Remember that one time when the best European ladies decided to get their acts together and deliver a brilliant set of free skates? The event wasn't always as depressing as it seems to be lately! As we are coming up on ten years since the 2003 Europeans in Malmo, here are a look at the top six long programs:
Irina Slutskaya, Gold Medal
Slutskaya would miss the 2003 Worlds due to her mother having health complications, but she won her fifth European title here with a solid performance. I wasn't crazy about La Traviata and I felt like she wasn't really pushing herself earlier in the season, but she definitely got a push here from her teammate.
Elena Sokolova, Silver Medal
What a complete 180 this girl decided to do right in the middle of the season. She had skated so poorly in 2002 and early 2003, but ended up beating reigning World Champion Slutskaya at Russian Nationals a few weeks prior and won both the qualifying round and short program here. Europeans and Worlds that year were far-and-away her best performances ever. By the way, she missed all of the major Championships for four straight seasons, constantly finishing behind the Slutskaya - Butyrskaya - Volchkova trio at Russian Nationals.
Julia Sebestyen, Bronze Medal
Finally. That's what most of us were thinking when she ended up on the podium here. Julia was always the star of one portion of the competition. She had been 2nd and 3rd in previous European Championship free skates, but she held it together here throughout the entire competition to win her first medal. She, of course, went on to win the title in her home country a year later, but this is my favorite Sebestyen program. She also decided to bring it back for her final season of competition.
Carolina Kostner, 4th Place
Well this was sure a coming out party for then 15-year old Kostner. She had success early in the season at both the junior and senior levels, but this event is where she really started to get noticed. Check out the technical content of the free skate! And yes, she did have a Lutz back then. She would go on to finish 4th in the short program at her first World Championship two months later.
Alisa Drei, 7th Place (5th in the Free Skate)
A poor short program left Drei out of the final group of skaters, but she was having the best season of her career to that point at age 24. Seven triples including a triple toe-triple toe and double Axel-triple Salchow sequence. To think that most other years around that time, she might have been pulling podium-worthy scores with this skate..
Elena Liashenko, 5th Place (6th in the Free Skate)
Liashenko started to shift the momentum her way for the next season with this event. She landed four triples in the free skate, and a fifth with a hand down; the second triple Lutz came late in the program! She managed to skate the exact same layout of elements year after year (or pretty close to it), but we all loved Elena and her tenacity to stick with it for so long. She was 26 here.