European Figure Skating Championships launched in Ostrava

Anna Dušková and Martin Bidař, photo: CTK

The European Figure Skating Championships have just got underway in the north Moravian city of Ostrava. Almost 170 skaters from 33 countries are taking part in the colourful extravaganza, which is being held in the Czech Republic for the first time in 18 years.

Anna Dušková and Martin Bidař,  photo: CTK
The 2017 European Figure Skating Championships were officially launched with a glitzy opening ceremony at the Ostrava Arena on Wednesday evening. It is the first time the North Moravian city has hosted the event.

Medals are being awarded in the men’s singles, ladies’ singles, pairs and ice dancing categories.

Among the big names at this year’s tournament is Carolina Kostner, a five-time European champion who is returning after a doping ban.

At a news conference, the Italian – who is also a previous world champion – spoke about her love of figure skating.

“The combination of all these great personalities that gather together is amazing. That’s what I love so much about our sport – that it’s not only about athleticism but about expressing ourselves. And finding who we are and sharing it with the people. I am very lucky to be able to do that.”

Carolina Kostner,  photo: CTK
Among the Czech Republic’s main medal hopefuls at the “home” championships is Michal Březina, who will be out to improve on a disappointing 10th place finish in Bratislava last year.

As for the overall standard, Czech Television commentator and international referee Olga Žáková says the crowd in Ostrava are being treated to an unusually high level of figure skating.

“You can see it’s a pre-Olympic year, because the standard has improved perceptibly. We’ve already seen some outstanding performances. I’m curious about how it will compare to the World Championships in Helsinki, which are also going to serve as qualification for the Olympic Games next year.”

While ticket sales have been healthy in Ostrava, it has been some years since Czech fans have been able to enjoy a major success in figure skating.

Olga Žáková says the country just doesn’t have the set-up to compete with the top nations in the sport.

Opening ceremony,  photo: CTK
“If you take that in just one – just one – club in Moscow there are more figure skaters than in the whole of our country… there’s just nothing to discuss. Indeed given the fact that we have so few figure skaters, it’s a miracle that we have junior world champions in Anna Dušková and Martin Bidař. We have had men’s top ten names like [2008 European Champion] Tomáš Verner and now Michal Březina. So given the number of skaters we have, we’re a world power!”

The European Figure Skating Championships come to a close on Sunday.