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2019 European Championships

Javier Fernandez Finishes Career with Seventh European Title

 by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(26 January 2019)  The menís competition at the 2019 European Championships in Minsk, Belorus had a mixed level. In the short program, the 12,000 spectators in the Minsk Arena, which is sold out every day, saw see many good or excellent programs. But in the long program many skaters faltered. One goal of the judging reform of 2018, however, was reached, Skaters with few or no serious mistakes are rewarded and those with several falls and serious mistakes are punished.

EuropeĎs ďSkating Kingď Javier Fernandez from Spain had often announced that he will finish his ISU career at this European Championships. He had skipped the whole Grand Prix season, but crowned his career in Minsk with the seventh title in a row, this time with 271.59 points. After the short program to ďMalaguenaď, however, he did not look like a winner because he was only third and nine points behind the leader. His combination was a quad toe loop and a double (instead of a triple) toe loop, his quad Salchow was judged under-rotated, he stepped out of the triple Axel and he did not skate in high speed in some parts. His components were around 9.3.

A bit of bad mood came through in the press conference when he criticized the jury, ďIíve been away quite a bit this season but that doesnít mean Iíve gone through my whole life. Iíve seen mistakes today in figure skating Iíve not seen in my whole life. I donít know if they forgot Iím still a figure skater, but [I hope] somehow they will get their minds together for the free program because I think that was a great short and they didnít show it in the result. I had three weeks training in Toronto. Definitely three weeks was not long enough time to prepare for one competition. I had a cheated quad Salchow today that was not [cheated]. I saw it on the ice and it was not. So thatís why judges have slow motion. I donít what it means [has happened] in these ten months, but Iím surprised.ď

After his long program to last seasonís music ďThe man of La Manchaď his criticism of the jury was forgotten even if it was not perfect. He began with a combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, but stepped out of the triple toe loop. His quad Salchow and both triple Axels were excellent and the triple loop very good. Instead of tripling the flip he performed only one and a half rotations. The rest of the program was excellent, therefore his components went up to an average of 9.4.

He commented, ďIím glad it was here and Iím glad I competed. I feel a bit sad because it has been 21 years training for competitions, but it was the time to retire. I will skate for other things but not for competitions. But at the same time I was happy Iíve done a great career and I was able to accomplish much more than I thought I could accomplish. I think itís good for the world to know that not only skaters from strong countries can appear. I hope I can develop skating more in my home country to try and make it bigger, but I hope Iíve made history and in 20 years some people will still recollect my name.ď

Alexander Samarin from Russia won the silver medal with 269.84 points. He is no artist but mainly a jumper. Therefore his components of around 8.8 in the free program were too high. His combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop in the short was impressive, but he stepped out of the triple flip which had been planned quadruple. The triple Axel and the other elements were very good. He said, ďI got an unbelievably warm reception from the crowd and that was really cool. I was going for the quad flip but I think I didnít have enough experience in competition.ď

He started his long program with a quad Lutz, but stepped out of it. The quad toe loop and the first triple Axel were good, the exit of the triple loop a bit shaky, but four more triples very good. GOEs of +2 and +3 dominated. ďIt was tough emotionally and mentallyď, he explained. ďObviously, you want to be among the leaders and this is a big responsibility. I tolerated the physical pain until the end of my program. I made many mistakes, there were shaky landings. I really admire Javier Fernandez, Iíve watched him on TV since I was young and as this was his last skate Iím happy for him that he could skate so beautifully. But Iím also happy I could make him a bit nervous.ď

The bronze medal for Italian Matteo Rizzo, winning 247.08 points, was a big surprise. He had been tenth in a short program with a clean triple Axel, a triple Lutz with a small step out and a good combination of triple flip and triple toe loop. He said, ďI am a little upset because I missed the first combination, anyway I managed to put in on the second jump, but itís a big mistake. Then I rested a little more during the step sequence to get the combination right.ď

Rizzo arrived in Minsk with a new free program to a Queen medley instead of a Rolling Stones medley. He began with a excellent quad toe loop (four GOEs of +4), a jump which had always caused him problems up to now. The first triple Axel and five more triple jumps were good, but he stepped out of the second triple Axel. The very dynamic step sequence near the end had five GOEs of +4. His components were around 8.1. Right after his program he explained, ďWe had the idea to change the program because I didnít really feel that the previous one was 100 per cent mine. We changed it two weeks ago and already I feel much more comfortable with this one. Even after just a few run throughs I felt much better with this music.ď

More than one hour later he commented, ďOf course there are a lot of emotions inside me, as going from tenth to third place was kind of incredible. Iím really proud of myself and the work that all my team have done. It brings a lot of joy and emotions so Iím really happy about this. It was very unexpected because I was first in the third group so 11 skaters had to skate after me and I had to wait. It was a big surprise for me.ď

Kevin Aymoz from France, who trains in Florida, finished on fourth position with 246.34 points. He can move excellently on the ice and has a very good feeling for show and extraordinary positions and effects. His components had an average of 8.4. His quad toe loop in the short program to ďHornsď by Bryce Fox was clean, the combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop very good, but he stepped out of the triple Axel. Highlight was his step sequence which included a sidewise kind of Salto which is not forbidden. In the free program he fell on the quad toe loop, but five of the seven triple were very good. The step sequences were highlights again.

World bronze medalist Mikhail Kolyada from Russia had taken the lead in an excellent short program with 100.49 points, a very good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, an outstanding triple Lutz, a good triple Axel, a stellar step sequence and outstanding spins. His components were around 9.3 and he was nine points ahead of the rest of the field. But his long program to ďCarmenď was a disaster and he dropped to fifth place with 240.87 points. He fell on the quad Salchow, performed a very good quad toe loop, fell badly on the triple Axel and injured his left arm. After another fall on the triple loop, a triple toe loop was good, but he popped the second Axel. He said, ĄI fell on the Axel and it started to hurt. I donít know what happened, but maybe it is broken. But no matter what happens, I wanted to skate the program to the end.

The second Italian Daniel Grassl, only 16 years old, finished on sixth place. He is the first European skater to perform a clean quad loop, even in both programs. Most lower skaters made many mistakes. Czech skater Michal Brezina, who trains with Rafael Arutunian in California, sits seventh with 234.25 points. Alexander Majorov from Sweden takes eighth position, gaining 225.38 points. Israeli skater Alexei Bychenko, who has never been in good shape in this season, is ninth with 220.50 points and Morisi Kvitelashvili from Georgia is tenth with 219.79 points. Russian champion Maxim Kovtun made five serious mistakes in the free and ended up only 14th with 216.18 points.