The 2006 Swedish Nationals

Part 1

Text by Magdalena Osborne and EMJO
Photos © EMJO

The annual battle for the Swedish Champion titles took place at the Rosenholm arena in Karlskrona (on the southeast coast of Sweden), December 7 - 11 2005. Many single novices, juniors and seniors came to compete for, or defend titles. Some came from far and traveled by plane, others were local favorites. The arena is brand new and Nationals became the very first event held there.

This very bright and spacious arena, equipped with almost 2600 padded seats and room for 900 more standing spectators, made watching an enjoyable experience. The temperature was comfortable as long as one stayed away from the front row. Yes, there was glass on top of the boards which is usually very annoying when watching figure skating, but the glass was new and unscratched and therefore didn't obstruct the view. The kiss and cry area was Christmassy with a decorated tree and pretty floral arrangements. Unfortunately the latter were just a dab too tall, and most pictures from the kiss and cry have skaters' faces partially hidden behind flowers.

The practice rink was in the same complex, which also hosts a cafeteria with a good view of the rink, a huge gymnasium, tennis courts and more. Nice!

The practice rink was very cold, but the skaters liked the ice.

"The ice is good in both rinks and we have lots of practice sessions", said Kristoffer Berntsson and added: "But not so early in the morning."

He was no doubt pleased about that.

"But why is it that the ice is always better in the practice rink?" Filip Stiller wondered.

The organization left little to complain about. People knew where and when to be, hot food could be purchased in the cafeteria at any time and a line of tables offering skating clothes and equipment was set up in the hallway. For us it was a complete luxury to be able to turn in a list of the people we wanted to interview, and in return get times to meet with them. Now that's service!

"There's no shuttle between the hotel and the arena", Filip pointed out. "We're pretty much supposed to take care of ourselves, which is ok and no problem since we knew about it in advance."

The audience was a small but enthusiastic crowd. Some school children attended, which is a great opportunity for them but usually a pain for the rest of the audience. But these kids were very well behaved and they cheered loudly for the local skaters.

Although the competitions went on for several days the media coverage was poor. There were some people from Swedish TV there, but not much was shown and the national newspapers wrote next to nothing. The local station and papers did better but focused all the attention on the girls from the area. Swedish figure skating just doesn't get the attention it deserves! We will try to make up for some of that because there are some really great skaters in Sweden and some very dedicated coaches and organizers. So watch for more on Swedish skating coming up on Absolute Skating!

Anyone still in doubt that Sweden is on the skating map should take a look at Angelika Pylkina and Niklas Hogner. They are the first Swedish pair to compete since the 1960s. They placed 5th at the Junior Worlds last year, but will surely medal this season. Unfortunately Angelika is too young to compete at the European Championships in Lyon, but they did skate both in the junior grand prix and at Bompard and Cup of Russia.

No other pair was on the roster here, so the title and the gold medal was theirs. They earned it though by skating great programs and the audience loved them. This couple skates with a maturity not often found in a pair who's only trained together for two years. Niklas is very tall and Angelika very petite and the throw 3 loop in the short program was huge! More on this very interesting pair will follow.

The novice kids were divided into age groups and it was amazing to see the potential and enthusiasm in these kids. For Novice boys up to 15 years old, all the medals went to Southern Sweden. The winner, Richard Lundberg, 13, of the Tyringe skating club, skated to "Sinbad" with heart and soul. And he proved to already be a professional at handling the media. He smiled to the camera and gave some frank, totally non shy comments after the free program.

"I'm pretty happy", he said. "I singled the Axel and doubled the Salchow, but other than that… I actually aimed to win this competition next year since I haven't been in real good shape this season, but this is great!"

Silver and bronze went to the two Malmö boys Fredrik Wittzell and Benjamin Fahlén.

For girls up to 12, the winner was really a winner! Josefin TaljegÄrd, 10, from BorÄs was the youngest of the 20 girls competing, and probably the shortest. She comes from a skating family and surely has a bright future ahead. She had great speed and content in her programs, along with bucket loads of charm. Go girl! Some of my cheers were saved for Malmö's own tiny ice princess, PÄlina Boukov, as she skated her program to Vanessa Mae. We've watched PÄlina in her home rink and she has great potential. She finished in 7th place. (You can read more about PÄlina and other young Scandinavian skaters here.)

For the older girls, Novice up to 14, the local interest rose. Kids were waving banners and posters, and cheered loudly for Malin Magnusson-Ruf, a 14-year old from Mörrums skating club. She was in the lead after the short program. The local TV station had a camera aimed at her as she started her free program. She looked very nervous and several elements didn't work out the way she had planned. The crowd loved her all the same and showered the ice with flowers and gifts.

But Malin had to settle for bronze while the gold went to Joshi Helgesson, the younger sister of the former junior champion Viktoria Helgesson, who now skated as a senior and earned silver.

Something else about the competition has to be mentioned here – the flower children! They were all dressed in Swedish costumes and looked sweeter than candy. The youngest was a boy, and the sight of him slowly stroking across the ice with great effort and concentration was simply priceless!

The Novice boys 13, ended in victory for the LuleÄ skating club through Bertil Skeppar. This young man is coached by Alexander Majorov, who followed his every move and shouted for joy when Bertil finished his program. Bertil deserved the gold for his solid jumps and great speed. Malmö's future Yagudin, Aylwin Iantchenko did fine on his Star Wars routine and finished 6th.

Because of interviews we didn't see much of the junior or senior ladies. But Amanda Nylander defended her junior title and her twin sister Isabelle got bronze. In the absence of Lina Johansson, which put a damper on the ladies event, Malin HĂ„llberg-Leuf of the Örnsköldsvik skating club won.

Go to Part 2.

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