2016 European Championships, Day Two: Javi's fourth title, Florent's farewell

January 29, 2016
By Titanilla Bőd (Új Szó)
Photos © Joy & Mireille Geurts

Three previous European champions occupy the first three places in ice dancing at the European Championships in Bratislava, while Javier Fernandez made history again by earning his fourth title in a row. Florent Amodio had a stellar farewell free skate and moved the crowd and his coach to tears.

Anna and Luca dancing to lead

Anna Capellini and Luca Lanotte are in the lead after the short dance, earning 72.31 points. "We tried to improve the short dance a lot. We have made a lot of changes, especially in the second half of the dance. We think that it has already paid off, but since essentially the whole second part is completely different, it's not as well trained as the rest of it. We only worked on it for a month so we didn't do many run-throughs. It can still grow. We still feel that it is new," Anna commented on their performance.
The 2014 European champions feel honoured to fight for the title again and they respect their competitors. As Luca explained: "It's a pleasure and an honour to be able to compete against the best couples - the Russians and the French. I even go to their trainings to watch them skate. Their elegance, the clean edges, the interpretation of the music is what really makes me love the sport."

Special comebacks

It has been a tough season for Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the defending champions. She suffered a concussion after a bad fall at a practice and they missed a lot of time. Europeans was their first international competition this season. "After a few months off I'm much better. I feel very good, but it's been very hard. We were late in preparing for the season so now being here and at our best is very special," Gabriella said. "The first competition of the season is always very hard as you have not built up the experience, but we did our best, it was very clean and we feel good," Cizeron added. The French couple earned 70.74 points in the short dance.

Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev had an even longer break because of Dmitri's knee surgery. They were not flawless in Bratislava, but with 68.71 points the 2013 European champions are in the third place. "I think it was like a return for us after last season, coming back after a serious injury. It feels different and it feels like there is no one else when we are out on the ice, just me and Dima," Ekaterina said.
At the press conference Dmitri also mentioned their injured teammates: "I want to express our support for our Russian pairs that were unable to compete here due to injuries. Yuka and Sasha even have to miss the World Championships. We really want to support them and Ksenia and Fedor. We know how hard it is to come back after an injury. As for our performance, we really enjoyed it, especially after we missed the last two European Championships. We are really happy to be back. We think we have new energy and we want to thank everyone for their support and warm words."

Morticia and Gomez

Federica Testa and Lukáš Csölley changed their short dance to "Addams Family" and in Bratislava it absolutely paid off. The home crowd loved Morticia and Gomez. "I'm very happy with the decision. I think the crowd liked the program too. The support was amazing, but of course there is pressure as we're skating at home and we do not want to disappoint anyone. We have a great responsibility," Federica said after their short dance, in which they earned 62.24 points. "We are always nervous, but it was different this time. It was the first time in our lives that we have performed in front of such a big crowd. The support was unbelievable. We can take a lot from this experience," Lukáš added.
The day of the free skate is almost sold out (they released some tickets yesterday for the standing sections of the stadium), so on Saturday they will receive an even bigger support...

Florent's frenetic farewell

There are competitions at which not the winning program is the one to be remembered. Bratislava might be special in this: fifteen years ago Alexei Yagudin finished only second behind Evgeni Plushenko, but his unforgettable free skate to Gladiator always remains in the hearts of the fans.
This time Javier Fernandez earned a well-deserved gold medal, but the program that brought down the house was performed by Florent Amodio.
It was the last free program of his career. It's hard to imagine how it must have felt. Taking the ice knowing you won't be doing this again. You may stumble under such a pressure. Or you may rise higher than ever.
For this occasion Florent brought back an old free program, the one which he dedicated to his Brazilian roots, the one that probably fits him the most and the one he probably loves the most, because he often used it in exhibitions – "Memories of Sobral". And he just rocked. It was amazing technically, with a textbook quad Salchow and two triple Axels, and it was just perfect presentation-wise. For one very last time Florent showed what he is made of.
At the end of the program everyone rose for a standing ovation and Nikolai Morozov was crying like a baby by the boards.

The way to be remembered

"I can't believe it. That was the best program of my life and it was the last one I will ever do. It is a dream. It is a dream to skate like that; and to skate like that at this moment? It's unbelievable," an ecstatic Florent told the press and he continued: "The voices were crazy. The noise was crazy. It was so hard because I was listening to the crowd but trying to make myself focus. After every jump I was thinking 'I did it! I did it!' but I had to keep my focus. As for my career, I work so hard. I have had lots of medals and lots of bad moments, so to finish like this... I can't believe it. This is how I want to be remembered."
Amodio earned 162.68 points for his free skate, but it was not enough to medal; even though he was second in the free skate, he ended up fourth overall. Many fans thought he should have been on the podium.

To forget as soon as possible

Michal Březina could have been on the podium, if he hadn't totally screwed up his free skate. He tripled his planned quad toe and he fell on both of his quad Salchows, popped an Axel and doubled a loop. "In short, it's a huge shame. I don't know myself what went wrong. Everything seemed okay. Something just went wrong in my head. You are meant to take something away from every competition but I don't want to take anything away from this. I want to forget this free program as soon as possible," he commented on his performance, which was just the 13th free skate, so he fell to the 10th place in the overall ranking.

Jorik Hendrickx dropped from seventh to ninth; he also did not have the skate he imagined. "I didn't start the program that great, it was a bit shaky and I had to fight for a few jumps till the end. I expected more at this competition, but there is always the next time and I now know what I have to work on for World Championships so I can redeem myself," he said.

Fighter Kovtun

When Russian Maxim Kovtun had a hard fall on his second quad (a quad toe), many fans thought he would not be able to continue his program. For a while he also seemed to be disoriented but then he kept going and went for another quad, a Salchow. He popped it, and everyone was sure it will be a disaster. However, Kovtun fought till the end of his program, landing also a triple Axel-triple toe loop combination. For his free skate he earned 154.13 points and overall he placed third with 242.21 points.
"I fought for all the first elements; it was just the quad toe loop that I could not manage. I really was in pain after that fall. I got tired very quickly. When you manage three quads it is a huge morale boost but today that was not there. I hate to pop jumps, I tried not to pop the Salchow with all my strength, and I know I would not have done if it were not for the fall," Kovtun said after his performance.

Making history

Alexei Bychenko from Israel was 4th last year and he hoped to keep this placement or even improve it. He was dreaming about the podium, but never about the silver medal. At the press conference he could not even express his joy after the free skate, for which he earned 158.47. His total score was 242.56, so he beat Kovtun just by 0.35 points. He is the first Israeli skater to medal at the Europeans. "It is nice to make history," he noted.

Javier Fernandez is used to this feeling very well. English teachers would correct a student who says "keep making history", pointing out that "making history" is not something you could "keep doing". But in Javi's case this expression is absolutely correct. He keeps making history at every competition.
In Bratislava his skate was not absolutely flawless, but at the Europeans he probably could afford to fall on all the jumps and still grab the gold. He is just from another league, beating the others by 60 points! This is a score some skaters would be grateful to have in the short program...
Javier Fernandez won his fourth European title in Bratislava. He landed three quads in his free skate and attempted two triple Axels but fell on the second one. Nonetheless, he passed the 200 point mark (he got 200.23 points) and became the first European skater to pass the 300 point mark in the total score: 302.77.
"We added the second triple Axel to the program and I thought it was really slow in the program so I have to go back to training to make it more confident, so I don't make these mistakes in the next competition which is Worlds," Javi already looked to the future.
Then, of course, he commented on earning his fourth title in a row: "To be among those great figure skaters who have won this title four times in a row is such a special thing. To get into that list of great skaters is not easy to do, of course, but it feels great. Hopefully I can come next year and keep making history."

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