by Alexandra Stevenson
(26 January 2013)
1. Overall 274.87; 1.FS 186.07 (96.65+89.42) Javier Fernandez became the first ever Spanish figure skating European Champion, winning by a huge 24.4 points over the flamboyant Frenchman, Florent Amodio, who had led by a marginal 1.02 after the Short Program.
Fernandez, a 21-year-old from Madrid, who started in the sport when he was six, following his older sister to the rink and quickly learning the skills to overtake her in competition. He now trains in Toronto with Canadian twice Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser. On Saturday evening, he said, “I had an amazing day. My program went well and the judges gave me high enough marks to win. It is fantastic. It wasn’t easy to win against my fellow competitors because they are amazing. I need to emphasize this.
“I felt very good today and I am going home happy. I will train hard for the Worlds in London (Ontario). I give everything I can. After the performance, I was just so happy because I did my job. However, two more skaters had to perform their programs. When I stepped on the podium I felt amazing. I was thinking, ‘This cannot be. This is impossible. I am at the European Championships and at the top of the podium!’ All I wanted to do was to get down and hug my parents. They put me into the sport. They made me who I am.
“This is a big step for Spain. (The country’s first ever ISU international figure skating championship medal. Some decades ago, Jaca, in the north of Spain had a professional championship but there were no competitors from the host country.) I will try to skate more and more, to promote skating and make sure people in Spain get to know more about skating.”
Fernandez has had a steady climb. He made his European debut in 2008 finishing 17th. Then he slowly advanced - 11th, 8th, 9th and 6th last year. He was 9th in the past season’s World championship.
The week had not started well. His coach, Orser, had grumbled that because of delays due to weather, snow and fog had closed Zagreb airport. That made them arrive late and without their luggage including Fernando’s skates (which their airline insisted could not go into the cabin because they were possible terrorist weapons).
That meant they missed the scheduled practices on the competition ice. Orser said, “I asked the ISU if Javier could have just 15 minutes to orientate himself on the arena ice but they said absolutely not, so we got off to a bad start. The texture of the ide in the practice rink was completely different. The same thing happened to Aliona (Savchenko) and Robin (Szolkowy, the German world pair champions). It does make a difference being familiar with the viewpoint from the ice. It helps to know where you are, particularly when you come out of spins, so you don’t go charging off in the wrong direction. But they were adamant.”
Fernandez opened his Charlie Chaplin routine with a quad toe loop which was so soaringly high, covering such length, with the rotation so well controlled and the landing so secure, that five of the judges awarded the jump the maximum +3 Grade of Execution. The other four all punched in Level 2.
He then presented a quad Salchow combined with a triple toe loop. Although the first jump was well landed, he had a slight problem stopping the rotation on the second and, a split second after landing, he touched his “free foot” on the ice to steady himself. That fault meant he lost -0.86 from the move’s base value of 14.60.
A +1.43 triple Axel followed, and two Level 3 moves, a change foot sit spin (+0.86) and a straight line step sequence in which he developed the character he was playing so well, he was rewarded with four +3 GoEs.
At the point when the 10% bonus points click in, he presented his second quad Salchow, gaining another three +3s with the rest +2s. For this element along, he banked 13.84 points.
So, this is it – the point when it has become necessary to execute three quads to win, and, since you cannot do more than two of the same kind of jump, you must present two varieties. The age of well-conceived and executed but quad-less routines is OVER.
The rest of Fernandez’s four and a half minute routine seemed flawless although it contained two minor errors. After a +0.80 triple Lutz to double toe loop and a +0.60 triple Loop, he received only the base value for a double flip (intended as a triple) to half loop to triple Salchow and a Level 4 flying change foot combination spin had a minimal -0.04 subtracted from its base value.
After the choreographed sequence, he tossed off a +0.80 triple Salchow and concluded with a Level 4 change foot combination spin. His components ranged from one 7.75 for transitions to one 9.75 for Interpretation, a category which three other judges thought deserved 9.50.
Asked how this victory sets him up for the world championship in March, he admitted, “This competition was very hard. At Worlds, it will be even harder. Everybody knows this. We all have to practice more and be even better to face Four Continent skaters – the Japanese, the Canadians and the Americans. They are amazing and we are in for a battle.
“I hope the number of skating rinks in Spain will increase. Hopefully, someone will be watching this event on television and be inspired to try the sport. There won’t be any big change but, hopefully, my small step will help more people care about skating. I will keep trying. I really practiced good and trained good. I felt really brave trying the three quads. Last year I decided I wanted to try to be Charlie Chaplin because it fitted my character, and my coach and choreographer agreed.”
2. Overall 250.53; 3.FS 160.71 (77.65+83.06); Florent Amodio of France, won this title in his first entry in 2011, but finished third last year behind the Russians, Evgeni Plushenko and Artur Gatchinski. (Plushenko pulled out of this event citing his back injury after an error-filled Short Program dumped him in sixth place. Gatchinski was not named to the Russian team because he was only fourth in his national championship.)
The expressive 22-year-old Amodio, who drew to skate last of the top six, interpreted in his very street-smart style, four pieces by Sebastien Damiani, “Jumping Jack”, “Broken Sorrow”, “Nuttin’ But Stringz” and “To Build a Home”, in an outfit with suspenders. He wore black and white gloves with the right hand having white on the back and black on the inside, and the left hand having the reverse.
He said, “I am very proud of myself and all the other skaters. The level of competition at this European Championships is crazy and we should all be proud of ourselves. I feel amazing. I won a medal and I will keep working hard for other projects.”
He trains with Nikolai Morosov in both the United States, where the routine was created with the help of dancers in New York City, and in Moscow. Amodio said, “Every time I go to Moscow, my mother cries. So, it is a sacrifice. But when I have to work hard in Moscow I keep that in mind and it makes me stronger. Other top level athletes make the same sacrifice in order to succeed. This is sport.” Asked what he needs to do to beat Fernandez, he said, with a smile, “Four quads!”
His first element, the quad Salchow earned an extra 0.43, but was meant to be combined with a double toe loop. He did an even better second quad toe, which was rewarded with one +3 GoE, which resulted in, overall, an extra 1.71 on top of its base value. However, since jumps may not be repeated unless they are with another jump, he scored less for this one (10.11 as compared to 10.93 for the initial move).
Then he did a flawed double instead of a triple Axel, which lost -0.50. “This was the first time I had two quads in my long program, so maybe I wasn’t as focused on the Axel,” he later explained. His flying camel was only Level 2 with +0.64, but his straight line steps were super, gaining Level 3 with three +3s, five +2s and one +1.
His second attempt at a triple Axel, at the point when the 10% bonus clicks in, was successful and earned an extra +1.71 giving a total score of 11.06. Since his first attempt had only been a double Axel, it was legal for him to try another triple Axel, which he did successfully, combining it with a double toe loop. Although the GoE was less (+0.47), he scored overall, 11.35, for this element. His final jumps were triple Lutz (+1.0 GoE) and a triple Salchow to double toe loop (+0.20).
He ended with two spins separated by a choreographed sequence. The Level 4 change foot sit earned +0.36 over its base value of 3.00. The “cs”, which only ever has Level 1, gained a total of 3.10, and the Level 3 change foot combination spin received +0.71 over its 3.00 base. (Yes a Level 4 change foot sit spin does have the same value as a Level 3 combination spin mainly because you do more revolutions on the combo.
3. Overall 243.52; 2.FS 163.68 (84.02+80.66 -1); Michael Brezina performed immediately following Fernandez and knew he had to beat his own season’s best to win. “It was really tough today. I had planned to go for full risk. There was no other chance for me to win a medal. When I fell (on his first element, the Quad Salchow), the only thing that went through my mind was, ‘I have to skate clean from now on or I’m done!’ I’m really happy that after so many years at the European Championships, and after a couple of fourth places, I’ve finally made the podium."
"My international career started here in Zagreb (at the 2008 European Championships) and now finally, I won my first big medal. I am very happy. It was a very difficult competition because everybody gave everything. It was an amazing last group of skaters and we should be proud of ourselves. Someone counted and we beat the Salt Lake City Olympics in the number of quads. We all need to do more quads. Javi (Fernandez) set the bar with three tonight and that was amazing. We need to practice more.
“We showed the world what European skaters are capable of, that we can compete for the medals at Worlds with the Japanese, Canadians, Americans, and that is how it should be. I will give my very best. I’ve learned how to let the noise of the arena and the crowd go in and out and just focus on my skating. The experience of skating last at the Olympics in Vancouver also helped.”
He now trains with Viktor Petrenko, the 1992 World & Olympic champion, in Hackensack, N.J. His routine was set to music from “The Untouchables”, and his character on the ice is the fearless, persistent lead FBI agent. “Everybody can see I am more consistent overall. That was what we worked on the most and I think we succeeded. I am happy I moved and what I can say today is that I will be working hard. So, hopefully it will pay off next season, which will be, the most important season in our lives. After the fall, I went jump by jump.
His second jump was a +1.29 triple Axel and the third, his second attempt at the quad Salchow, was successful earning an extra +0.29. At the point where the bonus marks click in, he flew through a triple Axel to triple toe loop, earning a +3 from one of the judges and a total score of 15.29. Other jumps in the second half were triple flip (+1.20), a triple loop (+1.30), triple Lutz, when he was tiring (-0.40), and triple Salchow to double toe loop (-0.20). He concluded with a Level 4 which earned a total of 3.56, the choreographed section earning a total of 3.10, and a Level 2 change foot sit spin, which got a minimal extra of 0.07.
Brezina’s 16-year-old sister, Eliska Brezinova, was 18th and didn’t make it out of the Preliminary round last year in this event. Preliminaries no longer exist. To enter, skaters must get a set mark in the category in a recognized international event. Brezinova did so, and finished 30th in the field of 36 in the Ladies Short Program but only the top 24 progressed to the Free Skate.
Brezina’s teammate, Tomas Verner won the title here when the European championships were last held in Zagreb in 2008, but this time he dropped from 9th after the Short Program to 11th overall with a Free Skate which was ranked 19th after he singled and doubled six jumps and got Level 1 for a spin. He did complete a flawed triple Axel and one triple Lutz. Understandably, when asked for a comment, the 26-year old said, “I can’t tell you anything that you can publish.”
4. Overall 232.47; 5.FS 148.54 (68.18+80.36); Brian Joubert seemed unfazed by his off-the-podium finish. Up until last year, when he was a shock eighth in this event, he had won ten consecutive medals, including three golds. This year, he was third after the Short Program.
The 28-year-old, who skated to music from “The Gladiator”, began with a great +1.86 quad toe loop, which really got a roar from the audience, followed by a +0.86 triple Axel, a +1.10 triple Lutz and a Level 4 change foot sit spin. But then he put two hands on the ice on his second triple Lutz and didn’t do the triple toe loop he had planned to combine it with. His second triple Axel turned into a single and he didn’t try a second jump with it. Later, both flips got an “e” for wrong edge take-off.
However, he did a triple Salchow which got +0.50 over its base value. The second flip had a double toe loop added to it. His steps were Level 3 with +0.71, and his second spin, the change foot combination, gained the maximum Level 4 with +0.57. His final spin, a flying upright, was only Level 2 with +0.50.
He said, “I skated well today. Yes, there were mistakes, (the second Lutz and second Axel) and I see I lost a level on the (final) spin.” But I was feeling good and the audience was behind me. So that leaves me happy. My preparations for this competition were short and yet I skated well here. (He was unable to compete in his nationals.) I see my component score was better so now I know I have to train more and add quad Salchow and quad toe loop before Worlds.”
Amodio and Joubert’s teammate, Chafik Besseghier, 23, was 11th in the Short Program, 10th in the Free but ended up 9th overall, up from his debut last year, when he finished 12th. He said, “Today’s performance wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad either. The quadruple jump (toeloop) is very important to me, I need to work on it more to have it consistently in my program.”
5. Overall 226.57; 4. FS 152.11 (79.89+72.22); Maxim Kovtun, acquitted himself well, pulling up from 7th in the Short Program. There had been a fuss in Russia about his selection since the 17-year-old had finished only fifth in Russian nationals, but had been impressive winning the Junior Grand Prix Final in Sochi in December. In Zagreb, he opened with a +0.43 quad Salchow, and a second quad Salchow which was given a lesser base value as a penalty because it was not combined with another jump but earned a higher GoE. He showed his inexperience when he changed around his program and ended up with no marks for one element because he had done too many jumps!
Only one of Kovtun’s spins earned Level 4. The others received Level 3 and Level 2.He said, “The European Championships were always going to be a big challenge. It is mainly about getting experience for me. The short program was the first step so that was much harder, then by the free it was easier. I knew more what to expect. After the quad, it was easier emotionally but not physically. At the end of the steps I felt really terrible. It was so hot out there. (At the Junior Grand Prix Final in Zagreb) there were fewer people but it was much colder, so it was at least two times easier. (On doing an additional combination) I thought it was fine. I only just found out now that there was a problem.”
Tatiana Tarasova, the famous coach who nursed Alexei Yagudin from a great technician who won the world title under Alexei Mishin’s guidance, into a great artist, has taken this young man under her wings. However, Kovtun’s music is from the classic, Casablanca, and he, certainly as yet, does not have the polish to even come close to Kurt Browning’s interpretation of this poignant music.
6. Overall 210.18; 6. FS 137.59 (72.89+64.70); Alexander Majorov, the 21-year-old Swede, coached by his father, became the first from his country to medal in an ISU championship since 1937, when he gained bronze in the World Junior Championships in 2011. He was only 22nd in the 2009 European Championship in his debut but had advanced to 11th last year. He interpreted “Life Begins Again” by Afro Celt Sound System. He is looking forward to Europeans which will be in his country’s capital city, Stockholm in 2015.
He said, “It was a good skate. I changed my jumps. I didn’t try the quad because I hurt my ligament. It was hurt before but I hurt it again this morning. It wasn’t a hard fall but the ligament’s not strong and now it’s really bad. In fact it’s a wonder I could walk. (on flipping up his hood at the end) It was my idea. My mother said something funny about the hood and I said ‘OK I’ll use it!’. I used to skate in a hood so it feels normal.”
7. Overall 210.18; 7. FS 131.80 (59.22+72.58); Sergei Voronov, who was runner-up in the recent Russian championships, began well with a quad toe loop which earned two of the maximum +3 GoEs with six of the other seven judges giving +2 and the other punching in +1. But he stepped out of his second move, a triple Axel.
His third element was planned as a quad toe loop to triple toe loop but became a combination of two triples. The rules state that a skater can only perform a specific triple twice, so when he later also did a double Axel to triple toe loop to double toe loop jump combination, the element was ruled “invalid” and he received no points at all for it. The 25-year-old, who was 4th in this event in 2008, also messed up the entrance to a flying camel spin and earned no points for that move. Collectively, he received the 16th best technical marks along with the 5th highest component score. It was amazing that he didn’t drop more than he did. He lay fifth after the Short Program.
Voronov performed to “Romeo & Juliet” in a “hoodie”, which he pulled over his head to take his bow. He explained, “I don’t feel very good. After the spin went wrong, I suddenly got this bad feeling, I felt very uncomfortable. I just didn’t feel right. It was so hard.” He messed up and nearly fell on his second triple Axel, which got an arrow for under-rotation. lt was difficult to get myself together psychologically after that. I performed well but not great, I guess what happens happens and today didn’t really work out.
8. Overall 194.77; 9. FS 127.43 (61.21+66.2); Viktor Pfeifer, the Austrian champion who has lived in the United States for years, training with Priscilla Hill, performed to “Breath” and “Guardians at the Gate” by Audiomachine by Michael Orteta. He said “I’m very happy about the big improvement compared to the past years.
“In the Short Program I felt very motivated. I’ve shown a good performance today but I had to struggle more, maybe because it was quite warm at the rink. Mentally, I felt confident and the audience here recognized the skating qualities. But I didn’t yet get the total element score minimum for the World Championships. Hopefully they’ll lower the score, because there are so many skaters who have failed to achieve it.”
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