2016 European Championships, Day One: Javi gets over 100 points

January 28, 2016
By Titanilla Bőd (Új Szó)
Photos © Joy & Mireille Geurts

Javier Fernandez scored over 100 points in men’s short program at the European Championships in Bratislava. Evgenia Medvedeva leads after the ladies’ short.

Not Russian Nationals

Three Russian skaters occupy the top three places after ladies’ short program. This is not something unexpected, as one of them is the winner of the Grand Prix Final and the other two were on the podium last year. The reigning champion, however, is missing, as well as the 2014 winner. Neither Elizaveta Tuktamysheva nor Julia Lipnitskaia made it through the Russian Nationals.

It might seem that the Russian Nationals are a tougher competition than Europeans, but the top three ladies didn’t want to compare the incomparable.

“These competitions are different. I am more nervous before Europeans than Russian Nationals. Europeans are new to me, it is my debut; whereas Russian Nationals are at home,” Evgenia Medvedeva said. She landed a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, a double Axel and a triple loop in her short program, all in the second half of the program. She earned 72.55 points and is currently in the first place.

Elena Radionova skated to “Je t’aime” and immediately caught the heart of the audience. In her passionate performance she landed a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, a triple flip and a double Axel and received 70.96 points. She was happy with her performance, because she decided only in the last moment that she will go for a triple flip instead of a triple loop. “Before I skated I was worried I couldn’t do it, and right up to the last minute I still had not made the decision. My coach wanted me to do the flip but she was also worried. She said ultimately it would be my call, so during the program I made the decision to risk it. You have to take a risk sometimes, you have to try, and I am glad I did it and it paid off,” she commented on this decision.

Anna Pogorilaya was not flawless in the short program - she doubled the loop so it was an invalid element. Still, she landed a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a clean double Axel and finished third with 63.81 points. “It wasn’t the worst skate I’ve ever done, but it wasn’t the best. It would have been a good skate if I hadn’t popped the loop. I think maybe I just rushed a bit; I just didn’t pull my arm in enough. After that I knew I didn’t have a chance. It is disappointing, but it is done, so now I am already thinking about the free program,” Pogorilaya told the press.

Uplifting crowd

Nicole Rajičová was not prepared for that. She knew it would be special to skate at home, but the support she received from the stands moved her to tears.

The Slovak skater switched back to her old “Romeo and Juliet” short program in December, because she feels more comfortable and confident in it, and she performed it with emotion and power. She landed a triple Lutz-double loop combination, a triple loop and a double Axel. She had a mistake on the landing of the loop, and earned 57.35 points. “I had that wobble on the loop, but I’m satisfied with the rest of the program,” she said. At Skate America she landed a triple-triple combination in the short program, but this time she didn’t want to risk it. “I had some problems with it at practice, so I’d better not risk it. You can’t win just with the short program,” she explained. The atmosphere in the Ondrej Nepela Arena was amazing and Rajičová confirmed that: “It was incredible. I knew there would be a lot of my own Slovak people here but it didn’t really hit me until I stepped out to the warm-up. The noise and support was like nothing I’ve ever had before and so uplifting.”

You raise me up

Men’s short also offered a lot of uplifting moments. One of the highlights of the evening was Jorik Hendrickx performing to Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up”. He landed a triple Axel, a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a triple loop, but the jumps were shadowed by his passionate footwork, absolutely matching the music. He received a standing ovation from part of the crowd, as he skated a program that will be remembered. “I wasn’t that nervous tonight, but the warm-up was a bit tricky. I messed up several jumps, but then I got my focus back and performing the program felt great,” Jorik commented on his performance, which meant 79.13 points and 7th place for him. It was obvious that he has a special connection to this music and he explained why: “Last year I was injured most of the season and I used this music for an exhibition, to get the feeling to the people who were supporting me, and to get healthy. I felt great skating to this music so we decided to use it for the short program.”

Although “Nessun Dorma” was listed as the short program music in Ivan Righini’s profile, the Italian skater also used the same song by Josh Groban, and he delivered a flawless skate. With 82.23 points he is sixth after the short program. “I think it was an excellent performance. I am usually not as optimistic as my coach, but today I am satisfied with my short program. I did all the elements, so I can go further and increase the technical level in next competition. I changed the music for my short program, because this one calms me down and I feel free to skate,” Righini said.

Impressive moments

It is hard to collect all the great moments of the men’s short programs, because besides the top skaters there were many “small triumphs” of new and old names, too. Jiří Bělohradský from the Czech Republic put on a very powerful performance; another debutant, Felipe Montoya, also skated with heart and emotion.

It must have been a special moment for Florent Amodio, who is planning to end his career, to entertain the audience in an easygoing way to the well-known song of Pharell Williams “Happy”, and Alexander Majorov also delivered an impressive program after having a tough season.

 

Black horses from Israel

Daniel Samohin and Alexei Bychenko are the black horses of the competition. Samohin was one of the three skaters who landed two quads in their short program, but he stumbled on the triple Axel. He is currently fifth with 82.73 points and his powerful program to The Scorpions’ “Still Loving You” caught the heart of many spectators. “I wanted to skate to something rock and The Scorpions is my father’s favorite band,” he commented on his music choice.

Alexei Bychenko is fourth, earning 84.09 points. “I was a bit disappointed at the end because it was pretty good till the end. I would say 99.9% but then I lost it on the last spin which was only a Level 2. I was a bit nervous if I’m honest. My legs were shaking at the end because I was a bit excited; because I was so close to clean and I think that stopped me doing my best,” he revealed.

 

Quad strategies

Michal Březina fell on the quad Salchow but otherwise skated very well, so he heads to the free program being in the third place with 84.30 points. “If I’m honest, I expected a slightly higher score, but I did have the mistake on the Salchow. I think everyone saw it; I did end up on the ice after all. But otherwise, all the other steps were really clean and level 4s. At least I didn’t pop the Salchow, that’s the main goal,” he talked about his strategy.

Maxim Kovtun, currently second with 88.09 points, had a clear strategy as well: to land two quads and the triple Axel. The plan was not fulfilled perfectly, as he fell on the Axel. Right after his performance he seemed cross, but later on he tried to find the reason for his struggles on the Axel: “At practices we spend a lot of time with the quads, then also with the spins and steps. We don’t spend so much time on some easier elements, and triple Axel used to be easy for me. But lately I’ve had issues with it, so I’m working on it a lot. I’m re-learning it.”

From another universe

Javi Fernandez is just from another universe. It’s not easy to find the words to describe his “Malagueña”. One could list the jumps he landed – a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination, a quad Salchow, a triple Axel. Or one could count how many perfect tens he got in the second mark from the nine judges – seven. Or one could just write down that massive score - 102.54, which made him the first European skater to get over a 100 points in the short program.

But this would not say anything about that special moment that happened in Bratislava, on Wednesday, January 27th, around 10 pm. Javier Fernandez just enchanted the whole arena; he was a true flamenco dancer - passionate, confident, gentle and strong. And his score just reflected that.

“I am very happy with my performance. We wanted to pass the 100 point mark at international competitions; there are other skaters like Yuzuru and Patrick that have programs with over 100 points, so I felt ready to take some risks,” Javier said. That risk meant including a second quad in the short program. “It’s a high risk, because if you make a mistake, you can end up at fifth or sixth place instead of the first,” he explained.

In Bratislava three skaters included two quads in their short program – Fernandez, Kovtun and Samohin – and Bychenko also mentioned he plans to do that. Is this the new trend in figure skating? “We do quads because it earns points, but I can’t say what the future will bring. Maybe the triples will disappear, or maybe the ISU brings a rule that only three quads are allowed in a program… I really don’t know what will happen,” Javi tried to foresee the evolution of the sport.

What is easy to predict, on the other hand, is the winner of this competition. Fernandez leads by 14.45 points – the margin between the first and the second places is bigger than between the second and the twelfth! Javi Fernandez does not need to pass the 200 point mark to defend his title for the third time in a row. But he will go for it, and that’s why we love him.







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