January 2010

At the beginning of December, the NRW Trophy for Figure Skating and Pair Skating took place in Dortmund. Since more than 200 participants had signed up, the competition was already supposed to start on Wednesday, which is why we decided to relocate our training to Oberstdorf for the entire week. Furthermore, the chillers in Dortmund failed briefly, so there was no ice on the previous weekend. We were thus given the chance to work with the federal coach again for a couple of days. In addition, we could escape the crowds in Dortmund. The risk of infection at such events had been our doom after the NRW Trophy for Ice Dancing.

To save costs, we made use of the accommodation facilities of the German Armed Forces. Instead of staying at a hotel during the high season in Oberstdorf, we rather stayed at the barracks in Sonthofen. We even accepted the additional kilometers to get to the rink every day. Contrary to Daniel, Carolina has already completed parts of her basic military training, and she therefore knew exactly about the military code of conduct, so she could familiarize him with that every now and then. By the way, since Carolina has been part of the sports support program a year longer than Daniel, she outranks him by two military ranks, which leads to amusement at times.

The onset of winter had already come to the Allgäu region, and Oberstdorf was just sparkling with the season's pre-Christmas spirit. An oddish tradition of the people from Oberstdorf is the so-called "Klausentreiben," a joy in which the Bavarians indulge in that's not really comprehensible to tourists: they're running through the village as witches (B%auml;rbels) and Klauses from 6 p.m. while they're officially being allowed to thrash everybody who gets in their way. The only way to circumvent such beatings is to either take to your heels and run away, or to offer booze to the Klauses, in which case they're not allowed to swing their birches anymore. In order to be allowed to participate in this event (as a doer), you have to be resident in the respective neighborhood and register with the police before the night. Only then are you protected against being charged with assault. The Klauses are known for not being gingerly and for birching absolutely everybody, also women and senior citizens.

We had actually planned to compete at the "Golden Spin" in Zagreb in mid-November, but the competition had been canceled for the time being. Besides, we were added to the Skate Canada Grand Prix. Now, however, the competition was supposed to take place after all, namely at the weekend before the German Championships in mid-December. Participating there was the last opportunity for us to manage the 145 points for the Olympic standard in order to qualify for the Olympics according to the guidelines that had been released in the summer and in which it was not mentioned that only your first 3 competitions are considered. Otherwise, the Beier siblings would have been the only ones to meet the Olympic standard, and they would have been the ones to be nominated. (We would like to clarify that we would have had a completely different schedule for the season if we had already known in the summer that only the first 3 competitions would be relevant for the qualifying. We were totally aware that we wouldn't yet be able to replicate our previous achievements at the Nebelhorn Trophy at the very start of the season. Under these circumstances, we certainly would have declined the offer to compete there, even more so since we knew that the Nebelhorn Trophy would be filled with extremely strong skaters, being the Olympic qualifying event of the ISU.)

Since we thought that it would be less stressful to take the train directly from Dortmund to Frankfurt and then climb the plane to Zagreb there, we changed our tickets last-minute, so that we wouldn't have to fly to Frankfurt from Düsseldorf first. This would very nearly have been our undoing: because of an "accident involving physical injury," the regional ICE railroad track got closed and all trains got redirected. Delay: approx. 100 min. We arrived at the long-distance train station in Frankfurt at 8.20 p.m., and our flight was supposed to take off at 8.55 p.m. Check-in was possible until 8.25 p.m. at the latest. Frankfurt is one of the largest airports in Europe, and the distances are remarkable, particularly since you have to check-in your baggage and go through the security checks after all. Luckily, we weren't completely ill-starred that weekend. Thanks to a remarkable sprint, we arrived at the gate just in time and entirely out of puff. This has mostly worked our coach Vitali over. It's already been a few years since he's skated his last free program. On the plane, he virtuously fell asleep from exhaustion in no time.

The "Golden Spin" has been a well-established competition for years in which probably many future top skaters got their medals. In general, the competition was very short because the Compulsory and the Original Dance were performed on the same day and the Free Dance was scheduled for the next day. We can certainly be pleased with our result of 152.29 points, and so we were looking forward to the German Championships.

Early on Sunday, the plane from Zagreb already brought us back home (luckily without any incidents). On Monday, Martin Skotnicky was supposed to stop by briefly, but he unfortunately got the flu that's been going around, so the practice had to take place without him.

On Thursday, the 2010 German Championships started in Mannheim. The Compulsory and the Original Dance were again scheduled for the same day, the Free Dance for two days later. Sadly, we weren't able to defend our title, but we're very glad for having shown 3 good performances.

Unfortunately, we had a wobble in the step sequence of the OD, which is why we received a lower level of difficulty and the margin to the leaders increased so much that we were aware before the Free Dance that we'd hardly stand a chance anymore. At that point, we, too, lost the last bit of hope for the Olympics. Still, we wanted to keep fighting.

On December 17, the first third of the athletes got nominated for the Olympic Winter Games. However, the German Championships weren't even over yet on that day. The nomination criteria were developed by the German Olympic Sports Confederation and by the German Skating Union this past summer and released on their website. According to these, the teams had to meet the standard of 145 points at least twice; moreover, the ISU points of the 3 best competitions that you attended were added up. In the case of a tie, the German Championships were to determine the nomination. This system was developed before any team was assigned to a Grand Prix event, and it seemed a bit unfair to those involved insofar as you actually can't even really compare smaller competitions. A direct comparison of all the ice dance teams was not possible.

Nobody had however anticipated that it would be so difficult for us to meet the standard. We were invited to the Grand Prix in Moscow, and later to that in Canada, too, so that we couldn't participate in smaller competitions where it would certainly have been easier. There's an existing ISU rule which prohibits the athlete from participating in competitions, shows, or other events for the entire period of the Grand Prix and a certain period of time afterwards if you turn down an invitation for the Grand Prix.

It was already during the competition in Dortmund (NRW Trophy) that we received the message that now only the first 3 competitions are counted towards the qualifying and that athletes wouldn't get another chance if they didn't succeed in meeting the standard in those first events. We competed in 5 competitions before the German Championships. We did manage to skate to the required 145 points twice, but not within the first 3 competitions. If you disregard the clarification that was released in November, we were even leading in the ranking list for the Olympic Winter Games. But unfortunately the "first three competitions" rule applied due to the later clarification, and therefore Christina and William Beier were nominated for the Olympic Games before we had even skated a single competition against each other. The two of them definitely deserve it just as much, if not a bit more, to experience such a spectacle, and we do grant them this (after all the stress 4 years ago when they missed Torino), but we didn't exactly feel treated fairly.

There's one thing we'd like to clarify, though: at no time did we file a lawsuit, nor have we ever doubted the results of Nationals.

Participating in the Olympics allows for participating in Euros and Worlds, too, and only here would we have had a chance to collect some important points for the ISU World Rankings again. With a similar placement like last year, we'd be able to move up to the Top 24, which would secure Germany a spot at the Grand Prix next season. However, you can only score once at either Euros, Worlds or the Olympics, so that those points gained at the other competitions are forfeited. You don't score twice or three times if you take part in Euros/Worlds and even the Olympics. In turn, the Grand Prix events next year are extremely important for the following international championships.

Since this decision about the participation was so extremely important to us, we had a letter written after Zagreb, i.e. before the German Championships, to have the nomination before Nationals postponed. A second round of nominations is planned for mid-January, and it doesn't make a difference when you're being nominated. We would have just found it fair to wait until after the German Championships. Sadly, this was reason enough for many to believe that we'd now sue our federation or the German Olympic Sports Confederation, respectively, although we never mentioned anything of the like to the press. As debatable as the nomination guidelines and the legal validity of the November letter may be to us, we will definitely not take legal action. We are, however, a bit disappointed that so many people suddenly behaved dismissively towards us. Everybody who has read the nomination criteria closely and thinks in a fair manner about what happened in the last few months will be able to understand that we couldn't simply accept that we were deprived of every chance.

We could surely sense how quickly everything can go downhill again after our successes in the previous year, but since we want to pick up next year where we left off this previous season, and since we definitely also have to learn a whole lot for the future, we decided to switch to the training group in Lyon at the beginning of the year and to finish our season there. We'd just like to find new motivation here in order to start even stronger into the new season. We don't know if we're even able to afford this in the long run, but we hope to find a solution for this, too.

We spent Christmas with our family and, except for a small show close to our mother's horse farm in Rügen, we allowed ourselves to lose sight of our skates for a few days and to take a step back from all the stress that had developed previously. Before New Year's Eve, we vacated our rooms in Dortmund to prepare for the move right in the new year.

Even if this may sound a bit corny, we had to learn in these last couple of weeks that life is not a Hollywood movie. As much as we had hoped for the happy ending and worked for it, we had to learn that there isn't always a matching script.

Best wishes,

Carolina and Daniel




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