by Alexandra Stevenson
(24 January 2013)
1.89.82 (49.18+40.64) Florent Amodio, the 22-year-old, who won this title in his debut in the event in 2011, was relegated to bronze status last year by two Russians, Evgeny Plushenko and Artur Gatchinski.
But Thursday’s winning Short Program performance has set him up for a return to the throne, even though his lead is only 1.02 points.
That Amodio ever put on skates was a weird turn of fate. He was abandoned by his mother soon after birth and, by chance, was adopted by a French couple who were visiting Brazil at that time. This season he is interpreting music from his birth place, “Memories of Sobral” by Sebastien Damiani.
Skating 29th in the field of 30 competitors from 22 countries, he sped through his opening moves, a +1.29 quad Salchow and a +1.71 triple Axel. His flying camel spin and the straight line footwork were both Level 3 with +0.71 and +1.14 Grades of Execution added to those element’s base value. The steps were done so well, three of the judges punched the maximum +3 and the other six officials all awarded +2.
Amodio’s combination of triple Lutz to triple toe loop was set after the half-way point and so earned 10% extra for a total of 11.51. He concluded with two spins, a Level 4 change foot sit, and a Level 3 change foot combination. His component scores ranged from five 7.50s up to two 9.25s.
His winning showing, he said, came from being, “very focused. I didn’t have good short programs in the beginning of the season and I really wanted to start well in this competition. The first short program (of this season) was very difficult, difficult for me to express. I couldn’t find myself in the music.
“But this Brazilian style is in my heart. It is my kind of program. I feel this music. Before the French Nationals I trained solely in France (with his original coach Bernard Glesser) because I was so tired and didn’t like life in Russia (where his coach, Nikolai Morozov, is based).
“But after nationals, I had a huge amount of work to do. I worked hard every day. Now, after skating this program, I know what I can do. I know that it is possible for me to be in first place. I’ll go with this feeling into the free skating on Saturday. I must focus to keep strong in my head for Saturday.
“The beginning of the season was so-so. I won Nationals although Brian (Joubert) wasn’t there. Now we will show the French team is still here, still strong. We worked hard every day before this competition. Brian and me wanted to perform and show the audience everything is possible. We did our jobs and we have to do it again on Saturday. I am going to relax tomorrow and practice.”
2. 88.80 (48.87+41.93) Javier Fernandez, Spain, who performed his routine to the soundtrack of “The Mask of Zorro”, also opened his routine with a quad Salchow which was even better than Amodio’s version. One judge gave +3. For this element, alone, he earned 0.57 more than Amodio. His triple Axel was also judged as superior. He received two +3s and the rest +2s, as compared to Amodio’s six +2s, two +1s and a 0.
All three of his spins were Level 4, as opposed to only one of Amodio’s earning this maximum, but Amodio got better GoEs for the moves. Fernandez also got slightly better component marks. Their step sequences were both Level 3 with Fernandez getting a full point over that base value, while Amodio received the higher 1.14 GoE.
The core reason that Fernandez is in second place, is that he executed “only” a triple Lutz to double toe loop as opposed to Amodio’s triple-triple. Fernandez was asked about the reason he did this. He replied, “I had a small question in my mind. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do the triple-triple. I wasn’t feeling great. I preferred to do the easier thing. I didn’t want to risk falling.”
“I wasn’t expecting to be fighting for gold. I wanted to be here. I just came to do my work. It was my goal to be here. Brian (Orser, his coach) is happy. The work we are doing in practice is showing up in competition as well. We just want to stay focused for the Free Program.”
Although he is only 21, this is his seventh time competing in the European championships. He has placed 28th; 17th; 11th; 8th; 9th; and 6th last year. He said, “This is the first time in Europeans that I got a small medal (for the Short Program) so I am so glad. Every year I go higher and higher. The focus is now to try to be on the podium in the Free Program, too. I plan to try the three quads (two Salchows and a toe loop). That plan worked really good in Grand Prix Final. I hope it goes good in the next two days as we planned. But it is hard.”
Fernandez, who has won bronze in the past two Grand Prix Finals, said, “I am very pleased with my skate in Sochi (this season’s GP Final.) Here (in Zagreb), I was a little bit scared because my skates were lost at the airport and I missed all the practices on the main rink, so I haven’t touched this rink before today.”
The top German pair skaters also weren’t able to get to a practice on the ice where they would compete due to their arrival delay because of weather cancelling flights. Orser, the twice Canadian Olympic silver medalist, voiced the opinion that the organizers should have some leeway to cope with situations like that. He said, “Competing without having a feel for the rink is a disadvantage. Even 15 minutes would have helped orientate the skaters.”
Fernandez also explained, “I changed from the quad toe loop to quad Salchow, because I talked to some judges and they weren’t happy that there weren’t any steps before the toe loop. It was easier to do that with the Salchow. There were so many flags being waved in the rink, it made me feel so happy that all those people are there to support us skaters. It’s unbelievable support. It makes a difference.”
3. 83.93 (44.17+39.76) Brian Joubert, France, got credit for the rotation in his opening combination of quad and triple toe jumps, but he had to do a turn between them and lost 1.14 off the 14.40 base value. His following triple Axel gained an extra +0.57 and his flying upright spin was Level 3 with +0.50. His triple Lutz earned a full point over its base value of 6 points.
His change foot combination and change foot sit spins were both Level 4 with +0.64 and +0.43 added. He finished with Level 3 straight line steps which elicited two +3 and the rest +2 GoEs.
The 28-year-old year old, who skated to “Genesis” by Justice and “Aerodyamic” by Daft Punk, choreographed by Guiseppe Arena, has been competing in this event since 2002. He has won medals in every Europeans except for last year when he was eighth! (He received gold in 2004; 2007; & 2009; silver in 2003 and 2011; and bronze in 2002, 2005, 2006 & 2010. He said, “I am very happy, of course, because even if I did small mistake in my (quad-triple) combination, I felt very confident in my program. It was great to skate for this audience. Everybody was pushing me. I loved it. I hope to feel it again on Saturday. I will do my best.
“The beginning of the season was very difficult. I had an ice rink problem (because his home rink in Poitier closed and he had to commute weekly to Paris), a coach problem, and a health problem. But the season is not over and we still have to fight every day and practice a lot. We show we are still strong. We still have to improve the short program. But this makes us very confident for the Free Program.
“I am very happy with my performance today. I am pleased I did the quad. Maybe I lacked confidence in the beginning of the program, but it went well. I am at the point in my career when I don’t think about the results, the points. I just go on to the ice to fight. I don’t think about programs in advance. I only think about the performance and how I feel on the ice. The audience and support here in Zagreb is amazing. I felt like I was in Nice at (the world championship where he finished fourth.)
4. 79.84 (40.91+38.93) Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic is 22, and first competed in this event in 2008 when he finished 16th. Since then he has placed 10th, 4th, 8th and 4th. He performed to “In the Hall of a Mountain King” performed by Epica.
He said, “It could have been better. I think I got a bit over-excited after the quad (toe loop which earned him 11.07 points). The triple flip went beautifully up - so big! But then, stupidly, I forgot to open it and landed it badly and couldn’t stop the rotation.” That meant he had to step forward and wasn’t able to get airborn for the second jump. “I lost five points from not doing the combination!”
“The beginning of the season didn’t go as I hoped. But, your aim is for the end of the season. I’ll just do my job in the Free and will definitely include the quad Salchow.”
5. 78.38 (42.81+35.57) Sergei Voronov, Russia, said, “It was a little hard for me as I hurt my left knee in the warm-up. I hurt the ligament and I’m going to the doctor right now. But I did almost everything. I landed my quad-triple combination and that is already a plus.”
The 25-year-old performed a lively, popular routine to “Yablochko” by Reinhold Glieve, known in the West as the “Russian Sailor Dance”. This is his fifth European championship. He finished 4th in 2008 when the event was also in Zagreb; 9th in 2009; 14th in 2010 and 10th last year. He is trained by Nikolai Morozov in Hackensack, NJ, and Marina Voitsekjovskaia in Moscow.
Voronov began well with a quad toe loop to triple toe loop and a triple Axel. His flying camel spin was Level 3 and the straight Line steps Level 2. His triple loop had a tenth of a point taken off its base value. His final two spins were Level 4 with +0.64. He finished almost four points ahead of his teammate, Evgeni Plushenko.
Voronov did have a little criticism. “The practice rink,” he said, “is, to put it mildly, hideous. It is cold and dark. This (the competition arena) may be old and in the Soviet style, but at least there is a festive atmosphere and you feel you are at the European Championships.”
6. 74.82 (35.46+40.36 -1) Evgeni Plushenko, Russia. Plushenko Pulls Out of European Championships
7. 74.46 (39.50+34.96) Maxim Kovtun, 17, is the 2013 Junior Grand Prix Final Champion, who was fifth in the Russian nationals but chosen, controversially, to be on this team instead of the national bronze medal winner, the 29-year-old Konstantin Menshov. Kovtun was very hard on himself. “I don’t know what happened. The performance was terrible. Maybe I was nervous. But I was 100% prepared for the competition. At first, I did feel the pressure. But, when I started to skate, I felt calmer. Tomorrow, I will just begin to train again to prepare for the free.”
He started the “Lawrence of Arabia routine extremely well with a quad toe loop to triple toe loop combination of jumps, which received an extra +1.29. But the following intended triple Axel turned into a double. His first two spins received Level 3 and Level 2. His triple Lutz had -0.80 removed because he put his hand on the ice during the landing. His straight line steps earned Level 3 and his final spin Level 4.
He said he had pleasant memories of Zagreb because he won his first Junior Grand Prix of the season here. He went on to win his second Grand Prix which got him into the Final in Sochi in December in the venue which will host the Olympic figure skating event. His win there led to his being put on the fast tract to selection for senior events. He is trained by Elena Vodorezova Buianova and Tatiana Tarasova.
8. 74.29 (40.04+34.25) The skates of Alexander Majorov, Sweden, were misplaced in transit and so he didn’t get to practice on the competition rink. That didn’t phase the 21-year-old, who is coached by his father and who skated to “Ray’s Blues” by Dave Grusin. He said, “Today felt really good. It is the first time for me to skate really well in a major Championship.”
9. 68.99 (33.27+36.72 -1) Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic, won this event in 2008 so was, obviously, not pleased with his performance to the “Dracula” soundtrack. He fell on his opening jump, a quad toe loop, meant to be combined with a triple toe loop, and he did double Lutz to double toe loop for his combination.
“This was a not a performance I was hoping to deliver. I have been struggling all season with execution of jumps in short program and I don’t understand why. I love the music and the story I am telling. But, somehow it is not working. There is not much I can achieve in long program for overall placement, since I am so far behind in points. I can only try my best to skate clean, not to fall.”
10. 67.34 (35.02+32.32) Viktor Pfeifer, who lives in the United States but represents the country of his birth, is the current Austrian champion. He drew to skate immediately after Plushenko and performed to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”. That did not phase the very experienced competitor.
The 25-year-old, who is trained by Priscilla Hill, said, “I am very pleased. I felt confident going in because I’ve trained hard and smart. It is cool being able to enjoy the performance. I just do my thing. I had meniscus surgery at the beginning of October so I haven’t had much time so I had to use every minute and every second of training.
“We try to be creative and try new things in the program, like the combination straight into the spin. We want to create something unique. I love the program and I love the music. I want to go for the quad and fight to do the best I can.” He skated a clean program. All seven elements received positive Grades of Execution.
Only the top 24 of the 30 entries from 22 countries progress to the Free Skate.
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