2011 European Men's Championship

By Alexandra Stevenson

Free Skate

Amodio clowns on rostrum as the 5í 5" shortest men's winner stands between two 5í 10" "giants";.

Dethroned 2004, 2007 and 2009 European champion, Joubert wins Free and reveals, "He (Amodio) talks a lot in his sleep. I tried but I couldnít understand what he was saying," before promising two quads for Worlds.

1 Overall 226.86; FS 3. 152.57 (79.03+75.54) Florent Amodio

The 20-year-old Amodio is the first man to win the mens title in his first appearance since Ilia Kulik of Russia took gold in 1995 and Dmitri Dmitrenko of Ukraine was crowned champion in 1993 skating on two left blades. But, is there a curse on such a feat? Strangely, neither Kulik, who won the 1998 Olympic gold, nor Dmitrenko was able to repeat their European success although both got a subsequent bronze. Dmitrenko had to wait seven years before stepping up to the lowest rung on the rostrum in 2000. Kulik won bronze the following year, but then was fourth in 1997 and pulled out of the 1998 Europeans supposedly with a back injury that certainly was not evident shortly afterwards when he won the Olympic gold in dazzling form and immediately retired from competition.

France was over-the-moon with golds in both ice dance and the mens event. It is the first time two Frenchman have stood as the top two in this championship since 1961 when Alain Giletti won his fifth European title and Alain Calmat won silver before going on to win three European titles.

What a story Amodio has! He was a foundling rescued at four weeks old from the streets of Sobral in Brazilís province of CearŠ, where observation of a solar eclipse led to proof of Einsteinís Theory of Relativity. His guardian angels were an average couple, Nadia, a school teacher, and her husband, Yves, a computer information specialist. They adopted the child and brought him back to Fremainville, a small town in France. At four, in a Learn-to-Skate class, he fell at the feet of Bernard Glesser, an instructor, who sensed a competitive spirit in the child and taught him until last year. When Amodio was 12, he fell victim to Osgood-Schlatterís disease, which affects the knees, causing pain and edema. He was unable to skate for 18 months. In 2007, his parents took him back to Sobral to visit his roots, even though this meant he missed an international event.

In the Free, he gained the highest component marks but earned only the fifth best technical score. He skated first of the top six to Broken by Lisa Gerrard, Apologize by One Republic; Imms Be by Black Eyed Peas; Smooth Criminal, by David Garrett, and Donít Stop Till You Get Enough by Michael Jackson, Dressed in "street" attire including suspenders, he opened with a triple Axel that he landed on a steep edge and only received +0.14 GoE with two judges giving +1 and the rest 0. However, his second triple Axel was not just great, it was combined with a hand over head double toe loop which earned +1.29. He leant badly on his triple loop and was saddled with a negative -1.40.

Amodio, who was in the lead after the SP, is now being taught by Nikolai Morosov and his circular step sequence showed that dancey influence, gaining Level 3 and +1.0. His flying sit spin was Level 3 with +0.5. At the bonus point he executed a triple Salchow to triple toe gaining +0.80. His triple Lutz, on which he had only a very short landing edge, received a meager +0.10. His flip got an "e" for wrong edge resulting in -0.80 being taken off the base value. He was obviously tiring at this point.

His landing on his second triple Lutz, was not good enough for him to execute the two doubles meant to be combine with it and the move was given -0.40. However, his choreographed steps earned four +3s, four +2s and one 1 GoEs from the judging panel. He has obviously been working off ice with the type of dancers who perform to this music and he enjoys it. Part of that is showing off youthful exhuberance and in-your-face attitude, and Amodio has got that down perfectly. His outgoing personality exudes the openness shown by the winners of the TV reality shows. He finished with two Level 4 spins both earning +0.43.

He said, "It was hard to skate for a medal tonight. I had two, three minor errors but overall Iím so happy with this program. The audience was great. I almost couldnít hear my music anymore. It was magical to be out there. It was something special to compete for a medal and to skate in this last warm up group. It was a new experience for me and Iím happy with it. I hardly can believe I won. This is just crazy! It is just great Ė Brian got a medal and Nathalie and Fabian won. Vive la France!

He has obviously been well schooled in politeness, as well. He took the time to say, "This is like a dream come true, winning the European Championship, being on the podium at the Grand Prix and making the Grand Prix Final. I want to thank the people around me, the French Federation and the people close to me. I would also like to say bravo to Brian and Tomas. It is a real pleasure to be on the podium with them today. We are all working very hard in practice.

"I donít yet have a quad in my competition programs, but I will try to put one in for the Worlds. I know you have to do it there. We are on the podium here but there is very strong competition from other countries. Weíll work and try our best to beat them. I try to clear my mind and concentrate before each program. In the free program I have to entertain the audience. I almost couldnít hear the music because they were so loud. It was also difficult because I was skating for a medal. It was a lot to digest, but also a lot of experience for me.

"Yes, Brian and I were roommates for this competition. We had a lot of fun together. The result is not bad; first and second place. I am so happy for Brian and also for Nathalie and Fabian. We are on our own cloud." Asked about winning the European title on his debut, Amodio said, "Kulick was a great champion. I am going to go my own way but it is nice to be compared to him. Now it is my job to follow him on what he did in the Olympics."

2. 223.01; FS 1. 152.57 (79.03+75.54) Brian Joubert

Joubert had to recover from seventh place, doing his Free 15th which was third on of the penultimate warmup group. He has returned to his original coach Veronique Guyon and performed to Beethovenís Symphony No. 9. Dressed with a shirt which was red on one side and black on the other, he opened with a quad but the landing was not firm enough for him to get into the planned second jump, a triple toe. However, he received +1s from three of the nine judges and the rest gave 0 which is Ďsatisfactory in all aspectsí. That resulted in +0.29 GoE, giving him a total of 10.59.

The following triple Axel was good enough for him to change his plans and upgrade the second jump, executing a triple rather than the planned double toe. The move earned its base value of 12.60. A second triple Axel gained +0.43 over its base value of 8.50. Joubert is not known for getting good levels on his spins, but he has obviously been paying attention lately and earned the maximum Level 4 for his upright with +0.21 GoE. However, his circular steps were Level 2 with +0.50.

At bonus time he did a +0.50 triple Lutz to double toe to double loop but he put his hand down on the landing of the triple loop which followed, getting -0.60 removed from its base value plus 10%. Next up was a good +0.70 triple Lutz. His Level 3 change foot sit spin earned +0.43. The choreographed steps were awarded +0.86 over their base level of 1. (This element does not have other base levels.) His triple flip got an "e" and his final jump, a triple Salchow, had a flawed landing in which his hand almost touched the ice, which resulted in eight of the judges punching in their vote for -1. However, a solitary judge thought it still deserved the base value. He concluded with a Level 2 change foot combination spin which earned +0.43.

It was certainly not his best performance but it was worth first place in this section and it pulled him up to second overall. Putting on a good face, he said, "It was close (3.85 points overall difference between the top two). Three points more and I would have had my fourth title. I paid for my fall on the Lutz in the short program. Florent skated very well. Iím not disappointed. The most important for me was that I was able to come back strong and that I didnít give up.

"I went out in a fighting mood. I had nothing to lose. I donít expect a medal today. The marks were not so high. The judges left some room for other skaters. Next time, I just have to do a good short program. But it feels good to have skated like this today. This gives me motivation for my practice. I have to regroup now. The music calms me down. I was very disappointed with the short program. I worked a lot before the event with my coach. I was ready to fight in both the short as well as the free program. The short was unbelievable for me. The mistake on the triple Lutz was big. In the free, I didnít care about the placement or the score, I just wanted to come out on the ice and fight.

"This kind of competition makes me very confident. Putting two quads in my free program is my goal for World Championships. I donít know yet what type of quads I will do, two quad toes or one quad toe and one quad Salchow. I have to work and improve but I have done it before and I know I can do it again."

Asked about the unusual arrangement of being roomed with his rival, Joubert said, "It is thanks to our friendship and the friendship in the whole French team that we are able to progress. For Florent it is just the beginning, there are many European Championships to come for him. We get along very well. He is an adorable, simple person. We can relax together and that relieves the stress. But there is one problem with him. He talks a lot in his sleep. I tried to understand what he said but I couldnít."

Joubert has now set the record of ten consecutive medals in the European mens Championship. His goal is to better Alain Gilettiís five European titles. "I really want to beat him but I missed the gold this time, so it will be hard, especially if Evgeni Plushenko comes back to competitive skating. I want to do the best in every competition. If I do my job and win a medal it is great."

3.222.60; FS 2. 149.69 (75.25+74.44) Tomas Verner

The Czech 2008 European Champion, lying fifth after the SP, said, "I am not too happy with my performance today. I wanted to skate better. It was cold and I didnít give one hundred percent in the last step sequence, which is the highlight of the program. However I am pleased with the opening quad. This medal completes my collection as I now have gold, silver (2007) and bronze. I would have preferred another gold one though. But the other competitors were very good. I enjoyed the audience as well as the competition overall. Skating last was good as the warm up didnít go well and I needed the time to empty my head."

The quad toe loop impressed two of the judges so much they punched in +2. Five throught it was superior and gave +1. Two, however, thought it merely adequate in all aspects, and voted to add nothing to the base value. His landing foot collapsed on the landing of the triple Axel but he didnít fall. Nevetheless, all the judges punched in -2 and that amount was taken off the jumpís base value. He added only a single toe to his second triple Axel and his first Lutz was doubled but the second, which was combined with a double toe to double loop, earned the combinationís base value plus 10%. He finished with a Level 4 change foot combination spin which earned +0.43 over the base value.

Verner was second in the Free, 2.88 points behind Joubert and 0.94 ahead of Amodio. He explained, "Of course I hoped to be better. But itís sport. I enjoyed the event. I congratulate the guys placed above me but also all the guys placed behind me. I think it was a great event though it was cold in the arena. Iím glad to be back on the podium and I talked to Mr. David Dore the Vice President of ISU. We havenít seen each other for a long time as we can only meet at the podium because he gives the medals."

He performed appropriately for his music, with one white glove and one black. About his choice of music, he explained, "First of all me being 24 years old, I think Iím grown up enough to choose music that I want to skate to. It is not anymore my choreographer or coach who says what music Iím supposed to choose for next year and I wished to skate to Michael Jackson music, and there is a good point about choosing Michael Jackson. Even though you skate bad, the people will still enjoy the music.

"The transition (moving to train in Canada) was quite easy. It is only 7 hours to fly and I found a new family in Toronto who is taking good care of me. I am not as home sick as I thought I might be since I am really far away from everybody I love and from my friends. When I was looking for a training base I focused on what I need for my skating. Iím really pleased with my couple of months of working there and Iím getting ready for the Worlds. I remember Worlds 2007 in Tokyo and I think I was the only one to put two quads in the free skate and so why not do it again? If I feel the need to put two quads in I will do so because I became more comfortable with my quad jumps."

4.216.59; FS 5. 142.98 (74.34+68.64) Kevin Van der Perren

Van der Perren, 28, the flag bearer at the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Games for Belgium and the 2007 & 2009 European bronze medalist, performed 22nd of the 24 allowed into the Free, to the soundtrack from the movie The Mummy. He has said this will be his last competitive year. "My goal was to skate into the top five. After the short program (where he was 4th), I was even thinking that a medal could be possible because I missed the third position by only 0.15 of a point. But Iím pleased to stay fourth and get the invitation to skate in the exhibition. This year I have a very special show-program to Fairytale by Alexander Rybak. I developed a special glove and I skate with real fire. I decided before that this should be my last competition Ė but I can change my mind tomorrow. Iíve done that before."

This was Van der Perrenís 12th European championship. His first was in the 2000 season when he became his small countryís senior champion. As in the SP, he began his routine with a great +1.29 quad but didnít try the second one as planned. His triple Axel earned +0.57 over its base. All 13 of his elements earned at least their base value. The flying sit was Level 4 with +0.21. He executed a total of seven triples plus the quad.

5.216.07; FS 6. 142.31 (71.31+72.00 -1) Artur Gachinski

Gachinski, 17, runner-up for the Russian title, who was making his debut in this event, was lying third. He skated next to last to Shostakovichís The Bolt, bringing off a +0.71 quad toe but then fell on his first triple Axel. He said, "Iím angry with the Axel! But I donít really know what went wrong. I didnít feel pressure. I just wanted to give a good performance. It was a great experience to be here and it is good to know that Iím able to compete with the top skaters. I learned a lot and Iím very happy." His second triple Axel was +0.57 and he earned base value or better for all his moves. His only other error was in his last jumping pass in which he singled the first of his sequence of the planned two double Axels.

6.204.88; FS 9. 132.10 (61.60+70.50) Samuel Contesti

Contesti, 27, who was lying 6th after the SP, was the 2009 European silver medalist. Skating first of the top group of six, to Pan Pipes of the Andes, in a very bright outfit with orange on one side and black on the other, he was the only skater to receive a +3 for his opening move, a triple Axel. Five other judges gave him +2 and the remaining three +1. He was doing well up to the halfway stage, including a +0.36 Level 4 change foot combination spin.

But then he doubled his planned second triple Axel and did not do the second two jumps he was hoping to combine with this jump. Then he stepped out of his triple loop. At the spot where he had planned to do a double Axel, he had another go at doing a triple Axel but stepped out of a messy landing. That meant he wasnít properly prepared for the next element, meant to be a triple Salchow to triple toe combo. He couldnít manage the second triple and received -0.90 taken off the base value for a triple-double. A somewhat grim faced Contesti said, "Iím happy to skate here. The audience was great. I thank to my team," and rushed off to the dressing room.

7. 202.62; FS 4. 143.80 (78.88+64.92) Konstantin Menshov

Menshov, 27, has competed in the Russian national championships nine times. Up until this season, his best placing was 4th. However, this time he won the title and, as is his teammate, he is competing in his first European championship. His 14th place after the SP program meant he skated his Michael Jacksonís Smooth Criminal by David Garrett, eighth of the 24 competitors who progressed to the Free. That was second on in the second of four warm-up groups.

However, he got the audience to sit up with his first move. He was the only competitor to try a quad toe to double toe, and he gained +1.14 over its base value of 11.70. All but two of the judges punched in +1. The exceptions gave +2. That was followed by a +0.40 triple Lutz and a second quad toe, this one earning +0.40 on top of its 10.30 base value. His triple Axel gained merely its base value.

Then came a triple Salchow sandwiched between two Level 4 spins. After his Level 3 circular steps and a base value triple loop, he executed a three jump combo of triple toe to two double toes. His one mistake came on his double Axel to which he added only a single toe loop instead of the planned double. Then came his third Level 4 spin and the "choreographed" footwork which was rewarded with seven +2s and two +1s and a great reception from the far from capacity crowd, a few of whom had left the stands because they were just too cold.

It is possible Menshov might have earned more marks had he skated later. He said, "I tried to forget about the short program. I was very disappointed. But today my girlfriend arrived. She called me yesterday and told me that she was coming, but I thought she was joking. Finally I did a clean free program; it was the first almost perfect performance of the season. Because it was my first European Championship, everything was new. Iíve watched it on TV, but I didnít know what was going on. Competing at this level means more responsibility because it depends on the result how many skaters we can send next year."

8. 201.39; FS 10. 125.26 (58.42+68.84 -2) Michal Brezina

Brezina, 20, the Czech who was 4th in the European and World championships last year, plummeted down six places from second after the SP. Skating 21st, to Gershwinís An American in Paris, he opened his routine with an excellent triple Axel which earned four +2s, four +1s and one 0. A later triple Axel to double toe, set at the bonus time, was good enough to earn a slight positive 0.14. But he fell on his second move, a triple flip, and then later on the same jump. His first Salchow, meant to be a quad, was doubled but he accomplished a triple Salchow combined with a double toe and double loop as his last jumping pass. His only Lutz jump, late in the routine, was doubled. Two of his spins gained Level 4.

He said, "I donít know what happened on the jumps. I am confident about my condition. I felt comfortable in the air and just fell down after I landed. I was surprised I fell. I was also surprised I didnít close the quad. I donít feel that the fewer amount of competitions I had this season had anything to do with it. (He had to withdraw from all his planned events in the fall because of strained muscles in his side.) I think it is more about what you do in practice. Overall, I felt the short program was amazing and the free was good as well. The triple Axels were the best so far. For Worlds, I will try to do much better. I know I wonít have a problem improving as in practice I have been skating clean daily."

9. 199.65; FS 7. 139.17 (68.67+70.50) Javier Fernandez

Fernandez, a 19-year-old from Madrid, climbed up two slots from his SP standing to finish one place lower than last year. He wasnít disappointed. "It was quite OK. I didnít feel very good today. I caught a cold yesterday. My goal was to make it into the top five, but that wasnít possible anymore after my short program. Now I will start to work harder and I hope that I can skate into the top ten at the Worlds in Tokyo. It would be great to give a second Spanish skater the possibility to compete at Worlds next season.

He started his routine, set to the soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer, extremely well with a +1.29 quad toe, +0.43 triple Axel, +0.30 triple Lutz, plus two Level 3s, for his +0.14 flying sit spin and +1.00 circular steps. But then the triple toe which he combined with a second triple Axel as the bonus marks clicked in received an arrow for slight under-rotation. A triple Lutz to double Axel and triple flip were fine. But then a combination of triple Salchow to double toe got one arrow on the first jump and two arrows on the second which meant it was downgraded. The planned triple loop which was to follow was singled. His choreographed steps earned a +1.86 GoE but his last two moves, both spins, were weak. He received a +0.14 Level 2 for the change foot sit and -0.13 for his Level 1 combination.

10. 196.15; FS 8. 132.38 (67.46+64.92) Alban Prťaubert

Prťaubert, 25, who has taken the bronze in five French nationals, has competed in six European championships. He was also tenth in 2008, seventh in 2010, and sixth in his first two in 2006 & 2007. His best placing was 5th in 2009. However, he denied being disappointed. "Iím quite happy because my preparation was not good. I had a knee injury and couldnít work on the triple Axel and other jumps for one month. I only had a week to train in. I knew it would be difficult to perform well." He was unable to advance from his SP position of 10th.

Skating to Schubertís Piano Trio No.2 in E, he began with a triple flip to triple toe earning +0.80. His triple Axel to double toe got the base value. But half a point was taken off his triple loop for its scratchy landing. His second triple Axel, at bonus time, earned +0.29. His triple flip and triple Salchow were OK but the triple Lutz which came between them received an "e" for wrong edge takeoff. His final jump, a double Axel, was badly landed and had -1 removed from its base value. Two of his spins were Level 3 but the final combination was only Level 1.

About his future plans, he said, "I donít know. I will get my diploma this year and I will start look for work. I want to continue figure skating. I love training and love the sport itself, but if I find a good job then I might take it. It would be best to find a part time job and be able to continue skating."

11. 189.00; FS 11.124.47 (63.47+62.00 -1) Peter Liebers

Liebers, the 22 year-old twice German champion (2009 & 2011) and twice runner-up (2008 & 2010), skated to the soundtrack from Sherlock Holmes by Hans Zimmer. He dropped two places from his SP ninth place. He accomplished a +0.14 triple Axel to double toe but fell and rolled over on his second attempt at the triple Axel. The landing on his triple flip was not held and he also received an "e" for wrong edge take-off. Although he gained a Level 4 for his first spin, a flying change foot sit, his third spin, with which he concluded his four and a half minutes, was only Level 1.

He said, "Today, in the free program, I felt the lack of practice (due to his knee injury). I was tired at the end. My legs were hard. I made the program a little easier at the end. I couldnít practice for one and a half weeks after Nationals and I could do only jumps with a take-off with the left foot. I didnít practice loop, flip and Lutz. The free was hard today but Iím still rather pleased as it was a little better than in Oberstdorf (at Nationals)."

12. 178.34; FS 13 118.95 (59.57+59.38) Paolo Bacchini, 25, the three-time national bronze and six-time runner-up for the Italian title, was taking part in the European championship for the fourth time. Skating to music from Cirque du Soleil, he put two hands on the ice on his triple Axel, and also was given negatives for his triple loop and his second double Axel. He held onto 12th place from the SP although he was 13th in the FS, finishing four places up from his overall finish last year.

13. 178.19; FS 12 119.83 (58.55+61.28) Adrian Schultheiss, 22, is the four-time runner-up for the Swedish title, which he won in 2006. Skating to Raul di Blasioís Romeo & Juliet, he advanced two places up from his position after the SP. His best placing in five appearances in the European championships, was sixth in 2008. Last year he was 12th. He attempted a quad toe but was given an arrow for slight under-rotation. His triple Axel earned its base value.

14. 172.58; FS 21. 105.96 (44.98+62.98 -2) Kristoffer Berntsson, 28, the seven-time Swedish Champion, dropped from 8th after the SP. Right from the start, things went wrong. He received an arrow for slight under-rotation on his first triple Axel, then fell on his second attempt. He also fell on his triple loop. A flip was doubled and a double Axel was singled. He admitted, "My free skating was terrible. I donít understand what happened. I didnít really have any speed. I skated too slow." He has an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and is currently working toward a Master's degree in this field. His best place finish in nine starts in the European championships was 7th in 2008. He skated to fours pieces by Michael Jackson, Smooth Criminal, Dirty Diana, Beat It and Come Togther.

15. 169.33; FS 14. 115.86 (59.58+56.28) Anton Kovalevski, 25, from Kiev is the five time Ukrainian champion with a best place finish in this event of 13th who now trains in Oberstdorf with Michael Huth. He performed dressed in black third in the first warm-up group after placing only 19th in the SP and was able to climb four places with a showing which had flaws on seven elements but no falls, set to Stazione di Palermo by Salvatore Vali. His best place finish in this event was 13th, which he achieved in both 2007 and 2010.

16. 168.39; FS 19. 109.25 (54.61+55.64 -1) Jorik Hendrickx, 18, from Arendonk in Belgium, finished four places up from his debut last year. He was lying 13th after the SP, but he doesnít have a quad or a triple Axel. Five of his jumps were saddled with an arrow for slight under-rotation and he fell on his second triple Lutz. However, all three of his spins were Level 4 and his circular steps Level 3, all with significant positive GoEs. He skated to a Spanish mix in black with red.

17. 167.97; FS 15. 115.86 (60.85+54.56); Kim Lucine, a 22 year old Frenchman who started representing Monaco this season, is trained by his parents. He climbed three places from his SP standing in his debut in this event, with a routine to Singing in the Rain. He did not present a quad or a triple Axel, but his routine was only marred by two errors, an arrow on the second jump of his triple flip to triple toe and an "e" for his second triple flip.

18. 164.83; FS 20. 109.13 (54.57+55.56 -1); Victor Pfeiffer, 23, has been Austrian champion for six of the past nine years He currently lives in the United States and trains with Prill Hill at the SC of Wilmington. His best place finish in five starts in Europeans, was 17th in 2010. He was 17th after the SP but dropped a place. Skating to The Elephant Man and Entry of the Gladiators, he began ambitiously with a quad toe but it was downgraded and he fell. The following triple loop and triple Lutz gained more than their base values but his flip was given an "e". His double Axel was saddled with a negative 0.29 GoE. His circular steps were Level 3 and +0.07. His triple Salchow to two double toes, set at the bonus time earned its base value plus 10%. However, his second triple Lutz to a single toe had half a point removed. A triple toe earned its base value, and a Level 4 change foot camel received +0.29. His flying sit was only Level 2 and had a tiny 0.04 removed. After the choreographed steps, he finished with a Level 3, -0.04 GoE change foot combination spin.

19. 164.68; FS 17. 112.70 (59.14+53.56); Javier Raya, 19, is the Spanish champion from Madrid making his debut in this event. He was 21st after the SP and drew to open the Free. He began his Tosca routine with a triple Axel followed by a combination of two triple toes. His triple flip was flawed. Not only did he have -0.70 removed from its base value, but he wasnít able to do the two doubles he had planned to combine with this jump. His flying sit spin was Level 4, his change foot camel Level 3 but his triple Lutz had -0.40 removed from base value. After a combination of double flip to double toe and double Axel to double toe, which both got their base values but nothing more, he executed his circular steps and a triple Salchow. However, after his Level 3 combination spin and the choreographed steps, he finished on a low, executing a base value single Axel.

20. 163.60; FS 16. 112.98 (61.84+51.14); Denis Wieczorek, 19, was lying 22nd after the SP. He placed second in the German nationals. This was his debut in the European championships, and he is trained by Ilona Schindler. Performing 4th in the first warm-up group, to Vantage Point by Atli Orvarsson, his only flaw was an "e" on his triple flip. However, he presented neither a quad nor a triple Axel. He said, "I felt good out there today and I enjoyed to skate. I was looking forward to do my free program today and my expectations were rewarded. There were more spectators today and it was a little bit more fun to skate than in the short program. I felt pressure in the short. Iím skating this free program for the third year and I know exactly where everything is. I learned that I need to go into the short program like into the free program, more relaxed and having more fun."

21.160.50; FS 18 110.12 (60.40+49.72); Zoltan Keleman, 24, is the 4-time Roumanian champion. Previously, he finished 32nd in 2007, 35th in 2008, 34th in 2009, and 19th last year. He was lying 23rd after this yearís SP. He is trained by Cornel Gheorghe, who competed in this event nine-times with a best place of 9th in 1996. Keleman skated to the Mumbai Theme, successfully bringing off a triple Axel and three Level 4 spins.

22. 159.45; FS 23 102.81 (48.89+53.92); Laurent Alvarez, the Swiss national silver medalist, lay 16th after the SP but dropped six places. The 20-year-old who skated to Johann Straussí The Gypsy Baron, said, "I donĎt understand what happened. Iím disappointed. The problem was in my head. The beginning was really good. I did the triple Axel (+0.14) and the triple Lutz (+0.30). I had not the concentration to attack in the jumps (singling a flip and doubling the two Salchows)." This was his debut in this event.

23. 158.28; FS 22 104.29 (55.37+48.92); Maxim Shipov, a Russian born 23-year-old who began competing for Israel in 2007, skated to music from the movie Star Wars. He was 18th in the SP and was unlucky to end up 23rd, on place below his FS standing. He is trained by Elena Tchaikovskaya and Vladimir Kovalev in Moscow. He has been making small advances, 30th in 2008, 26th in 2009 and 25th in 2010.

24. 137.64; FS 24 87.90 (42.06+46.84 -1); Stťphane Walker102.81, the 20-year-old, Swiss national bronze medalist, skated to Kill the Target by Tomoyasu Hotei and Beethovenís Last Night by the TransSiberian Orchestra. He fell on his first move, a triple Lutz which was given one arrow. He said, "Iím disappointed. I felt strange on the ice and I canít say what it was. The experience of this event is very important. But during these three days I couldnít really show what Iím capable of. Thatís sport. These Europeans were my international premiere and I wanted to show that I can do better. There is still a lot of work to do." He was also 24th in the SP.

Short Program


Gachinski fails an element, just manages to keep from putting his hand down on a jump and STILL is lying third ahead of technically brilliant performance by Kevin van der Perren;

Cinquanta seen watching top men from comfort of press room; Asked if the rink was too cold for him, he replied by removing his coat and saying the press room was too hot.

Ouh la la! In France, male skaters have always pursued a sexy image. Just remember twice Olympic bronze medalist Phillipe Candeloro and the explosive up-and-down relationship of Brian Joubert dating Miss France. Even further back, three time-European champion, Alain Calmat, had women swooning. The more aggressive women of today would be panting with their tongues hanging out at his every appearance. Back then, there was quite a scandal, at least outside of France, when Calmat appeared in an extremely brief, woolen garment not much more than a G-string soaking wet on the cover of Paris Match. Match still is a hugely popular magazine in France, the equivalent of the US Life. But people were a little more prudish then, and Calmatís not small accoutrements were quite obvious. The issue was a sellout.

Now France has a cuddly new star, Brazilian born, French adopted, wide-eyed and cute 20 year old star, Florent Amodio, a bit naÔve but not shy. "He definitely has that provocative come-hither look the ladies love," said the popular former British champion Chris Howarth who has commentated for 22 years on Eurosport, and has taught at the Glacier Ice rink just outside of Chicago for five years.

1 78.11 (40.75+37.36) Florent Amodio, France, skating to Once Upon a Time in Mexico by Robert Rodriguez, trained by that mastermind of choreography Nikolai Morozov, he has the world at his feet. The 20 year-old beat Joubert in the free skate though not overall at French nationals in December. He was 12th in the Olympics. Sitting with him and Morosov in the Kiss & Cry area was that gorgeously ageless sophisticated Parisienne, Annick Dumont .

In an unusual move, the French Association has both Joubert and Amodio rooming together. "Itís not so surprising," said Cťline Longuevre, a sports writer for LíEquipe, Franceís national sport daily newspaper. "They asked Brian to show Florent the ropes." Obviously, they are gearing up for a changeover at the top. Joubert, who is committed to competing until after France stages the world championships in 2012, said he agreed to this situation but said he cautioned Florent that, "first hand experience is the great teacher. Anyone elseís advice may be useful or not. The only way you really learn is from your own mistakes."

Amodio said, "These are my first European Championships as well as my first big competition this year. I am very pleased with my short program. I have worked very hard for the last two weeks with Nikolai and Annick to be the best. I wonít let myself get carried away and I will stay focused for the free program. This short program was a special program. It is different from the free skating, where I allow myself to play with the audience more. As it is my first Europeans, it was very important not to make any mistakes in the short program and to stay focused and to stay in my bubble. It will be a good battle. I have already forgotten that I placed first in the short program. Tomorrow I will go to training and do my job. I will try to stay clear in my head and take it step by step. I look forward to a good battle on Saturday night.

"This season I got my first medals at the Grand Prix and I qualified for the final. The goal is to show the cleanest and best performance. I havenít forgotten about the quad. I want to start working hard on it after the European Championships and maybe it will be ready for the Worlds. My hard work paid off. Iíve worked like crazy in practice. Now there is still the free on Saturday to come and I have to stay calm. Iím ready for it. I just need to do the same thing that I did today and I need to stay cool and relaxed. To be in first after the short is magical for me at my first Europeans. I felt serene when I went out to skate. I was warming up when Brian skated. I noticed he fell but he is still a great champion." Joubert skated 17th of the 28 competitors, Amodio drew to skate 27th.

Amodio leads by only 1.98 points. His routine was not perfect. He began with a superb +1.43 GoE triple Axel and +1.0 triple Lutz. However, his triple flip was saddled with an "e" for wrong edge take-off. He earned only one Level 4 move, which was for his change foot combination spin. The other three elements which receive Levels earned 3.

2 76.13 (39.64+36.49) Michal Brezina, from the Czech Republic, is another 20-year-old, who is shining more brilliantly than his countryís older national champion, Tomas Verner, who, like Joubert, fell. Brezina missed the Grand Prix season due to abdominal surgery. But, skating to Japanese Kodo Drums, he obviously has recovered and racked up 2.37 points more than the Russian who is third. He said, "The routine worked out pretty well. I did a very good job today, thanks to my coaches (Petr Starec, Karel Fajfr and Karol Divin) in Oberstdorf.

"Finally, for the first time this season I have skated a clean short program. Right now I feel good to be leading (with five skaters still to come). Already one month after my surgery I started to practice again, but I couldnít do that much. After Nationals just after Christmas everything was well, I didnít feel any more pain. Then I went through my practice routine like last season, and it did pay off." Brezina began with a +0.86 triple Axel. His triple flip to triple toe got +0.30 over the base value, and his triple Lutz earned an extra half point. Two of his spins were level 4 and the other Level 2. His straight line steps were Level 3.

3. 73.76 (39.00+34.76) Russiaís Artur Gachinski, 17, skated to a selection of music by Pink Floyd from the Dark Side of the Moon album. He began with a +1.29 quad toe to triple toe which earned a total of 14.40. But on his triple Axel landing, he was leaning so badly, his hand was no more than a foot away from the ice. He also received a slight negative on his triple Loop, and he got no marks for his first spin! His coach, Alexsei Mishin says the call is wrong. However, the rules are very specific that a position is not counted unless it is low enough and held for a specific number of rotations and Gachinski did not meet these conditions.

Gashinski said, "I aimed at giving a good performance today and I didnít think about a placement. It was almost an ideal performance. There was just a little error on the triple Axel. I wish I could go back and correct it, but itís too late now." He explained his knee injury, sustained at Russian Nationals, "was a contusion and it is still bothering me. Iím still in pain sometimes and I had to leave out seven practice sessions at home in St. Petersburg. It is better now. It was hard in the beginning (competing in his first Europeans), but then I pulled myself together and then the inspiration came. I have positive emotions right now. I am happy to be in this position at my first serious competition of the year. Hopefully I can hold on to it or even move up. I am pleased that I was able to present myself from a good side. For the free skating, I just want to go out and to do the same that I did today, not more. I donít have to do anything else."

4. 73.61 (39.65+33.96) Kevin van der Perren, 28, of Belgium, who thought of retiring after last season, is now glad he stayed. He gave a wonderful performance. His quad toe to triple toe was the best this writer has ever seen. He got exactly the same marks as Gachinski for this move, 15.69. For his triple Axel, he was so secure, he was able to go into a high kick position and hold it after the landing. This earned 8.64 which was only 0.57 more than the marks Gachinski earned for his flawed effort.

Van der Perren, who skated to Art of War (based on Prokovievís Romeo & Juliet by Sergei Prokofiev), performed by Vanessa Mae, presented a triple Salchow which earned a +0.70 GoE, whereas Gachinski did a triple loop with slight minus -0.10. Gachinski got no marks for a spin while Van der Perren got a Level 1 for one of his. Gachinski received Level 3 for his other three moves; Van der Perren got a Level 4, a Level 3 and a Level 2. Overall for the elements, the Russian was only 0.65 behind the Belgian, which just does not seem fair. On the components, which are still somewhat subjective, the new guy on the block had an advantage of 0.80 over the veteran with three Olympic Games under his belt.

Van der Perren said, "I am really happy with the performance. It was the first time I had a quad in the short program and it went well. The quad and the triple Axel were the highlights of the performance. I wanted to quit last season but the results were too bad so I continued to compete this season. I donít know if I will compete at the Worlds, it depends on the results. I would like to end it on a high note. The Euros are the most important competition for me. I know I canít compete at the top at the Worlds. But at the Europeans I have a chance. I was planning on putting two quads in the free program, but it is a big risk. Even one is a risk, so we will see."

5 72.91 (36.38+37.53 -1) Tomas Verner, 24, Czech Republic, skated to Singing In the Rain. Going to train in Canada with Robert Emerson and Vlasta Koprivova appears to have given him fresh incentive. But he fell on his triple Axel. He explained, "Until yesterday I jumped it well in practice. But today in practice and in the warm up, I started to have problems. I came to this Europeans with high expectations, after all I have already been European Champion (in 2008). Iíve improved this season step by step and at least I wanted to keep my level. The goal of course was to compete with the top skaters and to skate in the top group. (On his goal for the free skating) I want to earn a standing ovation from the audience for my performance, but to achieve that I have to show a special performance.

6.72.78 (36.57+36.21) Samuel Contesti, 27, was the European silver medalist in 2009, the first Italian to medal in this event in 55 years. He was fifth last year. Skating to three pieces, Berliozís Hungarian March, Rossiniís The Thieving Magpie and Tchaikovskyís 1812 Overture, he played an orchestra conductor. He began with a flawed triple Lutz to triple toe loop (-0.70 GoE). However, his triple Axel and triple flip were superior. His first spin was Level 4. The straight line steps and the change foot camel spin were Level 3. His final element, received a very slight negative. He is coached by his wife Geraldine Zulini. Their son Ennio was born in June 2009.

He said, "It was a good program but difficult to skate because I was very nervous before. I had a difficult summer last year and I just started into the training in the end of September. So there was just one month left before my first Grand Prix". His placements in the Series were not good. "I want skate good and I want to enjoy the audience."

7 70.44 (34.90+36.54 -1.0) Brian Joubert of France, three time holder of gold in this event (2004, 2007 & 2009), and third last year, skated 17th, which was first in the next-to-last warm-up group. Dressed in black with a moderate amount of sparkles on his chest, the 26-year-old skated to Once Upon A Time in Mexico. He looked nervous, right from the start, and things went wrong immediately. On his first required element, Joubert couldnít check the enormous torque of landing his quad toe and was forced to execute a double three turn before getting airborne for the second jump, which was a double instead of triple toe.

The triple Axel looked fine and seven of the judges punched in zero, which means nothing added or subtracted from the base value, but two of the judges thought something was wrong and gave -1.0 GoE which resulted in the removal of 0.14 from the jumpís base value of 8.5 points. His first spin was an upright Level 3. This time three of the nine judges thought it was better than just OK and voted for +1 with the rest going for 0 for satisfactory in all aspects. Then came the triple Lutz. He has twice spiked himself badly on the landing of this move and he doesnít like it. This time he was way off vertical in the air and there was no way he could save the landing so he ended up sprawled on the ice. His spin following this disaster was only Level 1, but the following straight line steps and the concluding change foot sit spin were both Level 3 with positive +GoEs.

Joubert seems deflated but calm about the situation. He said, "This triple Lutz is really annoying. It is like Iím blocked. I had no problems in practice, and I did a perfect one in the warm up. Iíve had so much bad luck with this jump. I injured myself twice. Itís always the same with this triple Lutz. I fall on it and always in the short program. It is not a technical problem but a psychological problem. If I had fallen on the triple Axel or on the quad, I wouldnít feel as bad about it. I am very disappointed. I have worked very hard and this program didnít show what Iíve done. I just want to skate a strong free program, and it doesnít matter if I medal at the end or not."

8. 66.62 (33.05+33.57) Kristoffer Berntsson, 28, Sweden, performed to Comptine d'un Autre Ete from the movie Amelie Poulain soundtrack by Yann Tiersen. He is the 9-time national champion and has competed in every European championship since 2000. His best result was 7th in 2008. He explained, "The program is about struggling with life, being hit by life and still pushing through it. The performance was decent, but I know I can do better. The Axel was off axis, but at least I did it and the triple toe was downgraded (but only with one arrow so he still got credit for the rotation). That cost me a lot of points. But it was a pretty good start. I am hoping for more. My goal for the free is to skate a clean program and leave happy. The results are not the most important thing."

9.64.53 (35.31+29.22). Peter Liebers, 22, interpreted Blues Deluxe by Joe Bonamassa. He receive an "e" for wrong edge take-off on the first jump of the combination triple flip to triple toe which was a bit wobbly. But the triple Axel was good, gaining +0.43 GoE. The triple Lutz executed later had a half point deducted. He received only one Level 4, which was for his change foot sit spin. He said with a shrug, "Iíll take it. It was fun to skate now, and I wasnít nervous. But my preparation was difficult because of the knee injury that occurred at German Nationals in December. On my combination, the toe I thought that Iím a little backwards, but I do that combination a 100 percent in practice and so I was able to pull it off cleanly. The free skating will be hard because my preparation wasnít the best."

10.63.77 (32.33+32.44 -1.0) Alban Preaubert, 25, who skated to Turtle Shoes by Bobby McFerrin, has been five times bronze medalist in France. In 2009, he was fifth in this event. He said, "I am not too happy with my program because of the fall on the triple loop. It is an easy jump and I was thinking of putting a quad loop in the free, so it was a disappointment. The rest was good, so it was close to a good performance. The opening combination was clean so the fall was a shame. My goal for the rest of the competition is to skate well. The podium is out of sight so I would like to enjoy the free, skate without tension and deliver a clean program."

11.60.48 (32.00+31.48 -3.00) Javier Fernandez, 19, from Spain, had two points deducted for two falls in the step sequence and a further point taken off for a time deduction. From his score, you would not realize he was the most entertaining skater in the field. But his missteps fit into his program perfectly. He played a clown in a multi-colored outfit. His music was Histoire d'un amour from Nu Pogodi a Russian cartoon, and was choreographed by Nikolai Morozov. He was the first Spanish male skater to compete at the Olympics since 1956. Last year he was eighth in at the 2010 European championships. He was also the first Spanish skater ever to perform a triple Axel and a quadruple toeloop in competition.

In this competition, Fernandez started well with a +0.86 triple Axel but then received negatives for both his triple flip to triple toe jump combination and his triple Lutz. He received a Level 4 for one spin but a Level 1 for another. He said, "I donít understand what happened in the step sequence. In the training this morning everything worked just fine. Right at the moment my boots are too soft and I didnít had the time to get new ones before the Europeans. I have to fix them with tape and after the Axel, the left one broke." He injured his left upper leg and has compensatory pain in my right leg. "The pain had vanished but last week I felt it again. Itís a problem with the nerves. My doctor says that in future I must better care to warm-up properly."

12. 59.39 (30.92+29.47 -1) Paolo Bacchini, 25, has won four bronzes and six silvers in the Italian national championships. This is his fourth appearance in the European championships. Last year he placed 16th. He skated to music from Pinocchio. He fell on a slightly under-rotated triple Axel.

13. 59.14 (31.77+27.37) Jorik Hendrickx, 18, from Belgium, skated to Michael Bubleís Feeling Good. He finished 20th in his debut in last yearís European championship. The national champion in 2010 and was second this year.

14.58.82 (29.15+29.67) Konstantin Menshov, 27, who has a twin who is not involved in figure skating, is the Russian champion, who had never before medaled at that event in which he has been competing since 2001. (Evgeni Plushenko, who is still talking about returning to competition for the Sochi Games, took the title in six of those years. He is making his debut in these European championships, at an age when many competitors are thinking of turning professional. He executed a +1.29 triple Axel but then only a base value triple toe to double toe loop and then a double loop which got across the board -3s because it is a requirement to execute a solo triple jump. He skated to Tomas Balashís Silver Guitar.

15.58.36 (28.07+31.29 -1.0) Adrian Schultheiss, 22, Sweden, skated to Scuba, an Amon Tobin remix by Bonobo, falling on his first move, a quad toe, which was slightly under-rotated. Last year, he finished 12th in this event, after being 6th the year before.

16.56.64 (31.89+24.75) Laurent Alvarez, 20, who was runner-up for the Swiss title, was in his first European championship. He performed to Rachmaninovís Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor. All his jumps, triple Axel, triple Lutz and triple Salchow to triple toe were saddled with negatives. His spins were all Level 3 and his steps 2. He is trained by Peter GrŁtter, who guided Stephane Lambiel.

He was obviously enjoying the experience of competing in his home country. "It was just great to skate out there. I really enjoyed it and I wasnít particularly nervous before my performance. I was very well prepared for my first Europeans and I felt quite confident in myself. Well, my Axel wasnít perfect. (It was given -1.29GoE.) To be on the safe side I decided to jump the combination triple Salchow to triple toe instead of the more risky triple Lutz to triple toe. The audience was awesome and welcomed me already in the warm up with very warm applause.)

17. 55.70 (29.10+26.60) Viktor Pfeifer, 23, the six-time Austria champion, who lives in the United States and is trained by Prill Hill, skated to the soundtrack of The Mask. Last year he gained his best place in this event of 17th. His triple Lutz to triple toe and double Axel earned their base values his change foot camel spin got Level 4 but the triple flip was given an arrow for slight under rotation.

18. 53.99 (32.42+21.57) Maxim Shipov, 23, from Israel, who is trained by Elena Tchaikovskaia & Vladimir Kotin, who won four silvers in this event 1985-8, skated to Once Upon a Time in Mexico, opening with a triple Axel. He earned Level 4 for two of his spins but only Level 1 for the third one. His combination of triple flip to double flip was given a negative GoE of -0.80.

19. 53.47 (23.65+29.82) Anton Kovalevski, 25, is the five-time Ukrainian champion, who now lives in Germany. He was 13th in this event in 2010. Performing to Stop Time Rag, he executed only a double Axel, and a double Lutz to double toe which gained -3 from the full panel of judges because the male competitors must present a triple in the combination. He later accomplished a triple loop with a slight negative (-0.30). His element score was only 25th best but he was saved from elimination by th the component marks which were 11th best. He finished 13th in this event last year.

20. 52.56 (27.49+25.07) Kim Lucine, 22, who used to represent France at junior level until 2008 when he switched countries and is now reprenting Monaco. Trained by his parents, Claudie & Didier Lucine, he performed to Phantom of the Opera, and was making his debut in this event. His double Axel and triple Lutz earned their base value but his triple flip to triple toe was given an "e" for wrong edge take-off and the second jump was slightly under rotated.

21. 51.98 (26.12+26.86 -1.0) Javier Raya, 19, from Spain was making his debut in Europeans, and presented a Can Can routine which had enabled him to dethrone the national champion, Javier Fernandez, who, confusingly, has the same name. He fell on his slightly under-rotated triple Axel.

22. 50.62 (26.37+24.25) Denis Wieczorek of Germany, 19, skated to the music, Sherlock Holmes by Helmut and Franz Vonlichten. He is coached by Ilona Schindler and is the national silver medalist competing in his first European Championship. His older sister, Kristin, was the 2007 German champion. He said, "Itís a shame I didnít manage the combination (he did double Lutz to triple toe, which earned its base value but he had planned for both jumps to be triples), and the spin was a bit too short, but the other elements were ok. My first goal, to qualify for the free program, was reached, but I am a bit annoyed about myself, because it should have been better. The next goal is to skate a clean free program and to show the same performance in competition which I deliver every day in practice."

23. 50.62 (26.37+24.25) Zoltan Kelemen of Roumania, 24, is taught by Cornel Gheorghe. He started off his routine set to music from Cirque du Soleilís Dralion well with a triple Axel which earned its base value. But his triple Lutz to double toe had minus 0.40 taken off its base value, and his flip jump was doubled and got an "e" for wrong edge takeoff. Last year, he finished 19th last year.

24. 49.74 (24.35+25.39) Stephane Walker, 20, of Switzerland, skated to Angel and Devil. This was his debut. He said, "Iím disappointed with my short program but for my first Europeans it was ok. Most important is that I reached my main goal to get into the free skating, but I really wanted to accomplish this with a good skating." He had planned to do triple-triple but ended up doubling the toe loop after the triple Lutz and receiving half a point subtracted from the moveís base value. His triple loop received an arrow for slight under-rotation. "I felt very nervous this morning in the training. During the day I slowly came down and I felt quite comfortable on the ice before my skating. It was great to get this support. There are sitting many of my people in the audience, among them my mother and my sister. Now I want to enjoy the rest of the competitors from the audience."

The following four did not make the cut for the Free Skate:

25. 49.33 (24.83+24.50) Maciej Cieplucha, 22, from Poland, who trains with Scott Davis & Jeff Langdon in Canada, performed to Beethovenís For Lisa. It was a disappointment because he had placed 21st last year in this event. He began with a +0.50 double Axel but could only add a single toe to his triple Lutz.

26. 46.93 (22.75+25.18 -1) Moris Pfeifhofer, 22, Switzerland, performed to Harlem Nocturne. He is trained by Gheorghe Chiper. His performance was a disappointment since he had been 14th & 22nd in the 2007 & 2008 Europeans. He said, "It was really nice to skate in front of my home audience. This was my first time in Europeans in three years. It was my goal to compete at such a Championship, but I am disappointed it didnít go so well." He earned Level 4 for all three spins but fell on his first move, the triple Lutz and his triple loop received one arrow. "I have rarely had such a bad fall," Pfeifhofer said. "I had to gather myself again after it for a couple of seconds. I couldnít really concentrate on the next jump. Other than the fall, the rest of the performance was good. For us, the preliminary rounds meant we had to give it all while others could save their strength. It was nicer skating now, during the main competition than during the preliminary rounds."

27. 42.09 (22.12+19.97) Ali Demirboga, 20, of Turkey, was making his debut in this event. His combination was triple Lutz to double toe. He also executed a triple toe and a double Axel. One of his spins gained Level 4 but he got no marks for another spin

28. 41.81 (19.63+22.21) Four-time Danish champion, Justus STRID, 23, competing in his first European championship, drew to skate first and performed to La Vie En Rose performed by Michael Buble. He is coached by his brother, Kalle. He executed a double Axel, triple flip to double toe and his triple Lutz was downgraded. He received no marks for one of his spins.

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