Kondratiuk's win is the second recorded by Russian athletes in Estonia after pairs world champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov took gold in that event on Thursday.

However, there was stark disappointment for Kondratiuk's teammates Evgeni Semenenko and short program leader Andrei Mozalev, who each committed costly errors in their routines.

"I'm pleased with the elements I performed but I'm not so pleased with my overall skating, I would like to have been more emotional in my skating like at Russian nationals," Kondratiuk said afterwards.

Men's: Kondratiuk, Grassl, and Vasiljevs wow as others stumble

It has been quite the meteoric rise for Kondratiuk, the new European champion.

A relative unknown until last year's pandemic-hit season, he caught attention when he moved Olympic silver medallist Evgenia Medvedeva to tears with a routine at a domestic event.

His senior international Grand Prix debut ended in a disappointing 8th-placed finish at this year's Rostelecom Cup, before he stunned favourite Mikhail Kolyada to take the national title.

In Tallinn on Friday, he landed three quads – a toe loop and two Salchows – and performed a number of Rippon jumps with his arms above his head in a routine that caught the judges' eyes.

Although he visibly tired towards the end, he had done enough to receive a free skate score of 187.50 for a total of 286.56 – far exceeding his previous bests by some 22 and 36 points respectively.

There was also joy for Grassl and Vasiljevs, each collecting their first major Championship medals.

While Grassl struggled with his Lutz edges, being marked down on both his triple Lutzes, his Armageddon routine delivered him silver, adding to what has been a strong season. Grassl also won Grand Prix bronze on home ice at the Gran Premio d'Italia in November.

His total score was 274.48 points, five points ahead of his previous record.

Latvia's Vasiljevs, meanwhile, was simply sublime in his execution of a routine set to Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet suite.

He opened with a quadruple Salchow, a jump he has been working on, although he landed it a quarter rotation short; he was also called for an unclear edge on a triple flip.

It was otherwise a brilliant performance, with coach Stéphane Lambiel exclaiming "Are you kidding me!" in delight as the skater left the ice.

That was good for a total of 272.08 – the skate of his life, breaking his personal record by nearly 18 points.

For three others, though, there was disappointment. Rostelecom Cup winner Morisi Kvitelashvili fell on his opening jump, a quad Salchow, and never fully recovered, finishing sixth overall, while Semenenko and Mozalev each failed to push their cases for an Olympic selection with costly errors.

Semenenko doubled a planned quad Salchow, while Mozalev – the leader after the short – also struggled on the same jump, landing on two feet a downgraded triple Salchow, while also under-rotating his triple Axel and then repeating the triple Sal at the end of his routine, which therefore did not count as a valid element.

Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov performing in the rhythm dance at the 2021 Rostelecom Cup.
Picture by Olympic Channel 2021

Ice dance: Sinitsina / Katsalapov head Russian one-two after rhythm dance

In ice dance, Sinitsina and Katsalapov lead a one-two for Russia.

The Russian ice dancers showed no sign of being hampered by a recurring back problem for Katsalapov as they skated their way to a season's best 87.89 points – with the top four teams all recording either a season's or personal best score.

Sinitsina and Katsalapov were notably impressive on their midline step sequence, receiving a 3.87 grade of execution score from the judges.

They are just over a point ahead of teammates Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, who blew their personal best out of the water by more than two points.

Stepanova and Bukin looked solid throughout their routine and clearly impressed the judges, scoring a total of 86.45, bettering their previous personal mark of 84.07.

In third place are Italy's Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, themselves with a season's best score of 83.35.

Great Britain's Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson, who feature in the Olympic Channel Original series 'On Edge' about the renowned Ice Academy of Montreal ice dance school, are sitting in fourth with a breathtaking, high-tempo routine that received a personal best 79.97 points.

Fear could be heard telling her coaches as she came off the ice that "we had a lot of fun", although their score being just outside the 80-point barrier did provide a moment of slight disappointment, not that there was anything to be disappointed with at their routine.

Meanwhile, their training mates Olivia Smart and Adrián Díaz lie in fifth on 77.99 points, extending their overall advantage in the race for the single Spanish ice dance Olympic spot.

The European Championships is the final head-to-head qualifying event between them and Sara Hurtado and Kirill Khaliavin for a place at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games in February. The latter duo sit on 75.83 points, having lost a point to a deduction for an extended rotational lift.

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