by Klaus Reinhold Kany
(18 January 2014) Javier Fernandez, European champion last year, won in Budapest again, winning 267.11 points. He was better than at his two Grand Prix of this season, but has not reached the peak of last season. In front of about 5,000 spectators he started his free program to the soundtrack of “Peter Gun” and the “Harlem Nocturne” with a quad toe loop on two feet, followed by a combination of a deeply landed quad Salchow and an under-rotated triple toe loop. Five good triples and a second quad Salchow with a step-out were in his program as well. The three spins had level 4. His components were around 8.8.
“It was a hard day”, he said, “because I knew the other skaters were doing good and coming after me. I did my job and I did everything I could do. I have to try harder in the practices. All the other strong skaters are not in Europe so I’ve got to do more. In order to get as many points as Patrick Chan does, I would have to perform maybe ten quads, because he has something in his components which I do not have yet. But I will work hard to get as high components in the future. Before preparing for Sochi, I would like to go to Spain for the media and my parents for a few days. But I just see my coach Brian (Orser) is shaking his head and says no. So I have to obey and will go back right to Toronto with him to prepare for the Olympics.”
There was a fierce battle among the Russian skaters because they knew it is still open who will go to the Olympic Games. The best one clearly was Sergei Voronov who won the silver medal, earning 252.55 points. His opening quad toe loop was deeply landed, his second quad overturned, but he could add a double toe loop. Six triples were at least good and he invested extreme power and engagement in his program to a tango medley, especially in this steps.
Afterwards he said: “I am incredibly tired right now, but in principle I am happy. I showed I am not weak, I am capable. It helped me a lot to work now in the same group as Julia Lipnitskaia. She is absolutely an example to me, there is no shame to admit that. Her best quality is determination.” Voronov was certainly also asked about his chances to compete at the Olympics. “Let’s us ask the leaders of the federation, not me. It is beyond my control. I heard that Plushenko is having to do an internal test skate tomorrow or so. Obviously he wants to go to the Olympics, just as everybody else. Of course I would like to compete in Sochi as well. And I am ready. ” About his own performance, he said: “I think this is the merit of my great team headed by Eteri Tutberidze. My medal today was a bigger merit of my coach than of me. She forced me to do things I wasn’t able to do or that didn’t work before.”
Konstantin Menshov won a surprise bronze medal with 237.24 points. He is a kind of outsider in his country without strong lobby. He skated to unusual music of René Aubry and began with two very high quad toe loops, the first one in combination with a triple toe loop. Five triples followed, but his style is a bit less flowing and elegant. Therefore his components were only around 7.8. “I did my best performance of the season”, he said. ”I was happy with the jumps and the transitions – I tried to show my emotions as strong as I could. I continue competing because I feel that I am strong. I don’t feel 30 years old. I still have the will to fight. Evgeni Plushenko is a fighter, he will fight until the end. I am sure if he goes to the Olympics, he will give two hundred per cent.”
The Russian champion Maxim Kovtun showed weak nerves and finished only fifth with 232.37 points. His first quad Salchow was shaky, then he popped the second one as well as the planned quad toe loop. Skating to Tchaikovsky’s famous piano concerto No. 1, his interpretation looked a bit juniorlike. He commented: “After the third quad attempt I understood this wasn’t going to happen. I don’t really know what happened because it was all fine in the warm-up and I had a great practice yesterday. But after the first element my legs were shaking and I popped the next one.”
The Russian federation is faced with the difficult decision who will be the only man to be sent to the Olympic Games in their home country. Evgeni Plushenko preferred not to compete in Budapest, but he will have to undergo an internal test to prove if he is fit. The fact that Kovtun did not skate well and was beaten by his two countrymen, speaks in favor of Plushenko if his test goes well. The Plushenko case was intensively debated in Budapest even though neither Plushenko nor coach Mishin were present.
At an official press conference, ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta tried to answer many questions, but several things remained unclear, also because he seems not to have understood the meaning of some questions.
As Russia has only one spot in Sochi, the rule says that this very skater has to skate the team event as well as the individual event. Therefore Plushenko changed his mind last week and said he wants to perform in both. But does his body allow him to compete four times in eight days? He himself doubted that some weeks ago when he suggested that he would like to skate only the team event. There is still the exception that a skater can withdraw due to injury or illness until the morning after the team event at 10 o’clock if he shows a medical paper of an official IOC doctor. Then another skater may skate the individual event and the first skater would have to give back his accreditation. But the suspicion remains that this is a plan in advance. Many people say this is not fair sportsmanship, but if a skater says that his back is hurting, how should a doctor prove that this is not true?
Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic is fourth, winning 236.98 points, one point away from the bronze medal. His first combination of quad Salchow and double toe loop was clean, his triple axel even excellent, but then he doubled the second Salchow which was planned quadruple and also doubled the loop. Four other triple jumps were clean, the step sequence (level 3) excellent, but the two spins at the end had only level 2 because he seemed exhausted. He was angry: “That stupid double loop killed me. I think that cost me third place. But I’m still happy with what I did. It was the best skate of the season.”
Peter Liebers from Germany skated the best competition of his career up to now and finished sixth with 225.76 points. In the free program to a rearranged version of “Who wants to live forever” by Queen he started with a very good quad toe loop which he had seldom landed in competition. Six triple jumps followed, among them two axels which were a bit shaky. His style has improved considerably since he has worked with the Toronto choreographers Lori Nichol and Shin Amano. Tomas Verner from the Czech Republic fell from third to seventh position after singling or doubling three jumps and not missing his final spin.
France has often been on the men’s podium at Europeans, but this was no day for this country. Brian Joubert was the best of the three French skaters, but ended up only eighth with 221.95 points. He stepped out of the quad toe loop at the beginning, but landed seven triple jumps. Florent Amodio showed bad nerves and popped several jumps. Only two triples were clean, therefore he is only 13th with 190.13 points. Chafik Besseghier ended up 12th, winning 198.07 points.