What a difference a year makes. In the skating world, it was the start of a new Olympic quadrennial; many of the top skaters retired at the end of last season, their hopes fulfilled or dashed. Russia swept the 2022 European gold medals and won six Olympic medals in Beijing despite a doping scandal involving European women’s champion Kamila Valieva. By the time the world championships kicked off last March, Russia’s war on Ukraine was in full swing, and the International Skating Union banned Russian skaters from any ISU-sanctioned events. The ban remains in effect.
Looking ahead to the 2026 Winter Olympics, all skaters are eager to impress early, but the Italians are even more so. (The Olympics will be held in Milan and Corti Nadanpezzo.) Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii (gold) and Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini (silver) won the title for Italy in the pair free skating at the European Championships in Espoo, Finland yesterday since 2013 for the first time since Ghilardi and Ambrosini’s coach Ondrej Hotárek and his skating partner Stefania Berton took bronze.
Italy picked up another medal this afternoon as Matteo Rizzo, who finished second after the short program, maintained his position in the free skate. Frenchman Adam Chauver and Kevin Emoz remained first and fourth respectively, but Switzerland’s Lucas Bridger took bronze and Latvia’s Denis Vasilievs moved from third to fifth . Charlene Guignal and Marco Fabbri are first in line after this morning’s rhythm dance, hoping to succeed their coaches Barbara Fussar-Poli and Maurizio Margali The first Italian to win the European Championship since Austria. (Ice dancing fans will remember their performance at the 30 Olympics, when Margaglio dropped Fusar-Poli at the end of the performance, causing them both to fall. She stood up and stared at him almost 30 seconds, earned the nickname Scary Babs on some figure skating sites; but they also won bronze—and on their home ice in Turin.) Rizzo’s teammate Daniel Grassl, the defending silver medalist, caused controversy when he decided to prepare for the Europeans with Kamila Valieva’s coach Eteri Tutberidze, whose team is now based in Espoo. (“Sport is not politics,” he told Italian broadcaster Rai, though the ISU decided differently last year.) After making a few mistakes in his short program (choreographed by Jason Brown), he finished in first place. The results of the eight entered the free skating.
At the 2022 Worlds, Loena Hendrickx, long a prospect, moved up the standings and won silver (and became the Belgian woman who medaled at the World Championships). She came to Espoo as the gold favorite but is now in second place, almost two points behind Georgia’s Anastasia Gubanova. Kimmy Repond of Switzerland is now third.