Report from the 44th Nebelhorn Trophy 2012


October 14, 2012

By Lena Halonen
Photos © Eva Maria Jangbro (EMJO)

The Nebelhorn Trophy 2012 has ended. This competition more or less starts off the new skating season, both for many skaters and also for skating fans. New programs have been made during the summer and it is time to show them to the judges and audience. Since it is an international competition skaters from the whole world come to Oberstdorf, Germany. At this event there were participants from Brasil, Australia, Mexico and Azerbadjan, in addition to more common skating countries like Russia, Japan, the United States of America and, since it is in Europe, Sweden and Finland. It is magic, not only the competition itself but the village of Oberstdorf too. We will try to recapture some of the special moments we experienced and deliver them to you.


Oberstdorfin itself is worth a visit. This small, picturesque and quiet village at the foot of the Nebelhorn Mountain has a lot to offer, both in the summer and in the winter. Hiking and paragliding are popular activities during the summer, and during the winter season people fill the ski slopes. Or take a ride to the top in a cable car just to enjoy the view or have a cold beer. It takes about two and a half hour by train to Oberstdorf from Munich. The three ice rinks (one is for curling) are within walking distance from the village, but you can also rent a bike. The restaurant at the rink is very good and open until 23:30, so it is possible to eat after each competition day ends. Italian and German dishes, as well as grilled delicacies are served by a great waiter (there are several) who seem to love his job.

Every year since 1969, figure skating competitions have been held here. The event begins with practice on Wednesday and the competitions last from Thursday to Saturday, which ends with a gala where the top five in each discipline will take part. All disciplines are represented: pairs, ice dance, ladies and men. At the press conference for the pairs one question addressed was why there are less and less pairs represented. Maxim Trankov said: “Pair skating is dying.” He then continued a little more positive but said it’s sad that the opportunities for pair skaters are decreasing. Many international competitions do not have all disciplines. And the changing of the rules for lifts every year makes it harder for new pairs starting from scratch. It also increases injuries at a young age. Both the American pair Caydee Denney / John Coughlin, and the French Vanessa James / Morgan Cipres agreed, especially the French since they have been skating pairs together for only two years.

Thursday starts with ice dance, the short dance, which this season must include the polka. Many pairs chose polka/waltz or polka/waltz/march music. The competition finishes with the free dance on Saturday. Ice dancing stands out since the skaters have to have the whole package: music, costumes, hairstyle, make up and expression and they need to connect with the audience. The dance team must do everything together to wow and entertain the audience, even those who are not that into figure skating. When the groups entered the ice for the short dance you could feel the perfume scent spreading in the arena. The gold medalist from the United States of America, Madison Chock / Evan Bates performed two solid dances. Skating to Quidam from Cirque du Soleil in the short dance, they placed second, and after a more emotional and soft program to Doctor Zhivago, they won the free dance and the whole competition. Madison and Evan have deep edges and all their lifts look so easy. They are synchronized in all they do and Madison looks so smooth and falls right into even the most complicated lifts and positions. Just as it should be. The changes in positions in the lifts are required but sometimes gives the impression of “we need to work this in somewhere in the dance”.

The Russian team Julia Zlobina / Alexei Sitnikov are now skating for Azerbaijan. They won the silver, skated two energetic and funny programs very contrary to the American team. Julia and Alexei said they wanted to skate in more international competitions and therefor chose to switch countries. And the German team Nelli Zhiganshina / Alexander Gazsi won the bronze with a solid short dance, including the best compulsories, but was only 5th in the free dance. But they performed in the most spectacular costumes of the whole competition! Alexander said the choreography for the free dance was actually made in just two days and now they are going to work more on it with choreographer Ilia Averbukh.

Next up were the pairs with spectacular lifts and throws. They too need to have the whole package, including technique, artistry and costumes to fit the music. Russians Vera Bazarova / Yuri Larionov were in 4th place after the short program, where they performed a huge triple twist where he catches her up in the air and smoothly puts her down on the ice. All their lifts look solid. Unfortunately they had to withdraw since Vera suffers from a hip injury. They will be out of competitions for some time. The German team of Mari Vartmann / Aaron Van Cleave also withdrew after the short program due to Mari’s arm injury.

Reigning European champions Tatiana Volosozhar / Maxim Trankov of Russia won both the short and the long program. At the press conference they said that the short program is more finished than the long. They also said that earlier their long program has been a story like Romeo and Juliet, but in this program they had to create their own story. It is about a boy and a girl who help each other during a time of disaster (the tsunami in Japan). The music is performed by composer Ikuko Kaway, based on the Partita for Violin No. 2 by Johann Sebastian Bach and Chaconne by Tomaso Vitali.

Caydee Denney / John Coughlin performed to The Phantom of the Opera choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo. They said they have been working hard to improve their artistry and have now chosen a story in which they can relate to their characters.

Both pairs from France are relatively new. Vanessa James / Morgan Cipres won the bronze. Both were single skaters for a long time, Vanessa actually skated both pairs and singles at the same time. She said skating pairs helped her overcome her shyness since she is not alone on the ice. Morgan said he was told many times to do pairs since he was so tall, and once he tried it he found that he really liked it. Daria Popova / Bruno Massot are the second French team. They are the perfect match, both of them being energetic and powerful skaters choosing programs and music to match.

The men were next in line. Nobunari Oda from Japan, who came back after a long recovery from a knee injury, won both the short and the long program. His goals for this season are 80 points in the short and 160 points in long program, as well as being on the podium at his Grand Prix events. Konstantin Menshov of Russia won the silver, placing second in the short and in the long program. He is a very popular skater; you could tell from the reaction of the audience and the questions asked by the press. One lady stated: “Your programs always tell a story, can you tell us about your long program?” Konstantin explained that he wants to shout out a message, but at the beginning of the program he is not able to. In the end of the program he is, but whether that message is of a political, athletic or other nature is up to the audience to interpret.

Keegan Messing from the USA won the bronze medal and shone brightly on the podium. His goal is to do more international events since the competition in the US men’s field is tough.

No “ladies first” applied in Oberstdorf; they were last. There was, as expected, a lot of violin music, but it also seems like more ladies want to skate to powerful music. Kaetlyn Osmond from Canada won the gold with two solid programs. She was second in the short and won the long with an energetic, yet feminine program to Carmen. She skated in a modern style black and red dress, and said she had watched Katrina Witt’s famous Carmen.

Adelina Sotnikova from Russia was runner up. She was in first place after the short program but missed some jumps in the free skate. She made two charismatic performances with good choreography; her “new” style suits her very well. Haruka Imai from Japan finished third moving up from 9th in the short program. She placed third in the free skate after a flawless program. She has a more classical ladies skating style with very soft and gentle movements.

Everything ended with the Fritz Geiger memorial award, which is given to the most successful country’s team in this competition. Team Russia won and Maxim Trankov and Adelina Sotnikova accepted the trophy on behalf of the team. Team USA came second and Team Canada third. The award ceremony was followed by the gala where all skaters from 5th to first place participated. Well, almost all. Unfortunately Tatiana Volosozhar had caught a cold so she and Maxim didn’t skate.

To summarize: Black is still a popular color! Black and green means skating to the Matrix, red and black means flamenco or Carmen. All the disciplines are getting closer to each other when it comes to steps; twizzels for example are now used in singles and pairs. Pairs have adopted more ice dancing steps, and ice dance is becoming more like pairs since the technical side increases in difficulty and now there are only two dances (compared to before when there were three). US skaters hold their end pose no matter how the performance went, which enhances the impression of “there, I showed you, I can too do this!” The whole package is lacking some in the ladies’ and men’s filed, for example a lady wearing a sparkling, eye catching dress and a pony tail! As a skater gains better technique the choreography should change to go with it. Kyoko Ina said last year in an interview that more skaters and choreographers should be thinking this way. Like the Swedish pair (Ronja Roll / Gustav Forsgren), their program matched by combining the music choice and costumes with their level of skating, which together created a “whole package” feeling. This is a better move than choosing fast, bombastic music but not being able to live up to it technically or presentation wise. Soft music, but not being able to deliver the feelings, just skating back and forth doing jumps looking down at the ice isn’t doing the trick either. One way it to keep the costume simple and let the performance speak for itself.

Next year the Nebelhorn Trophy will serve as a qualifier for the Olympics. So be sure to get tickets and go!



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