The pairs free skate at the 2016 European Championships started at 10:00 a.m. Understandably, many of the competitors lacked a little bit of bite when it came to competing at such an early hour.

Although there was plenty of intensity and drama in Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov’s “Dracula” program, the reigning Olympic champions had a number of issues with the program that they will need to address and correct before the World Championships. While the only major technical error occurred when Trankov stepped out a triple toe loop, they could only manage Level 3 on their death spiral, pairs spin and two of their lifts.

Their other elements were top notch though: a triple twist, triple Salchow-double toe combination and a triple flip throw in succession at the beginning of a routine and a triple loop throw in the second half. Despite it not being their best outing, the Russian duo scored a respectable 142.89, and a total of 222.66 assured them a fourth European title. “It was a very hard start to the day. We had early practice then we stayed here in the rink before the free program because we had no time to go to the hotel,” Trankov explained. “Because of this situation, our skating was not the best, but it was not bad. Most importantly, we won and we finished our program.”

Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot took silver at their first appearance as a team at Europeans, but they received no points for two of their lifts towards the end of their “Sometimes” by Wax Tailor free. The German team had to abort a reverse lift and then a Level 3 lift was deemed invalid, apparently due to Massot not having extended his lifting arm properly. Early on, Massot had also doubled the first part of a triple toe-triple toe sequence. The loss of points for the two lifts in particular meant they only scored 125.24 for their free and posted a total 200.78. “I was surprised to miss the lift because normally I never miss lifts,” Massot said. “I was really surprised, disappointed and sad after the program of course, but after this mistake Aliona pushed me to get to the end of the program.”

The only survivors of the 2015 Europeans pairs podium competing in Bratislava were Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov who initially were not even been named to the Russian team this year. However, such is the depth of Russian pairs skating that they were able to step in and repeat their bronze medal from Stockholm. Aside from a double toe-double toe-single toe by Tarasova on a scheduled triple toe-double toe-double toe and a step out on a triple loop throw, they performed solidly in their Chopin program to earn a score of 127.38 and a total of 197.55. “I think we have taken a big step since last year but the place is the same, it’s a bronze,” Morozov said. “But I think it is a more difficult competition this year.”

Russia dominated these European Championships, claiming seven of the 12 medals. France, Germany, Israel, Italy and Spain each won one a single medal.