European Figure Skating Championships 2022: Skaters eye titles with Olympic berths on the line
The 2022 European Championships take place in Tallinn, Estonia, from 12–15 January, with a number of Olympic teams expected to be named following its conclusion. Kamila Valieva, the women's world record score holder, will be there. Find out who are the other skaters to watch in our preview below.
Less than a month out from the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, some of Europe's best figure skaters will stake their final claims for a spot on their teams' Olympic rosters at the ISU European Championships in Tallinn, Estonia.
Russian skaters are expected to dominate the competition from 12–15 January at the Tondiraba Ice Hall, which is the final internal selection event for the ROC Olympic team.
World figure skating champions Anna Shcherbakova, Anastasia Mishina / Aleksandr Galliamov, and Victoria Sinitsina / Nikita Katsalapov are all entered, as is Shcherbakova's fellow women's singles skater and world record score holder Kamila Valieva.
The strong Russian team looks likely to clinch victories in women's, pairs, and ice dance, following the withdrawal of French ice dance favourites Gabriella Papadakis / Guillaume Cizeron over Covid-19 concerns.
Read on for a preview of the event, and the likely implications for Beijing 2022.
Men: Russians, Italians look for medals; Aymoz, Kvitelashvili, and Vasiljevs aim to impress
The Russians would appear to be the favourites in most of the events, sending the strongest team to Tallinn. However, in the men's singles event, they're likely to face the most competition.
Russia have sent reigning national champion Mark Kondratiuk, Skate Canada bronze medallist Evgeni Semenenko, and Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games medallist Andrei Mozalev. Mikhail Kolayada, a double silver medallist on the Grand Prix season this year, was originally entered but has withdrawn due to injury.
Kondratiuk, who burst into public consciousness during last year's pandemic-disrupted season before putting together a sub-par Grand Prix campaign this year, appears to have hit top gear at the right time.
His victory at the national championships seemingly put him in pole position to make the ROC Olympic team, but he will need to back it up in Estonia.
As for Semenenko, he too appears well-placed to make the Beijing squad ahead of Dmitri Aliev, another 2018 Olympian, but will need a strong showing to secure his Olympic berth.
A strong chasing pack is led by Rostelecom Cup winner Morisi Kvitelashvili, Italians Daniel Grassl and Matteo Rizzo, France's Kevin Aymoz, and Deniss Vasiljevs of Latvia.
Kvitelashvili was the surprise winner in Sochi ahead of Kolyada and will hope to convert that into a European medal, while Grassl is himself a Grand Prix medallist from the season, clinching bronze on home ice at the Gran Premio d'Italia.
Rizzo, Aymoz, and Vasiljevs are all hoping to bounce back from disappointments on the Grand Prix circuit, but have the pedigree to challenge for a medal.
Women: Three-way Russian battle for gold
It's extremely hard to look past the three Russians entered in the women's singles event to sweep the medals, as they likely will in Beijing as part of the ROC team.
World champion Shcherbakova is looking for her first European gold, having won silver the last time the event was held in 2020 behind teammate Alena Kostornaia, who is not part of the team this year.
The world record score holder Valieva is comfortably the favourite with her triple Axel and big quadruple jumps. Another skater with those in her repertoire is Alexandra Trusova, but she will have to be on her best form – something she has not captured in a while – to take victory.
It appears unlikely that any of the other skaters will push for a medal, although Belgium's Loena Hendrickx did take a Grand Prix bronze medal earlier this season at the Gran Premio d'Italia.
Pairs: Strong Russian pairs set to tussle
As in women's singles, the medal favourites here are the three Russian pairs.
Reigning world champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov come into the competition off the back of two wins on the Grand Prix series this season as well as clinching the national title and are the undoubted favourites at these European Championships too.
Their counterparts Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii are the defending European champions from 2020. Boikova and Kozlovskii, who like Mishina/Galliamov train in St Petersburg under the legendary Tamara Moskvina, will be hoping to defend their title after a mixed season, finishing third at Skate America before winning despite a shaky performance at the Internationaux de France.
The third Russian pair is that of Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who enter the competition after a disappointing national championships at which the duo made errors in both the short and free programs. They won two Grand Prix medals this season – gold at Skate America and silver at the NHK Trophy – and should be part of the ROC Olympic team, but with strength in depth behind them, another poor result might put their spot in jeopardy.
Aside from those three, there were three other Russian pairs who won Grand Prix medals this season, and while they are not competing in Tallinn may still be in the Olympic selection picture for ROC.
Ice dance: Papadakis/Cizeron withdrawal leaves door open; Spanish Olympic selection on the line
Four-time world champions and Olympic gold medal favourites Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron have withdrawn from the Championships due to concerns over catching the coronavirus ahead of the Olympic Games, which leaves the door open for Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov to take gold and as many as five other teams to make the podium.
Sinitsina and Katsalapov – reigning European (2020) and world (2021) champions – won both their Grand Prix assignments but were forced to withdraw after the rhythm dance at nationals as Katsalapov suffered the flare-up of an injury. How they do will likely depend on whether the latter is fully fit.
Meanwhile, fellow Russians Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin won bronze at both their events. However, the national champions are a ways behind Sinitsina and Katsalapov this season in terms of best score, and also find themselves behind Italy's Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, one of the other teams who will likely benefit from the absence of the French.
Guignard/Fabbri were third among European teams for best Grand Prix score this season, ahead of Stepanova/Bukin, and will be likely challengers for a medal. But also in the picture are two Montreal-based teams, Spain's Olivia Smart/Adrián Díaz and Great Britain's Lilah Fear/Lewis Gibson, who have starred in the Olympic Channel original series On Edge.
They, respectively, ranked eighth and ninth among all teams for best Grand Prix score this season.
There is also added spice for Smart and Díaz, as the Europeans are the final event in a three-part qualifying series against fellow Spanish team Sara Hurtado/Kirill Khaliavin for the country's only Olympic ice dance spot.
ISU European Figure Skating Championships 2022 schedule and how to watch
All times are in Estonian local time (UTC +2 hours) and are subject to change.
Wednesday 12 January
11:50–16:55 Men's singles, short program
18:00–18:30 Opening ceremony
18:45–22:28 Pair skating, short program
Thursday 13 January
11:15–16:55 Women's singles, short program
19:00–21:52 Pair skating, free skating, followed by victory ceremony
Friday 14 January
12:00–16:55 Ice dancing, rhythm dance
18:00–21:55 Men's singles, free skating, followed by victory ceremony
Saturday 15 January
13:35–16:54 Ice dancing, free dance, followed by victory ceremony
18:30–22:25 Women's singles, free skating, followed by victory ceremony
Sunday 16 January
15:30–18:00 Exhibition gala
The European Figure Skating Championships will be broadcast around the world on the ISU's official YouTube channel, subject to territorial restrictions, as well as by the ISU's broadcast partners. More information here.