The 2020 European Championships opened on Wednesday at the Eisstadion Liebenau in Graz, Austria, with the men’s and pairs short programs. A total of 164 skaters (35 men, 37 ladies, 19 pairs and 27 ice dance teams) from 32 ISU member nations are competing at the 112th edition of these Championships. Austria has hosted the competition 11 times in the past.
Up first was the men’s short program. Competing in his 13th European Championships Czech star, Michal Březina, the 26th skater in the field of 35, laid down one of the first clean performances of the competition. His routine set to “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing” by Chris Isaac included a quad Salchow-double toe loop, a triple flip, a triple Axel, two level-four spins and a Level 4 step sequence. His efforts earned a season high score of 89.77. “I practiced well, and I just did what I do at practices for the past one and a half months,“ said Březina, who at age 29 is the second oldest skater in the field. “I didn’t really come here with any expectations of placing in top three or top 10. I just wanted to show what I did at the practices and I am happy. It’s a happy, shiny bonus to be in first.”
When asked about his chances of winning the competition, Březina responded: “I don’t really care, if I win I win. If not .. not, I just want to show my performance, what I practiced, it’s what Rafael told me to do and I’m going to stick to it.”
Březina confirmed that Canadian choreographer Shae-Lynn Bourne has relocated to Southern California. “I don’t know whether it’s official but she has moved to our rink and I have been working with her for the past two weeks. It’s her (short) program, and we have been working a lot on what it was and what it is today.”
Russia’s Dmitri Aliev finished in second place with 88.45 points. The 20-year-old opened his program with an under-rotated quad Lutz in combination with a triple toe, nailed a quad toe, but under-rotated the triple Axel. “I was confident. It was a good skate,” he said. “I’m not satisfied with the marks. I didn’t feel that I under-rotated the Lutz. I have to regroup for the long program, and see where I will end up in the group. Tomorrow is another day and I will be ready. A new competition, a new strength, a new head. The titles behind — they don’t give any additional confidence boost.”
His teammate Artur Danielian has continued to surprise throughout this season. The 16-year-old (the youngest man at this competition) delivered a solid routine that included a quad Salchow, a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and Level 4 spins and footwork sequence. His only miscue was a stumble on a triple Axel at the beginning of the program. Danielian earned a new personal best score of 84.63. “I’m so happy I am here, that I made it onto the team,” he said. “It’s my first time at such a major event and for me it’s more about fun and the experience. I want to show what I can do on the senior level. The skate today was not bad but there is room to grow and I have to increase the difficulty.
“The entrance into the triple Axel was something we did for the practice, but then I tried to land it and it worked. Later, we added some arms so it would look nicer, as a true jump entrance to make it harder and get higher scores. The balance between the artistic side and the technique is the result of a huge work we are doing every day.”
Morisi Kvielashvilli of Georgia finished fourth with 82.77 points ahead of Latvia’s Deniss Vasiljevs (80.44) and Germany’s Paul Fentz (80.41 points).
Kévin Aymoz of France, one of the favorites to win this competition, faltered on all three jumping passes and had two falls. He finished 26th with 64.40 points and did not advance to the free skate. “I do not know what happened. I did not have more pressure than usual even if some announced me as one of the favorites for this competition. It is not the view I had about this event. Maybe too much stress or not enough — I cannot explain. Maybe people wanted more from me than before but it did not affect my perspective for this competition. I will do everything to show my real level at Worlds and show that today was just an exception.”
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