Ice Network

Fernández takes third straight gold medal at Euros

Kovtun lands on podium for first time; Voronov comes away with bronze
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Spain's Javier Fernández claimed his third straight European title -- a feat that had not been accomplished since 1989 -- after finishing with a score of 262.49 following a 173.25-point free skate in Stockholm. -Getty Images

Spain's Javier Fernández finally made it: He won his third straight European title, a feat no skater had achieved since Russia's Alexander Fadeev in 1989.

He certainly did not achieve the feat in the fashion he would have liked, however. Fernández' free skate at the 2015 European Figure Skating Championships was the best of the field and quite solid, but far from flawless. He scored 173.25 points for his free -- far from his best -- and racked up a score of 262.49 overall. Russia's Maxim Kovtun and Sergei Voronov took the silver and bronze, respectively, nearly 30 points behind Fernández (235.68 points for Kovtun and 233.05 for Voronov).

The lower section of the Stockholm Globe was nearly full Friday night, and several thousand people had filled the upper section as well. That made the atmosphere even more energetic and cheerful.

Fernández entered the ice with an 8.18-point lead over Voronov, his closest competitor. He started his lively routine to Giaocchino Rossini's facetious The Barber of Seville with poise and lightness, and each one of his first steps was like a little jump in itself. His first quad toe was perfect (it racked up 12.87 points right away), and he followed that up with a triple Salchow-triple toe combination (instead of his planned quad-triple) and a triple Axel. He fell on his second quad Salchow.

"You know, I had a weird feeling as I was starting my first quad Salchow," he explained. "It was like when you're on a roller coaster reaching the top, you start to go 'aaah!' And then, I fell." 

He then doubled a few of his planned triples.

"I'm used to doing this, because that way at least I secure my points," he added.

His spins were rated Level 4, however.

"I have no more energy. I am completely exhausted," was the first thing Fernández said, breathlessly, as he stepped off of the ice. "At the end of my program, I could not skate anymore, so I was looking at the audience to give me a bit more of energy, because I could not find any bit left inside me. I have no idea about what happened, as I did great practices and great run-throughs, and I'm really used to skating this program.

"Some people told me that the air was dry," he continued. "I don't know what it was, but I think I've never been that tired before. I could not even bow to the people at the end!

"Winning the gold again feels great, however. This medal is even more important to me, because it's the third one in a row, and this makes it special. Having my name in that list of skaters who won three straight titles is very important to me. I work hard every day. This third gold medal is like my work paying off, and that is what I need to keep going," he said with a broad smile. 

Fernández was far from the only one to make mistakes, as all the favorites endured falls and mishaps throughout.

Kovtun skated his full heart out to "Exogenesis Symphony" by Muse, as he usually does. But his jumps did not land quite the way they should have: His opening quad Salchow was downgraded, and he put a hand on the ice during the landing of both his quad toe and triple Axel (with which he managed to combine a double toe). Finally, stepped out of his second triple Axel. His three spins were rated Level 4, however.

"I have mixed feelings tonight," Kovtun said. "I am very happy that I was able to win my first medal at a European championships. This competition is, with worlds, the most important of the season. At the same time, it was very tough for all of us tonight. I felt as if I was a stone falling down on each of my jumps, and I had to fight until the end of my program."

Kovtun scored 157.47 points for his free skate.

As is often the case, Kovtun's Grades of Execution (GOEs) played a big role in his final score. The base value of the technical elements he landed amounted to 79.07 points, 3.56 over Fernández. But his GOEs were -0.32, while Fernández added 9.6 points to his tally. The Spaniard's element score ended 6.36 points higher than the Russian's.

Voronov landed his quad-triple opening combination after two-footing the former, and then landed his triple Axel-double toe. However, he did a triple toe instead of his planned quad toe for his third element. He also nearly fell on his second triple Axel. The 2014 European silver medalist scored 151.99 points for his free skate.

Voronov skated to "Caruso" by Neal Schon, "Come Together" by Marcus Miller, "At Last" by Kenny G and "Big Time Boppin'" (Go Man Go) by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

"Now I really enjoy skating to this program," Voronov had said at the Grand Prix Final in December. "I'm really enjoying it, and I see that the audience does, too." 

It was even more visible in Stockholm. The slow pace of his music suited his style and skating ways quite well, as it allowed him to take the time needed to fully concentrate on the best position before starting a jump. His enhanced expressivity, his presence on the ice and his acting made up for the rest.

If one of the programs could be considered perfect, it certainly belonged to Alexei Bychenko of Israel, who skated last in the previous group. Skating to Maksim Mrvica's "Nostradamus," Bychenko was a sensation when he landed his quad toe and triple Axel in what was a clean program overall.

"I was so happy with my skate because I was able to pull myself together in spite of a back injury I got shortly before the Europeans," Bychenko explained. He amassed 146.59 points for his free, the fourth-best score of the night. He landed in fourth place overall as well.

Michal Březina stood third when he entered the ice, less than a point behind Voronov. He was skating last and had such an opportunity Friday night. He missed it completely, landing just a clean triple Axel in his program. He had declared quite an ambitious menu for the skate, with three quads (he tripled the first and fell on the other two) and two triple Axels. He wasted a lot of energy on them and it did not pay off, as his two quads scored 7.10 points combined.

"I heard Kovtun's points when I stepped on the ice, and that was a big mistake," Březina explained when he left the ice very disappointed. "I started thinking of what I needed to do. I landed the first triple Axel, and after I fell on the quad Sal, I was not able to switch to automatic. When you're thinking, you start doing things which your body is not used to. That's something a skater just can't do."

Březina skated to Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro with a Rossini ending, which happened to be quite similar to Fernández' The Barber of Sevilla. Dressed as Mozart himself, his component mark was the second best of the field (79 points, compared to Fernández' 89.14).

As the evening finished, there was one happy Figaro and a sad one. Březina ended seventh in the free skate and fifth overall.