Robin Szolkowy

AP

Javier Fernandez, Alina Zagitova highlight action at European Championships

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Spain’s Javier Fernandez competes for what is expected to be the final time this weekend at the European Figure Skating Championships in Minsk, Belarus. Olympic champion Alina Zagitova of Russia is also looking to defend her title in the ladies’ field.

NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will live stream every program starting on Wednesday, and NBCSN and NBC will also have coverage.

MORE: Schedule/ How to watch

Men

Fernandez, the 2018 PyeongChang bronze medalist, owns six European titles. No man since Austrian Karl Schaefer – who won eight consecutive European titles beginning in 1929 – has won as many straight titles as Fernandez. Fernandez traded world titles during the last Olympic quadrennial with his training partner Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. They both train in Toronto under Brian Orser.

Also in the field are Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic, who most recently finished fourth at the Grand Prix Final at age 28, and three Russian men: Mikhail Kolyada, Maxim Kovtun, and Alexander Samarin.

Ladies

Reigning Olympic gold medalist Zagitova could lead a Russian podium sweep at the 2019 European Championships with teammates Stanislava Konstantinova and Sofia Samodurova.

The competition-within-the-competition at Europeans is also notable: Russia will not choose their World team until after the event. For example, two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva is not competing at Europeans, and 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva was already told to train for Worlds despite not competing at Europeans.

Pairs

French pair Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres will try and buck a trend at Europeans, where teams representing Russia or the Soviet Union have won 47 of the last 54 titles. Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are looking for a three-peat, though have been inconsistent so far this season and recently returned to last season’s short program.

James and Cipres missed out on bronze by 0.01 points at the 2018 Europeans, and could become the first French pair to win the event since 1932. The last non-Russian team to win Europeans was Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy in 2011.

Ice dance

Three-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France should coast to the gold medal in Minsk for a fifth consecutive title. Other dance teams have won more European titles, but no team has ever won five in a row.

The rest of the podium is more unclear. The Italians, Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, will likely split the difference between the two Russian teams – who have their own domestic battle to contend with: Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov and Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin.

As a reminder, you can watch the European Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Five-time world champion figure skater to develop U.S. pairs training center

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Robin Szolkowy, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist and five-time world champion figure skater, plans to come to the United States in the spring to develop a pairs training center. He will join coaches Jenni Meno and Todd Sand in Los Angeles.

Meno and Sand were three-time national champions and currently coach 2018 Olympic team bronze medalists Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim.

In September, the Knierims moved to Oberstdorf, Germany to under with Szolkowy’s former partner, Aliona Savchenko. She won an Olympic gold medal with Bruno Massot in 2018, her fifth Olympic appearance.

The Knierims split with Savchenko later in the fall and moved to California.

“There’s certain things that we learned [in Germany] that we’re going to continue to incorporate on a daily basis,” Scimeca Knierim said of the split in a recent media teleconference ahead of the national championships later this month.

“It’s quite simple. It just didn’t work out. Chris and I knew when we decided to part ways that there would be no regrets leaving there because we took everything we could. We just felt like if we had stayed, there would’ve been more of a downward slope in some terms of things than others. We kind of felt like we needed to save ourselves in the moment which is why we made the switch [to Jenni and Todd] so quickly.”

Scimeca Knierim seemed surprised by the news that her coaching team was growing:

According to a German report, Szolkowy chose Los Angeles after visiting several pairs hot spots in the U.S. and discussions with U.S. Figure Skating. The new school has plans to include both U.S. and international teams. The report also suggested this could be a long-term arrangement, through the Winter Olympics in 2022 and beyond.

This won’t be Szolkowy’s first venture as a coach. He joined the coaching team behind Russian pair Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who won silver at the 2018 World Championships and two European titles.

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I am thrilled to announce that I will be coaching soon at the newly built, state of the art Great Park Ice Rinks in Irvine, California, USA. After evaluating several opportunities within the U.S., in cooperation with USFSA, I will be moving to Irvine to partner with Jenni Meno Sand, Todd Sand and Christine Binder who are currently focused on the training and final preparations of their pair teams for the U.S. Championships at this fantastic 4-rink facility including two-time US National Champions Alexa and Chris Knierim. As we all will work together we are forming a team to establish an international pairs program. Needless to say that Romy and I are excited about the new opportunities which this project brings to justmove. More information to come … 😉⛸💪🏽🍀 #newchallenges #movingwest #teamwork #irvine #greatparkice #california #usa #family #lovewhatyoudo #justmovegmbh @justmove.withe.szolkowys

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MORE: Gracie Gold withdraws from national championships

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!