Ice dancers Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovsky lead the Israeli delegation to the 2006 European Figure Skating Championships, which begin on Tuesday in Lyon, France.
The sixth-ranked duo are preparing for the upcoming Winter Olympics, February 10-26 in Turin, Italy. Their training in Moscow over the last week was not affected by Sakhnovsky's treatment for tendonitis in his knee and he is being monitored by doctors, according to Boris Chait, the chairman of the Israel Ice Skating Federation, who spoke to The Jerusalem Post from Lyon.
In France they will be facing stiff competition, as their practice mates, Tatiana and Roman Kostomarov, will be competing against them yet again. The Russians, world and European champions for the past two years, will be hoping to keep their crown. Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov of the Ukraine, bronze medalists at the 2005 World Championships and No. 2 in Europe, are looking to skate past them.
Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France, the hometown favorites, won the European bronze last year after many felt that the Israelis had earned third place. At the recent International Skating Union Grand Prix Final, however, Chait and Sakhnovsky finished fourth, well ahead of Delobel and Schoenfelder. The French duo ended up in the sixth and last place.
Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas will be competing for the first time since Chait and Sakhnovsky were awarded the bronze medal ahead of them at the 2002 World Championships. The Lithuanian pair made a formal protest, which was denied.
Alexandra and Roman Zaretsky, Israel's No. 2 ice dancers, will be competing at the Euros for the first time. The sister-brother duo are still trying to prove to the Olympic Committee of Israel that they deserve to represent the country in Turin, even though the Zaretskys have already met the criteria set by the International Olympic Committee.
In addition, the OCI has not informed the hopefuls exactly how well they have to perform at the Euros in order to secure an Olympic spot.
Roman Serov will be competing in the men's event. At his first European Championships last year, he managed a 19th-place finish while skating with a severe bout of the flu.
Tamar Katz will not be taking part this year in the ladies' event due to a stress fracture. Chait told the Post that it is hoped Katz will be able to compete at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in March.