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Fernández looking ahead to Olympic campaign

Two-time world champion piecing together programs for upcoming season
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Though he hasn't provided much detail, Javier Fernández says he has a few ideas in mind for next season's programs. -Getty Images

Just a few days after failing to defend his world title by finishing fourth at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, Finland, Javier Fernández flew to Boston to star in the Skating Club of Boston's annual "Ice Chips" show. The two-time world champion looked understandably tired, but he delighted the sold-out crowds during three shows at Harvard University's Bright-Landry Hockey Center.

"It was actually a long season," Fernández said prior to opening the show. "All seasons are pretty much the same, time-wise, but sometimes the time runs slower. I can say this one felt really long and really hard. But, you know what, it is what it is. We have to try to make it work."

Fernández opted not to perform the "Touch of Evil" program he skated at the gala in Helsinki. To close the first half of the show in Boston, the Spaniard tugged Irish heartstrings with "Danny Boy," the exhibition program he showcased last season. The soulful performance was completely clean, and included a triple loop and triple toe.

In the second half, Fernández turned on the charm and skated his humorous "Carmen" program, mimicking a clueless bullfighter -- complete with a pink-and-yellow cape -- while throwing in three additional triples for good measure.

Fernández said that he went back to his training base in Toronto after worlds, taking a few days to think about his programs for the upcoming Olympic season. He'll have two new programs choreographed by David Wilson, and although he wasn't ready to reveal the music, Fernández did provide a few vague hints.

"I have an idea for the free program music, but in the short, I still don't have an idea, so we have to sit down and see," he said. "We are talking because we're going to start real soon."

Might he skate to Spanish music? Skaters often choose music from their country of origin for the Olympic season.

"That might be an idea," Fernández said with a mischievous grin. "Possibly…but in a different way. It can be something Spanish but without sounding Spanish, without being like a song where everybody is like, 'Oh, this is flamenco, this is Spanish.'"

Once the choreography is done, he'll have time for a short visit to see his family.

"I get all the work done and I can focus on other things, rather than carrying the idea that I have to do the programs when I get back or come back earlier to Toronto to work on them," he said. "I do have some work in Spain, and I am traveling to Japan for some shows, but I'll make sure I have time at home as well.

"I usually go to Madrid for a week, or a few weeks at Christmas time, and then maybe a month or a month and a half depending on the year during the summer," he continued. "It is really nice to get home."

Fernández is a little bit rueful about losing his world title, but he says he's not disappointed as he gears up for the approaching Olympics in PyeongChang.

"I mean, it was not the best competition!" he said. "But I was ready for it. I was ready to fight for the gold medal, but I was also prepared to not make the podium. Also, heading into the Olympics, I may not have that much pressure like I faced at the world championships, where everybody was saying 'Oh, Javier Fernández is the reigning world champion.' We want to think positive. We want to find the most positive thing about the result that we had instead of being sorry about it."

He said one of this goals for the season was to perform a clean short program, which he did at worlds: His segment score of 109.05 in Helsinki was the highest of the event.

"We kept that program because we wanted to perform a really good short program. And that kind of happened, so I'm pretty happy," Fernández said.

Fernández attempted three quads in his free skate, which had been enough to win worlds in 2015 and 2016, but this season a total score of 301.19 was only good enough for fourth place. All three of the men who placed above him in the final standings had four quads in their free programs, with reigning U.S. champion Nathan Chen attempting six and finishing ahead of Fernández in the free skate.

The Spaniard isn't yet decided on whether he'll try to up his technical content for next season, but he's already began mulling his options.

"Well, that's something we're going to have to talk about," he said. "Figure skating is having a big evolution. Now we can see all these male skaters adding so many quads to their programs. Me, or Patrick Chan, we are like the older generation of men, and we have to be smarter about every little bit of strategy. We cannot just be, 'Throw yourself into the air,' because we are not 20 anymore."

Fernández will turn 26 on April 15.

"We are competing with men who are 17, 18, 20 years old. That's a big gap in figure skating," he said. "I don't know if I'm going to be able to [add another quad], and I don't know if it's going to be in our plans. I worked previously on a (quad) loop but only to see how it would go, not to add it into my programs. I did land it a few times, but it's not solid."

As with many skaters who were originally known for their jumping prowess, Fernández says he has been working very hard on his artistry to increase his component marks. Now he wonders if he should have been spending more time on the technical side.

"The problem is, so many years that I've been in Toronto, I've been focusing more in my skating instead of being focused on my jumps," he said. "I've been spending all that time on my skating skills, and then somebody that is doing so many quads but doesn't have the skating (skills) is also receiving high marks. I'm like, 'Did I waste my time?' I should have maybe focused on the jumps instead of on the skating?"

Ask most skaters what their goal is for the Olympic season, and they'll say they want to skate their best and make the Olympic team. Anyone who has won a world title in the preceding quadrennial will almost certainly head into the event with one goal: to win a medal, preferably gold.

Fernández won't quite say that.

"I have to show good programs to win the Olympics," he said. "It depends on the other skaters, what they skate, and it depends on what the judges' score. But to be secure in myself, I know I'm going to have great programs, and I just have to do a good performance in the short and in the long. I know if I do it, I might not have a problem landing on the podium. It's the only thing I can do. They're not going to give it away."