Russia’s Dmitri Aliev broke an eight-year drought for Russian men when he skated to the top step of the podium at the 2020 European Championships on Thursday night. The last Russian man to capture the title was Evgeni Plushenko in 2012.

Second after the short program, the 20-year-old from St. Petersburg made just one mistake in his “The Sound of Silence” program, when he under-rotated the opening quad Lutz. He went on to land a quad toe, a quad toe-triple toe combination and six more triple jumps. The newly crowned Russian champion earned a new personal best score of 184.44 for the free and a combined total of 272.89, putting him 26.15 points ahead of the runner-up.

“At the end of my program I cried out of happiness and feeling proud,” said Aliev. “I could not hold back the tears because right away I had images in my head of my path to this result. Now on the podium, I just felt crazily happy. It was a firework inside. I was nervous, but I believed in myself.

“When I learned that I won I immediately ran to my coach, hugged him and congratulated him. I joined Morisi and Artur in the green room, when Misha’s (Březina’s) marks came up, then I knew I was the champion. As for being a champion for myself, I felt at my finishing pose, when I heard the roar of the audience … I knew I was a champion for myself. I overcame myself.

Though 16-year-old Artur Danielian, the youngest competitor in the men’s event, did not expect to land on the podium in his European debut in Graz, he surprised everyone — including himself — by capturing the silver medal. Third after the short, Danielian showed an inordinate amount of artistry for his age in his performance to music from the opera “La Traviata.”

He opened the program with a difficult three-jump combination (quad Salchow-Euler-triple Salchow) followed by a second quad Salchow. But technical issues that included a stumble on the first triple Axel, an edge call on a triple flip and a fall on a triple Lutz, marred the performance, which ranked fourth best of the night. But it was enough to rise from third to second overall with 246.74 points, and edge out Georgia’s Morisi Kvitelashvili for silver by just 0.03 of a point.

“I did not expect to be on the podium. My goal was to show a decent skate, to get my name out on the senior level and prove that I can compete with the senior skaters and look decent compared to them,” said Danielian. “I did a lot of work before Europeans. Skating well here is the result of the work we did.”

For Kvitelashvili — who finished 10th in 2019 — this was a night he will likely never forget. His bronze-medal finish earned him the honor of being the first Georgian man to ever win a medal at the European Figure Skating Championships. Fourth after the short, he achieved a personal best score of 163.94 points for the free and closed out the competition with 246.71 points in total.“I am very, very pleased to be finally on the podium,” said the 24-year-old Moscow native. “I’ve dreamed for a long time about this. Obviously, it is a shame that not all the elements worked out. We set the highest goals and I was trying to show my best skating. Today some things worked, some did not. I’ll continue to work on that and I’ll try to do my best at Worlds.”
Italy’s Daniel Grassl sat in 11th after the short program, but a solid performance that ranked second-best of the competition propelled him into fourth place overall (244.88 points). His teammate Matteo Rizzo, the 2019 European bronze medalist, ranked fifth with 237.01 points and Latvia’s Deniss Vasiljevs closed out the top six with 232.07 points.

Czech star Michal Březina led after the short program but errors in the first half of his long program killed any hope of landing on the podium. He finished seventh with 231.25 points. “I didn’t feel nervous. I just felt like I needed a minute more just to get my feet under me because I felt a little bit shaky and everything at the beginning was rushed,” Březina explained. At the end it was fine – it’s what I do every day in practice. But it’s top 10 again this year, for the 11th time. Who else can say that? I have one medal, so at least I can be happy with that. Not happy with today, but I can’t do anything.”

Březina subsequently posted a note on his Instagram account: Thats all she wrote … it was a great competition. I was fighting till the end. I hoped to end on a better note but thats life and life has something more important in store for me now! Cant wait to see my wife and i cant wait to see my daughter!