Europeans 2010, Tallinn, day 3:
Plushenko is back and back to the top

By Titanilla Bőd
Photos © 2010 Absolute Skating

History repeats itself, men’ s competition ended in Tallinn just like four years ago in Lyon: Evgeni Plushenko won the gold ahead of Swiss Stephane Lambiel and Frenchman Brian Joubert.

(Ab)original dances

Hawaiian music, Hungarian czardas, American country, Russian traditional folk – we saw a wide variety of styles and costumes during the original dances. The leading couple, Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin had the most unusual dance to aboriginal music. “We did a lot of research about this dance on the internet, that’s the place where you can find everything,” Shabalin explained.

The dominating Russian team however lost the original dance by a really close margin to Italian Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, who are currently second. "We worked hard on the technical side of the routine, because it is really important now with the new system. We almost got level four on all elements. Also both of us were really concentrated on the edges. At the same time we found a strong connection between us and the public,” Scali smiled.

Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski are in third place after the original dance. “We are satisfied with our skating, but we made a mistake on the twizzle. We could see that in the technical mark. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was great and we are happy to skate here. I want to thank everyone for their support. As for the theme of the dance, we weren’t looking for something extraordinary. We are Russians, and we just wanted to do a Russian dance. We want to show a Russian festival, the Russian soul, and I think we did that,” Khokhlova said.


Successes and failures

Let me add a personal comment: the highlight of the men’s free skating was the amazingly energetic performance by Javier Fernandez from Spain. A few years ago he was considered to be some kind of exotic competitor (what are Spanish guys doing in winter sports, right?) but by now he has become a popular skater and in Tallinn he made it to the top ten (placed 8th). Javier’s routine to “Pirates of the Caribbean” contained a quad toeloop (though not flawless), a triple axel, triple toeloop combination and a triple salchow, double toeloop, double toeloop combination and earned better technical score than bronze medalist Brian Joubert…

The Frenchman, going into the fight with Plushenko as a reigning champion, skated first of the top favourites. His opening quad toeloop was however overrotated and the planned quad salchow became just a double. Although Joubert fought to the very end, it was clear that he couldn’t win with such a performance. “I’m disappointed,” Joubert admitted after the competition. “I knew I wasn’t ready for this free program. I’m really confident with my short program, but not the free program yet. It’s a physical problem, technically and mentally I’m okay.”

After Joubert’s mistakes, Evgeni Plushenko didn’t even have to risk anything, he just went out on the ice and (like in the old times) landed his jumps, claimed the gold – for the sixth time in the history of the European championships. He won the title four years after his last appearance on the competitive ice. The only little flaw in Plushenko’s program was a doubled lutz, but he made it clear why he has problems with this jump: “I’m training quad lutz. Maybe I should try a quad instead of a triple.” And what is the difference between Plushenko from 2006 and Plushenko now: “I have everything,” stated the Russian star. “I have all the titles, I have money, I have a great wife. I came back because she told me, but maybe I also lacked the competition feeling.”

Stephane Lambiel had another motivation. “The Olympics is a very special event and I wanted to challenge myself again. I’ve been to two Olympic Games and taking part in a third one is a big challenge for me.” The comeback so far was successful, Lambiel was second in the free skating and managed to squeeze in between Plushenko and Joubert.

Winners were happy and losers were disappointed but everyone emphasized: Europeans are not so important. The more important competition takes place in Vancouver, in three weeks…

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