2012 European Championships: Men's Final

By Alexandra Stevenson

Evgeni Plushenko was given the “Position of Honour” and brought the 2012 European Championships to a close on Sunday afternoon skating, he says, ‘like a real Plushenko’ last in the Exhibition program. Undoubtedly, this event will be remembered as his second “comeback”. The first was for the 2010 Olympics. He now vows he will go to Sochi (see below) but still maintains he must have a knee operation and will not be at the World Championships.  


1.261.63 Evgeni Plushenko, Russia, 2.SP; 1.FS 176.52 (87.68+88.84) took a long time to take up his starting position for the Free. Is he even aware there is a time limit to do so? The maestro had looked a little vulnerable in the Short Program but in the Free on Saturday afternoon, he had obviously eaten his Wheaties and was raring to go! Since the 29-year old had had to go through the qualifying round, he was familiar with the ice, and the feeling in the 9,000-seat Motorpoint Arena, which was full for the first time this week.


Interpreting Tango de Roxanne in a black tux with silver trim and a fake rose over his heart, he soared through his opening jump, a picture-perfect, solid quad toe loop, for which one of the nine judges gave the maximum Grade of Execution, +3, while two others punched in +2. The majority, five, thought it was merely superior and awarded +1. And one grumpy person gave 0, which still means satisfactory in every aspect.


Twenty four competitors had progress to the Free from the Short Program, and Plushenko drew to skate second in the last warm-up group of six, immediately following Tomas Verner. Up to this point, the competition had been fairly mundane with no one really gripping the audience. But the blond haired string bean of  a boy who first skated in this event in 1998 and has won a medal every time he competed, racking up gold (now 7 times) or silver (3), performed on a higher plain.


His second element was a +1.71 triple axel, the third a +1.20 triple loop, which one judge also thought was worth +3. Then he soared through an awesome triple Axel to triple toe which three judges awarded +3. Plushenko banked 14.89 points for this move alone. Two of his spins were Level 4 and the other Level 3. However, he, or his coach Alexei Mishin seem to have overlooked one strategic move. In the middle of the routine, around the point where the 10% bonus for jumps kicks in, Plushenko’s routine calls for two triple Lutzes, one combined with a double toe to double loop and one as a solo move. However, instead of timing it so both moves were eligible for extra marks, the combination was placed too early to get the bonus though the solo jump was included.


He performed his Level 3 circular steps with a great deal of attack and three judges gave +3 and the rest +2. His only move to get a negative came next –the triple Salchow to double Axel sequence which had –0.30 removed from its base value plus 10% of 6.60. His last jump was a double Axel.


Later, with a weary smile, he snapped, “Of course I’m happy. What can I say? I’m happy with my performance and with the results. After this competition, I will go to see my doctors and go to Munich to do surgery, so I’m not going to compete in Worlds.  We’re going to have surgery on the left knee (meniscus). Then I will prepare for next season. There will be a lot of hard work. But today I’m so happy. Believe me I’m proud of myself because I did a good job in the free with a good quad, a good triple Axel combination, and I wrote a little bit of figure skating history. I won the European title 7 times, so of course I’m happy.  


“From an emotional point of view, of course I was very happy, especially after the quad jump. But, as well as being pleased, I also needed to concentrate on what to do next. I remember skating at Europeans in Hungary (in Budapest in 2004) when I did a 4-3-2 combination, which went very well, but then my thoughts were in the sky and the triple Axel afterwards didn’t go well and I ended up losing to Brian Joubert! I learned my lesson well, and so I knew I had to think about continuing my program and keep the right frame of mind.


“Here (in Sheffield), I had a good practice in the form of the preliminary round. I didn’t skate the second half at my full strength and, by the end, I was very tired. I did get some low levels on some elements. But this time, I had a massage, a good warm-up, and you saw my emotions at the end of the program. I was very happy, I feel like I did maybe 8 years ago.


“I want to show through my skating that I can continue. I don’t want to just skate in shows. I want to show that athletes can carry on competing. I’ll be 31 and still competing in the Olympics. I want to prove to myself that I can have big results. But also, just take part in the Olympics, is a feat in itself. When I competed at the last Olympic Games, people said it can’t be done. They said, ‘It’s impossible to take three years off and come back.’ Only my closest friends and relatives believed in me.


“When I was injured and had to take some time off, again, very few people believed that I would ever come back. But I want to do something different. Of course, I can’t know my future. But what I do know is that I’m really enjoying skating.


“Many people call me the ‘King of the Ice’, and I’m thankful for being called something like that. I try to live up to that. I hope to stay the King for a long time to come and live on in people’s memories. Of course, I don’t just skate for myself - I skate for you, for the people who love skating. I need the sporting atmosphere, the adrenaline, the fight, not knowing if you’ll win or lose, and that amazing feeling of the competition.


“Today (Saturday) I'm so happy with my performance because I did the whole program clean. I did the quad and the triple Axel to triple toe combination, and I skated with big emotions. Like a real Plushenko! I'm sorry but I'm not going to be able to go to Worlds. I will have to have surgery in Munich, Germany, on my left knee. But for sure I'm going to compete next year and of course in 2014 in the Olympic Games in Sochi. And we'll see, maybe in 2018 and 2022 maybe my son will compete. If I'm skating like this while I'm injured I can do much more when I'm healthy. (On winning) It is my seventh title and I wrote a little bit of history. I am proud of myself. I decided yesterday in the practice that I’m going to do the quad. I felt that it could work after trying a triple toe and another triple toe.


2.246.27 Artur Gachinski, Russia, 1.SP; 2.FS 161.47 (82.61+78.86) skated 22nd in the field of 24, two after Plushenko, to music from the movie, Interview with A Vampire. He began with a quad toe to double toe to double loop that gained nothing over its base value, 13.40. But then he did a SECOND quad toe which got +1.86 which meant he banked a total of 12.16. One of the judges thought this element deserved a +3 and six thought it worthy of +2. The 18-year-old then did a triple Axel, followed by a second triple Axel to double toe. The first earned a minimal +0.29 but the combination got +1.29 over its base value of 9.80. Two of his spins and his circular steps were Level 3 but his last spin, the combination, which he performed as the 13th of his 13 required elements, was only Level 1. After the position where the 10% bonus marks click in, he executed a triple Lutz (+0.60 GoE), a triple Salchow (-0.10), a triple loop (on which he nearly fell and was penalized with a subtraction of -1.50) and a sequence of two double Axels (+0.14). He does show enormous promise technically. But, as yet, he has none of Plushenko’s charisma and cheeky charm.


Gatchinki said, “I was very happy with my program. I had been waiting a long time to skate this free and I’m happy with how it went. I did everything I attempted very well (except for the loop). This is the first time I tried two quad jumps. There was a slight under-rotation (on the triple loop, which was NOT called) and I didn’t quite finish to the music at the end of the program. But I was very content with how I did. I wasn’t intimidated by Plushenko's performance. To be honest, it wasn’t too difficult to follow his performance. I didn’t watch him and didn’t hear the marks.


“Ultimately, I just skated for myself and did everything I can. I tried to complete all the jumps and steps and my aim is just to get everything done for myself. I’m absolutely very happy. This is only the second time I’ve competed in Europeans and I placed second! (He was 5th in his debut last year.) That’s a big step for me. I really progressed and got a season’s best. Both my marks were very high, so overall it’s been a very successful competition for me. I want to work on getting a higher second mark. I did two quads today for the first time and was very pleased, but I have two more to come that I want to include in my program once I have the strength to do so. I feel like I still have a lot to achieve.”


3.234.18 Florent Amodio, France, 5.SP; 3.FS 155.70 (74.14+81.56) Amodio, 21, was the last to Free Skate. He performed to Memories of Sobral by Sebastien Damiani Rio played by Sergio Mendez. (Sobral is a city in Brazil where Amodio was born. He was adopted by a French couple visiting the city when he was a few weeks old and brought back to France. At 18, they took him back to see his heritage.)


Things did not start well for the 21-year-old defending champion. His first move, a Salchow, was meant to be a quad but became a double. But then he executed a triple Axel to double toe which earned 1.57 over the base value. His flying camel spin was only Level 2 but his Level 3 circular steps were great and three judges voted for +3 GoE, while five punched in +2 and on +1. At the bonus point, he brought off a second triple Axel which got one vote of +3, seven votes of +2 and a solitary +1.That was followed by a +0.80 triple Lutz to two double toes, and a Level 3 change foot sit spin which was so good, it received two +3s, six +2 and a solitary +1 from the same ungenerous judge who was the lowest marker on the two other elements which some thought deserved the maximum.


A triple Salchow to double toe was worth a full extra point and a second Lutz got +0.90. However, his triple flip was saddled with an “e” for wrong edge  take-off. After a single Axel, he performed his choreographed steps which received five +3s, two +2s and two +1s. He finished a Level 4 +0.79 combination spin.   


He said, “I feel happy. There were a lot of difficult moments during my performance. I'm going to focus now on Nice (the World championships at the end of March). I am so excited. Last year I won and it was magic. But this time, to come back and fight my way back, was amazing. At Worlds, it will be difficult. I don’t have the right (leeway) to make an error on the quad like I did here. But I have two months left to prepare. I will take care of my body as I have some pain.


“This was such a difficult experience. It was a difficult beginning of the season for me but I’m very proud for me and my team because I worked very hard and started to feel the real Florent Amodio, the guy who stays calm before competitions and can compete with all skaters, so I’m happy and I feel free. I feel that I can go to Nice calmly and just do my job. That was a great experience here and I’m really happy.


“It’ll be a long time to become like Evgeni. I have a lot of respect for him because he’s come back and it’s like he never left. I’m very happy to be part of this podium. I sacrifice a lot to train in Moscow and now my dream is to get more medals and work hard and do a better and better job. (Amodio trains with Nikolai Morosov, who travels around to many places in the summer, but is based in Hackensack, NJ. When he is in France, Amodio is looked after by his career long coach, Bernard Glesser.) I don’t know for how long I will be able to continue but I want to keep my love for skating.


“It was a tough start of the season. At the competitions I was at the end of the result lists, so I had to reflect on what didn’t go right. (He was only 5th & 9th in his two Grand Prix events early this season.) I focused totally on skating and consulted with my coaches, my federation, and we worked hard. I focused totally on figure skating, which I hadn’t done in the summer, because I did a lot of shows. That as a nice experience, but I needed to fully focus on my skating and preparation.


4.229.30 Michal Brezina, Czech Republic, 6.SP; 4.FS 153.17 (74.15+80.02 -1) Skating to the theme for the TV show, The Untouchables, the 21-year-old began well with a triple Axel, which earned three +3s, and five +2s. But, then he fell on his quad toe which was given an arrow for slight under-rotation and his Salchow, meant to be a quad, turned into a double. From then on, with one exception, everything went OK, including a second triple Axel and a triple flip both of which were combined with a triple toe. His flying sit spin was Level 4 and his circular steps Level 3, with the steps earning the maximum GoE, +3, from two of the judges. However, his last jumping pass, meant to be a triple Salchow to double Axel sequence, turned into a double Salchow to single Axel to double Axel sequence.


Brezina said, “skating 21st, right after Plushenko, was not a problem (because of the great applause, intense emotional feeling from the audience and delay in clearing the ice surface). I think it was good. So far I have always been lucky every time I’ve drawn to skate after him. During the first half of my performance I missed a quad but I believe the second half was good. I also missed two jumps of high value. Still, I'm happy with my skate and now I know what I have to work for the World Championship. After missing the quad I just remember what my coach (Petr Starec) always tells me: ‘Go step by step and concentrate on the jumps and moves ahead of you.’ After this competition I will get a week off and then go back to practicing to improve my jumps.”  


5.225.36 Tomas Verner, Czech Republic, 3.SP; 6.FS 144.22 (67.06+78.16 -1) The 25-year-old, who was European champion in 2008 and placed third last year, skated first of the final group of six. Performing to Sing Sing Sing and La Vie en Rose, he had a bad fall, sprawling flat on his first move, the quad toe, which was deemed slightly under-rotated. That was followed by a good triple Lutz, but then he did a single Axel.


At the halfway stage, he brought off his planned second triple Axel which earned an extra +0.57 and a triple loop which was rewarded with +0.80, but his second triple Lutz, combined with a triple toe lost -1.10 and the triple flip got an “e” call for wrong edge take-off and so had -0.80 removed. On his final jumping pass, a planned triple Salchow to double toe to double loop, he singled the last jump. His circular steps were Level 3 with +0.93 GoE and his first spin was a Level 4 upright with +0.57. His other two spins were Level 3 with +0.50 for the change foot spin and +0.43 for the combination.


Verner dropped from third after the SP to fifth overall with a Free which was only sixth best. He readily admitted he was very mad with himself. “I'm not very happy with my skate. It was a disaster from beginning to end. I struggled with the triple Axel and the rest of the program was awful. I knew from the beginning I had lost the podium. I know you should put this behind you but I couldn't. But I'm Czech, I never give up. Wait for Nice.”


6.222.26  Javier Fernandez, Spain, 4.SP; 7.FS 142.15 (65.37+76.78) The 20-year-old from Madrid, who now trains with Brian Orser in Canada, was so upset with his showing, he wouldn’t talk to the press afterwards. He is the first Spaniard ever to medal in a Senior Grand Prix and make the Final which he did this season. At the final in Quebec City in December, he earned the bronze.


But it has been a different story here in Sheffield five weeks later. Although he had shown off a splendid quad in the SP, his other jumps were not perfect. Nevertheless, he lay 4th going into the Free. Then his balloon burst. He had been advancing since taking 28th in his debut in Europeans in 2007. He was 17th in 2008, 11th in 2009, 8th in 2010 and was somewhat disappointed at his 9th last year. However, sixth is still his highest place and he finished a significant 9.94 points ahead of Contesti, who was seventh overall. He skated to three operatic arias from La Traviata, Nabucco and Rigoletto.


His first quad, a toe, was landed on a very deep knee bend and he had to do a three turn to hold the landing. However, his quad Salchow was so good, two of the judges gave the maximum +3 GoE. But then he got no marks for an Axel attempt. After good Level 3 circular steps and a Level 4 change foot sit which elicited two +3s, he did a single Axel to double toe and a messed-up triple Lutz to single toe. A triple Salchow got -0.90 removed. His last jump was a bad triple loop. However, he left the audience applauding two Level 3 spins enclosing the choreographed steps.   


7. 212.32 Samuel Contesti, Italy, 11.SP; 5.FS 145.46 (70.04+76.42 -1) was also disappointed. The 28-year-old, who was the European silver medalist in 2009 (the first Italian man to medal in this event in since Carlo Fassi won in 1953 & 1954), performed to La Vie en Rose and Ca Gaze. He did well to recover from the SP in which he fell and completely messed up another element. He explained, “Like in all my free programs this season, I felt very good about the free but not very good about the short program. I lost 10 points on the short and I’m disappointed about that. It’s the first year I’m performing this Free and I feel really good about it. The audience was very, very excited and I love that! We’ll have to think about whether to change the Short completely, or just add some more steps to it. We’ll see. But at least I was in the top ten so Italy can send two skaters next year.”  


8.207.83 Brian Joubert, France, 10.SP; 8.FS 139.91 (61.07+78.84)  Aaaaaah Joubert! He is interesting and sexy even when he’s not skating so well. The 27-year-old is recovering from a back injury which kept him out of the Grand Prix events this season. He has won a medal at Europeans every year except the current one, since his debut in this event in 2002, including gold in 2004, 2007 & 2009. So what happened?


In the SP he fell on his quad meant to be his combination, did a bad triple Axel and failed to add a jump onto his triple Lutz which could have brought in a few more points. He opened the FS with a good quad toe for which seven of the nine judges punched in +2, and a satisfactory +0.18 triple Axel, both of which were planned as combination. Those jumps and a triple Salchow done late in the routine were the only jumps which were judged clean. For his third element, he executed a jump which was called a wrong edge triple flip and then nearly fell on his second quad toe, which was given an arrow for slight under-rotation. A triple Lutz was also given an arrow, and a second triple flip received an “e”. Plus, a triple loop also got a bad score with -1.40 removed from its base value. Two of his spins and his footwork were Level 3 but the other spin, an upright, was only Level 2.


Somewhere while doing his initial jumps, his strap holding the sides of his right trouser down over his boot came lose. He deliberately pulled up the trouser to keep the strap from dragging on the ice and possibly causing an accident. This exposed his bare calf but the trouser subsequently fell back down. He explained, “For half of my program, I was, of course, worried to skate in this costume. I felt a little silly to skate with a pulled-up pant leg, but I had only one second to decide what to do and this seemed the best option. I am really satisfied with how I skated. Of course there were some mistakes, but I am really proud of my performance. I was crazy enough to put in the second quad, but I wanted to try it. I had no combinations and I lost a lot of points, but overall this was good for me to get ready for Nice. My preparation has been going well, but the time was a little too short. Now I have one and a half months left to get ready for Worlds.”


He had drawn to skate second in the second warm-up group immediately following Kevin van der Perren so he was asked whether the Belgian’s withdrawal had affected him. Joubert said it had not. “He had told me in the dressing room that there was a chance for him to withdraw, so I adjusted my warm up. In fact, I prepared as if I was to skate first in the warm up. He showed great sportsmanship for telling me and I want to thank him for that. Not everyone would have done that.”


9.204.63 Jorik Hendrickx, Belgium, 8.SP; 9.FS 135.65 (71.43+64.22) With teammate Kevin van der Perren pulling out after the FS warm-up and likely ending his competitive carrier, Hendrickx, 19, is emerging from of the shade. He was 20th in his debut in Europeans in 2010 and 16th last year. He does not present a quad and his triple Axel was -2 in both SP and FS in Sheffield, but he is making progress.  


He said, “My (Free) program was not so bad. The triple Axel was not so good. It's my new element this year and it was not so good in the short or the long program. But the other jumps were nearly clean, so it was not so bad. I had no nerves and I felt my performance was not so much for the audience. In practice it’s more energetic. Normally it sparkles more.  It is sad for Kevin, but I had to keep focused for my performance. I hope he will be better soon.”


10.195.89 Sergei Voronov, Russia, 14.SP; 10.FS 135.01 (74.15+61.86 -1) Voronov, 25, is the 2008 & 2009 Russian champion who was fourth in Europeans in 2008. He lost a lot of ground singling his Axel in the SP here in Sheffield and despite bringing off a quad toe to double toe in that round came into the Free lying 14th. He is also being taught by Nikolai Morosov. He opened his Free, which was set to the famous operatic aria I Pagliacci, with a quad toe loop, which was given 0GoE by all but two of the nine judges. However, two on the panel noticed some error and punched in -1. He then fell on his first triple Axel, although he was able to bring off the second version combined with a double toe and that earned +1.0 with all the judges punching in +1, except 1 who thought the combination was worth +2.


Voronov said, “The most annoying mistake was the (double) flip (which was meant to be a triple and got an edge call). I did it in the warm up and maybe I wasn't focused enough (in the program). I fell on the triple Axel, but more importantly I didn't pop it. 74 points for technique at the Europeans is good. As for the component score, my rating is probably not so high. After all, I wasn't there (on the major international stage) for about one and a half years. Of course, Russian Nationals and the Cup of Russia (Grand Prix) are important events, but the championship of the old world (Europe) is something like the Olympic Games or Worlds, there is a different attention and focus. I am pleased that I did the quad toe, after some people criticized me for not landing it (in some other event). But I proved that I'm still here and that I don't plan to retire. I could maybe sit at home and do something else, but right now figure skating is still my life and I can't imagine my life without it.”

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