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Fernández tops 300 points on the way to fourth title

Bychenko makes history by winning silver; Amodio nails final free skate
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Javier Fernández was in a league of his own at the European championships, cracking the 300-point mark for the first time in the event's history and his career. With the 302.77-point effort, the Spaniard claimed his fourth straight title at this event in dominating fashion, topping the field by more than 60 points. -Getty Images

This 2016 European Figure Skating Championships will stand out in the history books for at least three reasons: Spain's Javier Fernández won his fourth European title in a row with a superlative free skate and an overall score of 302.77 points (a first for the Spaniard); Alexei Bychenko won the silver medal for Israel; and France's Florent Amodio achieved the program he had been dreaming of for the past three seasons in his final outing on the competitive circuit, on the way to fourth place.

Fernández was way above the field, as he won gold by more than 60 points over his competitors (242.56 points for Bychenko, 242.21 for Maxim Kovtun, 240.96 points for Amodio).

Fernández is such a gentleman, especially when he dresses like Frank Sinatra, as he did for his free to music from Guys and Dolls. Take his opening quad toe: Fernández threw himself up with all of his heart and then gently put a finger down to caress the ice, as if to leave his mark. He continued with a perfect quad salchow-triple toe combination, a triple axel-double toe and, after his step sequence and spin, another quad salchow, which was also perfect. A triple flip-triple toe followed, just as perfect. Fernández fell on his subsequent triple axel, but his three spins and step sequence were all rated Level 4. His components averaged 9.50 points.

"Every single time is different. It does not matter how many times you win, each time is always unique. It's so important for me to make history in my country. But I hope I can continue winning many competitions. Maybe next year I can still make history?" Fernández said. "Skating improves year after year, and we have to keep up with it if we want to succeed. For several years, I stayed with one quad in my short program. We knew we had to do one step forward. That's what we did here. It's that feeling that pushes you. The younger ones are coming strong. You can only remain the strongest if you take risks. That's what practice is meant for; that's how you can succeed."

Bychenko skated with great heart from beginning to end. He landed his quad toe but singled the planned double toe in his combination. He fell on his second quad toe attempt, but his triple axel, two triple-triple combinations and other two triple jumps were clean. He also had success with his spins and step sequence. The routine may not have been his best, but Kovtun and Michal Březina's off-nights left him room to grab the silver, the first medal of any color won by an Israeli singles skater at the European championships.

The achievement left him speechless.

"My goal coming here was to make the podium. I worked on my program to come up with something more difficult this year, and I'm glad it paid off," he concluded.

Kovtun endured a rough free skate but managed to hold onto a podium spot. The Russian tumbled on his opening quad salchow, and his following quad toe loop was a disaster, as he fell heavily and had some difficulty rising from the ice. He managed to recompose himself, however, but doubled his following quad salchow attempt. The rest of his program, including a triple axel-triple toe and three more triples, was clean. His three spins and step sequence were rated Level 4, which is a good achievement for Kovtun. His components remained above eight points (except for transitions), which certainly helped him hold onto his medal.

"I'm so sad after my free skate. I was working a lot on my practice to prepare for this competition; I completed many clean programs. Maybe I was too nervous. I felt much better at the short program," Kovtun said. "I don't understand what happened, really. I will need to talk with my coaches to find out. I know one thing for sure: I have to work a lot and skate more complete programs to enhance my confidence."

Everyone in the rink was aware that this was Amodio's last free skate. He was given a warm ovation right before he started his routine. He had mentioned to icenetwork in the morning that he wanted so badly for his last program to be perfect.

His quad salchow was superb, just like his subsequent triple axel. From then on, the crowd gave him the momentum to not slip away. The audience applauded throughout, including after each of his steps until the end of his program. Amodio's confidence did not waver. Let's try this one, he seemed to say before a superb triple axel-loop-double toe comination. By the boards, his coach, Nikoli Morozov, was focusing his whole energy toward his protégé. He then doubled his lutz in a combination but then turned around and hit a triple salchow-triple toe combination.

Could he believe he was capable of the program he dreamed about? He then nailed his triple lutz, landed a triple flip and completed a double axel, and pumped his fists in the air. Amodio regrouped for his final choreographic sequence, the one with which he likes to entertain the audience to top off his program. If the level of a sequence was based on the volume of applause a skater gets, then Amodio would have earned a Level 5 at the end of the routine. The audience rose, all at once, for a standing ovation.

Morozov was crying by the boards as Amodio kissed the ice, motioning to the sky before jumping into his coach's arms. In the kiss and cry, Amodio lifted a sheet of paper on which a big "Merci" ("thank you," in French) was printed in several languages.

"I managed to stay focused; I did not put my head down," an exhilarated Amodio said. "I have never skated this way. The audience applauded so hard that I did not even know where I was. … This is a wonderful day. This will go down as the most beautiful moment in my skating career. I could not even believe it, as the program was unfolding. I could not have dreamed of a better one to end my career with."

He received 162.68 points for his free skate, the second most of the evening, to finish with 240.96 points overall, enough to put him in fourth place.

Russia's Mikhail Kolyada placed fifth at these championships but third in the free. Ranked second in Russia last December, Kolyada landed a quad toe and two beautiful triple axels. He skated with character, elegance and stamina, taking the time to play with the audience, as he had in his short program.