by Klaus Reinhold Kany
(29 January 2015) The Men’s competition at the Europeans championships 2015 in the Swedish capital of Stockholm was not a great event because too many mistakes influenced the performances. The men take great risks, but none of them has really safe quads or triple axels. And some skaters concentrate so much on their most difficult elements that they missed some easier elements afterwards because of a lack of concentration. A lot of men including all three medalists said after the free program that because of the extremely dry air in the rink they had some breathing problems and missed more elements than usual, especially in the second half of the program.
For the third time in a row, Javier Fernandez from Spain took the title of a European champion, this time with 262.49 points. The bronze medal winner of the last two World championships had had a small injury on his left foot a week before the championships during an off-ice training session, but he said it did prevent him from training only for a few days. In the short program (89.24 points) to the rock music piece of Black Betty by Ram Jam, he stepped out of the quad Salchow as well as on the triple toeloop which was the second jump of his combination after the triple lutz. The triple axel was excellent as well as the dynamic step sequence (level 4) which two judges even rewarded with a +3. The three level 4 spins go mainly +2. The components had an average level of 8.6, with some 9.25 as highest ones. “I dealt with the pressure today”, he commented and certainly thought of the Grand Prix Final in December in Barcelona in his home country where he could not stand the pressure.
His free program to three parts of Rossini’s opera “The Barber of Sevilla” was not faultless either. He started with an outstanding quad toeloop which five of the nine judges rewarded with a +3. His first planned quad Salchow became a triple combined with a triple toeloop. His triple axel was very good. Later he fell on the second quad Salchow, performed three more good triples but reduced two others to double jumps. Besides the good jumps, his special strength was his charming interpretation of the opera music. Therefore his components went up to 8.9 with some 9.75.
He said: “It's a really hard day for a lot of the skaters. I have never experienced a competition this tiring before. I don't know why, but I couldn't even bow to the audience at the end. I was so exhausted. It's not because I'm not training well. Yesterday I did a perfect run-through in practice. This medal is more important than a regular European medal because it's three times in a row. It's a little bit more special than other medals as since 1989 nobody has won three European medals in a row. To have my name on the list of skaters that have done it is something that's really special for me as I'm making a little history in my country. When I find it hard that's what I have to keep me going. It is a tough program from beginning to end. I have a lot of transitions and a lot of choreography. I don't really stop in the whole program. Next year I'm going to tell my choreographer to do an easier program because I can't do this anymore. I'm getting older and older.”
Two Russian skaters won the other medals: Maxim Kovtun took silver with 235.68 points. He had been fourth in the short program after stepping out of the quad Salchow and touching his hand on the quad toeloop. His other elements were good. His style still is a bit flat, but he has improved with the help of the two former US ice dancers Peter Tchernyshev and Maxim Zavozin who now live and coach in Moscow as choreographers. At the beginning of the free program, he again stepped out of the quad Salchow which was underrotated. Then he touched his hand down on the quad toeloop and stepped out of the triple axel. The other ten elements were good or very good, including five more triple jumps and three very fast spins.
He said: “I have mixed feelings about today. Obviously I'm very happy that I was able to win my first medal at such an important event. I count World and European championships as the key competitions. It was tough for a lot of us today. When we were all sat together after the free program everybody was saying that today was the hardest competition. But I fought till the end, but it was tough, I felt like a stone was dragging me down in each of my jumps.”
Kovtun’s countryman Sergei Voronov won the bronze medal with 233.05 points after being second in the short program. At the beginning of his short program to “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saens, he nailed a combination of quad toeloop and triple toeloop (he got six +2 and three +1). His triple loop was safe, but his axel only double. He started his long program with the same combination as in the short, but this time the first toeloop was on two feet. Four other triple jumps were clean, but he stumbled on the second triple axel and popped the triple Salchow. He interpreted James Brown’s “This is a man’s man’s world” and other American pop songs which his choreographer Alexander Zhulin had suggested him.
He commented: “The feeling of my skate and my jumps, like for all of us, was not good today. Yes, I got on the podium, but after Russian Nationals it was very difficult. There was New Year and those three weeks were very hard. I'm personally very happy that it's my second time in the top three at Europeans and I skated against strong competitors. I think I know the Spanish national anthem by heart now as I've heard it three times already.” The third Russian skater, 16-year-old junior skater Adian Pitkeev performed some technically excellent triple jumps, but still is a bit shy to present his personality (7th place with 210.87 points).
For Israeli skater Alexei Bychenko, who lives and trains in Hackensack, New Jersey, like almost all top Israeli skaters, this European championships was a great success because he finished fourth with 220.22 points. The style of the student of Craig Maurizi is no world class, but clean quad toeloops and seven triple jumps in the free program helped him to collect many points. The second Israeli skater Daniel Samokhin (16 years old) also lives and trains in the USA, in his case in Ontario, California and is coached by his father. He finished tenth with 209.93 points after performing an excellent combination of quad toeloop and triple toeloop in the short program.
Michael Brezina from the Czech Republic had also trained in Hackensack for two years, but last summer returned to Oberstdorf, Germany, where he had trained before. He finished in fifth position, earning 220.11 points. In the short program he was third after performing an excellent triple axel and a good quad Salchow. But he fell on the triple flip and could not add the triple toeloop which was planned as second part of the combination. In the free program he missed his two quad Salchows. The second Czech skater Petr Coufal (12th with 187.82 points) has no triple axel nor a quad in his program, but skated a clean long program with seven triple and five double jumps. The Swedish skater Alexander Majorov finished 11th after program with several shaky jumps. He had to pause for several months because of back problems.
Peter Liebers from Germany, eighth at the Olympic Games in Sochi, was very happy about his sixth place (213.57 points). He had to undergo surgery on his shoulder in the summer and paused for three months. It took him a long time to get into a good shape again. His short program with four triple jumps was faultless. In the free program he fell on the quad and had a few other mistakes. But thanks to good program components he could stay among the top. As there was no time for new programs, he used his two Olympic programs, made by choreographer Lori Nichol.
Ivan Righini from Italy, who had competed for Russia under his former name of Ivan Bariev, finished eighth after performing quite showy and expressive programs. He missed three jumps in the long program but got high program components. Former European champion Florent Amodio from France finished ninth with 210.11 points. His short program was clean, but in both programs his planned quad Salchows became triple and a few other jumps were shaky.
Two more skaters who train in North America reached the final: Patrick Myzyk on 20th position skates for Poland, trains in Brian Orser’s club in Toronto and works there with Lee Barkell who had moved from Barrie to Toronto half a year ago. Larry Loupolover (23rd) skates for Azerbaidzhan, was born in Brooklyn, New York and trains with former Azerbaidzhan ice dancer Igor Lukanin in Montclair, New Jersey. Chafik Besseghier from France withdrew after a bad short program (24th), citing an injured right knee.