The 1992 European Figure Skating Championships


You couldn't walk down the street without spotting scrunchies, stone-washed jeans and slap bracelets. Movie-goers lined up to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Kindergarten Cop" and Kathy Bates in "Misery". Parents filled lunchboxes with Lunchables and Fruit Roll-Ups and from Brighton to Brussels, music lovers were singing along in the shower to Whitney Houston's hit single "All The Man That I Need". From January 20 to 26, 1992, less than two weeks before George H.W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin officially declared the end of The Cold War, a who's who of figure skating gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland for the 1992 European Figure Skating Championships.


Fittingly returning to Switzerland to mark the ISU's one hundredth anniversary, the 1992 European Championships also marked the first time the city on Lake Geneva played host to the event, which had been held numerous times previously in Davos and St. Moritz. One hundred and thirty competitors from twenty four countries participated in the 'dress rehearsal' for the Albertville Winter Olympic Games and spectators packed the stands at the Centre intercommunal de glace (CIG) de Malley. The event was broadcast on Eurosport and in North America on NBC and CBC.

At the 1991 European Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, gone were the school figures and a divided Germany. This time they were missing the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. The ISU had initially decided to title the team of former skaters from eleven former Soviet states 'the Commonwealth of Sovereign States' but later 'the Commonwealth of Independent States', or 'CIS' for short. Skaters from Yugoslavia, which was in the process of its collapse, did not participate.


Estonia and Latvia had applied to ISU for membership and having met the requirements of the Constitution, were readmitted as Provisional Members in the autumn of 1991 - just in time for the event. Olga Vassiljeva was the only Estonian skater to compete in Lausanne, while Latvia sent two skaters, Konstantin Kostin and Alma Lepina. The only time either country had been previously represented at Euros was in 1934, when Hildegarde Schwarz and Eduards Göschel placed second to last in the pairs event representing Latvia.

Now that we've set the stage, let's take a look back at the most important aspect of this event... the skating!

THE PAIRS COMPETITION

Soviet pairs had won twenty four of the last twenty six European pairs titles and swept the podium in 1991. Gone was the iconic red flag with star and anchor but the three teams that medalled in Sofia returned as heavy favourites in Lausanne. Suffering from the flu, World Champions Natalia Mishkutenok and Artur Dmitriev had to settle for second behind their teammates Elena Bechke and Denis Petrov in the original program.


Reprising their beloved free skate to Franz Liszt's "Liebestraum", Mishkutenok and Dmitriev were again less than perfect in the free skate. Mishkutenok two-footed the side-by-side triple toe-loop and fell on the double Axel but the pair landed two throw triple jumps and had as usual superb lifts, spins and choreography. Some felt a 6.0 for artistic impression from the Italian judge for a program with two mistakes a trifle generous, while others believed it was appropriate and the World Champions managed to surpass Bechke and Petrov for the gold. Both teams trained in St. Petersburg and were coached by Tamara Moskvina and choreographed by Alexander Matveev. Evgenia Shishkova and Vadim Naumov moved up to take the bronze over Czechoslovakia's Radka Kovaříková and René Novotný, exactly duplicating the sweep from the year prior.


Swiss teenagers Leslie and Cédric Monod delighted a hometown crowd with their free skate to music from the musicals "Tommy" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" and placed a creditable eighth in their European debut. Unfortunately, the Swiss Olympic Committee and National Committee for Elite Sport required them to place at least sixth to be considered for an Olympic berth. During the medal ceremonies, the three winning pairs were represented by the ISU flag and three ISU fanfares. Elena Bechke told reporters, "We thought it would be the Soviet flag. We hadn't realized that it had changed. It wasn't pleasant to hear the [ISU] anthem."

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


Marina Kielmann, Surya Bonaly and Patricia Neske

A notable absence in Lausanne was Evelyn Grossmann, European Champion in 1990 and silver medallist in 1991. After placing a disastrous fifth at the German Championships, she was left off her national team. Skating early due to an unlucky draw, eighteen year old defending Champion Surya Bonaly landed a double Axel, double toe-loop/triple toe-loop combination and double flip in her winning original program to The Broads' cover "Sing Sing Sing", "Dixie Kidnaps Vera" from the "Cotton Club" soundtrack and "Topsy" by Meco. The clean but technically conservative program earned her marks ranging from 5.3 to 5.6. Germany's Simone Lang and Czechoslovakia's Lenka Kulovaná rounded out the top three. Kulovaná had only recently started working with Petr Barna's coach Frantisek Pechar.


In her matador themed free skate, Surya Bonaly omitted a planned quadruple toe-loop attempt in favour of a superb triple toe-loop/triple toe-loop combination. She wasn't perfect but in a relatively weak field was able to stay on top by a mile and defend her European title with ease. With mistakes of their own, Marina Kielmann and Patricia Neske (fifth and fourth after the original program) managed to move up to take the silver and bronze. Lang, who tied with Neske in factored placements, was fourth in the free and overall.


Lenka Kulovaná, Laetitia Hubert, Marie-Pierre Leray, Yulia Vorobieva, Joanne Conway and Zuzanna Szwed rounded out the top ten. Swiss teenager Nathalie Krieg, who had been sent to the event instead of national champion Nicole Skoda, wowed with her spins but was "paralyzed" by nerves and placed an unlucky thirteenth. Following her win, Bonaly told reporters, "I was confident but you still have to be careful. I still have to work from now 'til Albertville to make it cleaner."

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Viktor Petrenko, Petr Barna and Alexei Urmanov. Photo courtesy Petr Barna.

Battling injuries and boot problems since the previous season, Viktor Petrenko was fresh off a disappointing third place finish at the final Soviet Championships in Kiev when he arrived in Lausanne. His troubles continued in the original program with a flubbed triple Axel combination that saw him in fourth place behind Petr Barna, the runner-up for the last two years at Europeans, and Viacheslav Zagorodniuk and Alexei Urmanov - the same two skaters that had defeated him in Kiev.


Petrenko rebounded and won the free skate with an outstanding performance that featured two triple/triple combinations. Barna landed a rare quadruple toe-loop but made other mistakes to finish second in the free but first overall. His win marked the first time a non-Soviet man had claimed the European title since 1986, when his former rival Jozef Sabovčík won in Copenhagen. Urmanov, Zagorodniuk, Grzegorz Filipowski, Nicolas Pétorin, Steven Cousins, Eric Millot, Konstantin Kostin and Henrik Walentin rounded out the top ten. Sixteen year old Patrick Meier, Switzerland's sole entry, placed a disappointing nineteenth. He lamented, "For me it would have been better for Oliver Höner to continue his career and allow me to unfold in his shadow."

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION


Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko

The Duchesnay's had planned to unveil their brand new "West Side Story" free dance in front of the international judges in Lausanne but were forced to withdraw due to an injury to the abductor muscle in Paul's right thigh, aggravated during a runthrough of their Polka OSP. From their training base in Oberstdorf, Paul told reporters, "It's a big disappointment to miss the Europeans, but we definitely don't want to miss the Games. All we can do at the moment is just wait and see." Christopher Dean, their choreographer, added, "It's a handicap not to be able to take part in an official competition just before the Games but it's out of the question to send Paul if he's operating only at 50 or 60 per cent."


Twenty five year old Marina Klimova and thirty one year old Sergei Ponomarenko, coached by Natalia Dubova, dominated the dance event from start to finish as predicted. Their Bach free dance earned four perfect 6.0's for artistic impression and assured them their fourth consecutive European title. Klimova and Ponomarenko trained twenty two hours a week in Moscow and were making their ninth appearance at the event.


Maya Usova and Alexander Zhulin and Oksana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov delivered strong performances of their own to take the silver and bronze. Usova and Zhulin in particular were crowd favourites and some in attendance felt the couple received even more audience applause than the winners.

Maya Usova and Alexandr Zhulin

Stefania Calegari and Pasquale Camerlengo, Klara Engi and Attila Toth, Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko, Dominique Yvon and Frédéric Palluel, Sophie Moniotte and Pascal Lavanchy, Kateřina Mrázová and Martin Šimeček and Jennifer Goolsbee and Hendryk Schamberger rounded out the top ten.


Switzerland was represented by French born Valérie Le Tensorer and Swiss American Jorg Kienzle. The couple placed sixteenth but captured the imagination of the Lausanne crowd, skating to strains of Kienzle's own music in the OSP.


In the gala, Petr Barna debuted his signature "Chaplin" program, choreographed by Daniel Wiesner, a former soloist with the National Theatre Ballet in Prague and Marina Kielmann payed homage to the ISU's one hundredth anniversary with a nod to skating history, performing in a fur-lined dress and muff.

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