Ice Network

Russian Solyanka: Fernández up on his history

Tough times for Lecavelier; Competitors deal with wintry conditions
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With a win in Moscow, Javier Fernández would join some very exclusive company. -Getty Images

Javier Fernández is clear about his objective in Moscow.

"My goal for the Europeans is to win, because it is important for me, important to keep writing history not only in Europe but for Spain, especially," he said. "Being five times a European champion became a part of the history of figure skating a little bit. Winning a sixth continental title would be awesome. It's not like adding one more Europeans to a résumé, because it's, like, six in a row! Not many skaters have won six European championships in a row. Actually, only one achieved it, and more -- eight in a row, and that was a very long time ago."

Fernández knows his history well. Karl Schäfer is the only skater to win Europeans more than five times in a row, as the Austrian took eight straight titles from 1929-36.

The rough times of skating

"Not good."

That's what France's Laurine Lecavelier, who dazzled the crowd with her dress change in the middle of her short program two seasons ago en route to finishing fifth at this event, whispered when asked how she was doing. 

"I injured myself when I went back to my training base in the U.S. and could only practice properly for one week. Coming here, my skates didn't follow, and I had to pick them (up) myself instead of practicing. I didn't need this, really! Finally, Kori [Ade], my coach, is stuck in Houston because of a visa problem. I'm not even sure I will have a coach by my side here."

Fortunately, her choreographer, Fabian Bourzat, should support her. And we all will as well. Skating is a sport, but just getting to skate may also be one at times.

The rough times of skating (cont'd)

Russia's Dmitri Aliev had some rough preparation before the short program Wednesday afternoon in Moscow.

"I felt a little nervous, and the result was that I ripped my laces out. So, it was tying, untying, tying them together again. Then I just put tape over them (before taking the ice). Maybe that threw me off a little."

It may have, but it didn't prevent Aliev from ending up in second place!

Small but golden

The ISU has kept the habit of distributing so-called "small medals" to those skaters who rank first, second and third after the short program. The ceremony takes place before the draw for the free skate and before the press conference. Those "small medals" are, typically, quite small. This year in Moscow, however, the "small medals" are much bigger. In fact, the overall medals will be the same size as the small ones. That may be because the former "small medals" used to include plain gold whereas the new ones do not.

Warm-up

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron agreed to do an interview with icenetwork before their practice session. The duo came directly from their hotel to the rink, through the snowy blizzard that is engulfing the Russian capital. As soon as he entered the rink, Cizeron placed himself close to the heater in the mixed zone. His coaches, Marie-France Dubreuil and Romain Haguenauer, came to remind them about warming up.

"That's exactly what I'm doing -- I'm warming up!" Cizeron said jokingly, pointing to the warm heater behind him.

Who said it's cold?

The blizzard in Moscow led to a "felt temperature" of -17 degrees Celsius Wednesday night (or 1 degree Fahrenheit).

"Oh, it's not quite summer for us yet, but it's not that cold either!" a resilient Papadakis suggested.

Montréal, where she and Cizeron train, is experiencing one of its coldest winters in 20 years.

"Last year (in Ostrava, Czech Republic) we were so cold," added Denmark's Laurence Fournier-Beaudry, who trains alongside Papadakis with her partner, Nikolaj Sørensen. "So this time we made sure to take the right clothing. We have brought our snow boots!"

That is a good idea, as snow is covering the city.

Is it different for Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès, who train in Florida?

"Oh no, it's not that terrible," James said. "Let's say that I'm not sure that we took the proper clothing for this kind of weather (she laughs), but it's nice!"

Ice dance judges

The ice dance judges all came to practice Thursday morning in the colder practice rink. They all stood on a bench in the middle of the stands, as if they were actually judging. They tried to exchange a joke before taking their seats (after that, they're not permitted to talk to one another anymore).

"We should change places regularly," one suggested, laughing.

"Yeah! And we could take one chair away each time!" another suggested, laughing as well.

They would stay there for 3 1/2 hours, watching each step the dancers made, going from one short dance to a free dance, as teams can still practice the program they want at this stage of the competition.

Ice dance is so difficult to judge. Pressure is building among more than just the competitors, it seems!