by Klaus Reinhold Kany
(3 February 2020) The general level of the men’s competition at the 2020 European Championships in Graz, Austria‘s second largest city and capital of the province of Styria, was not very high. Many skaters made several mistakes. The technical panel saw more under-rotated jumps than usual. After winning seven European titles in a row, Javier Fernandez from Spain had retired last year.
The new European champion is Dmitri Aliev from Russia who won 272.89 points. The 2020 Russian Champion was more than 26 points ahead of the rest of the field and highly merited his victory in spite of not qualifying for Europeans and Worlds last year after being out of shape in the fall of 2018 and winter of 2018/19. In his short program to the music “I Sleep on Roses“ from the Rock Opera Mozart, his combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop was a bit tight. The quad toe loop was good and he touched down his hand on the (under-rotated) triple Axel. Spins and steps had a level 4 and his components were around 8.3. He commented: “My second place today is just a place for the explosion in the long program tomorrow.“
His free program really was a kind of explosion, it was his best program in his career up to now. He skated to “The Sound of Silence“, originally sung by Simon and Garfunkel in hippie times but newly arranged by the US group Disturbed. He opened his program with an under-rotated quad Lutz, followed by a good quad toe loop and an excellent combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop. Six more triple jumps were very good, his steps and spins as well. His components went up to 8.6 with some 9.25 as highest ones because he is a very sensitive skater with feeling for the music. He regularly writes poems, for example during flights and likes to dream. But on the other hand he tends to forget ordinary everyday things. In Graz for example, he left his medal in the doping control room, his cell phone in the bus to the hotel and slept too long for coming to the mandatory exhibition practice on Sunday morning.
He commented: “At the end of my program I cried out of happiness. I could not hold back the tears because right away I had images in my head of my path to this result. I love the atmosphere at the rink, the first time I entered he rink, I felt good, I felt at home. I've been writing poetry – about the things we live through. It's easier for me to work through when I put it on a piece of paper. Our sport is like a song or a poem and you always write it. We write the program like a poem.“
Aliev had been one of three medal favorites. But the silver medal with 246.71 points for the 16-year-old Russian Artur Danielian is a real surprise, which even his own federation had not expected. He had been second at Russian nationals, but his main goal of the season are Junior Worlds. In the short, he performed a good combination of quad Salchow and double toe loop and five other good elements. He only stepped out of the triple Axel. In the free program, he skated to an instrumental version of the opera “La Traviata“. Two quad Salchows and five triples were clean, but his first triple Axel shaky and he fell on the triple Lutz. Steps and two spins being excellent he finished second in spite of a third place in the short and a fourth in the long program because more renowned skaters made more mistakes at least on one program.
He commented: “I did not expect to be on the podium. My goal was to show a decent skate, to make a name for myself on the senior level and to prove that I can compete with the senior skaters and look decent compared to them. My coaches suggested that music, I liked it right away, I imagined what it would look like in a rink in front of the crowd and I said I wanted to skate to it - I like music with rhythm that pushes me forward.“
Morisi Kvitelashvili was born, lives and trains in Moscow. He competed for Russia until 2015 but has Georgian parents and therefore now competes for the small Caucasus country of Georgia. He won bronze with 246.71 points after being tenth at last year’s Europeans. In the short program, his combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop was convincing, the triple Axel a bit shaky and he fell on the quad toe loop. In the free program to “Confessa“ by Italian pop singer Adriano Celentano, one quad Salchow, one quad toe loop and five triples were good, but he missed again a quad toe loop. He seems to lack a bit of enthusiasm on the ice and therefore is not a big crowd favorite. “My program is about a significant person in a life“, he explained. “There is a picture of a woman on my costume. It depicts an image of a lover or ex-lover. It’s about looking for a love finding and losing it.“
The two better of the three Italian skaters guaranteed their federation three spots for next year again. Daniel Grassl took fourth place with 244.88 points. In the short program, he landed an under-rotated quad loop with a triple toe loop, but fell on the quad Lutz. In the free he got a standing ovation for the second best free program from those who can distinguish the jumps. He is the only skater in the world who performed the three more difficult quads, the loop, the flip and the Lutz in one program. Not even Yuzury Hanyu nor Nathan Chen have done that. Five triples were good as well, but two more as well as the quad loop under-rotated.
He said: “Everything went as I expected. I got some under-rotated jumps, which I didn’t feel, but I will work on it and try to improve for my next competition. I heard how loud the public was clapping, I am very grateful for their support and I am pleased that I could make them happy.“
Matteo Rizzo of Bergamo near Milan finished on fifth position, earning 237.01 points. In the short, his quad toe loop was deeply landed, the triple Axel good, but he landed the triple toe loop after the good triple Lutz forward and on two feet. In the free program, seven triple jumps were very good, but he missed the quad toe loop and doubled the Lutz. The steps were excellent, but his interpretation of the Flamenco had not enough fire to get higher components than around 8.0. The third Italian skater Gabriele Frangipani gave his debut at an ISU senior championship. He is a training mate of Grassl in the town of Egna in Northern Italy and finished 13th with 218.00 points.
Deniss Vasiljevs from Latvia, who trains in Switzerland with the 2005 World Champion Stephane Lambiel, is sixth with 232.67 points. He has a good style and got many GOEs of +4 for the spins and steps, but no quad. In an otherwise good short, he almost fell on the triple Axel. Five triples in the free program were good, but the Axel and one more jump under-rotated. Czech skater Michal Brezina, who trains in Irvine, California with Rafael Arutunian, had unexpectedly won the short program (89.77 points) after a clean performance with a good combination of quad Salchow and double toe loop, a very good triple flip, an excellent triple Axel and components of around 8.3. But in the free program he tried the quad Salchow three times in vain and dropped to seventh position, earning 231.25 points. Recently, he had worked with Shae-Lynn Bourne, who moved from the East coast to Irvine. The day after his competition he rushed back to California because his wife was expecting their first baby in the near future.
Paul Fentz from Germany finished eighth with 230.01 points, which is the greatest success in his career up to now. After being sixth in a faultless short, he could skate the free in the best group for the first time. For his outstanding quad toe loop in the free, he got one first GOE of +5 ever from one judge. A popped second triple Axel was his only mistake. Last year’s silver medalist Alexander Samarin from Russia, fourth at the Grand Prix Final in December 2019, finished only tenth. In the short program, he almost fell on the quad Lutz and really fell on the quad flip and therefore had no combination. In the free, the quad Lutz and the quad toe loop were shaky, he popped the loop which was planned triple and fell on the second triple Axel. The rest was good. For French skater Kevin Aymoz, third at the Grand Prix Final and one of the favorites, Europeans were a disaster. After falling on the quad toe loop and on the triple Axel in the short and popping the Lutz which was supposed to be the first jump of his combination, he was only 26th in the short and therefore did not reach the Final.