The first day of the 2016 European Championships was a marathon with both the ladies and men’s short programs taking place — the event started at 10:15 a.m. and concluded at 10:40 p.m.
Javier Fernández is well on his way to securing a fourth European title after his “Malagueña” flamenco routine pushed him over 100 points in the short for the first time in his career, putting him in the lead by over 14 points.
The reigning World champion achieved this despite stepping out of the second part of a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination which was a departure from his usual jump layout. A quad Salchow and a triple Axel were squeaky clean, and, along with his steps and spins, helped to net him a new personal best score of 102.54.
“It’s the first time I passed 100 points, so it’s something big for me,” Fernández said as he left the ice. “We took a big risk for this competition as it was my first time to do two quads in a short program. It’s really risky, but I think it’s worth it. We were working on it in the practices and it was happening in the practices, so we were happy that we did it in this competition and it ended up well. I did the combination first as before I had triple Lutz-triple toe as the second jump. As a quad-triple is way harder than a quad, so we put it first. That’s why we changed it a little bit because it’s really different.”
There was no shortage of quads in the rest of the competition. Maxim Kovtun included a quad Salchow in combination with a triple toe and a quad toe in his program to “I Can’t Dance” by Genesis. Unfortunately, a triple Axel proved his undoing and the Russian champion crashed to the ice on the jump. He still managed to score a solid 88.09 and will be back in the free to try and pick up his second European medal in a row.
“I’m happy even with the fall on the triple Axel because usually, even when I was skating well, I would have some problems with my footwork and my spins,” Kovtun said. “But this time I did them all very well and I even got pluses and it was all Level 4s except for the footwork. I decided to leave a choctaw out at the end because I felt I was behind the music. My coach Maxim Zavozin told me that was the reason I only got Level 3.”
When Michal Březina was born in 1990, the Czech and Slovak Republics were united under the Czechoslovakian flag and, despite the separation of the two countries in their “Velvet Divorce” of 1993, he was greeted with a rapturous reception by the audience in Bratislava. This was the seventh international competition of the season for the 2013 European bronze medalist and it went well initially with a great triple Axel to start. However, a quad Salchow attempt resulted in a fall that slightly broke the mood of his “The Way You Look Tonight” program. He got back on track with a triple flip-triple toe combination and posted a score of 84.30.
“There was a little mistake on the Salchow and everybody saw that,” Březina joked after his performance. “But the main goal is to go for it and see what happens. It’s a different country, but it’s still home. You know Jozef Sabovčík always says ‘I’m not Slovakian, I’m Czechoslovakian. I was born in that country and that’s what I am’ and that is kind of how I feel. I did a lot of competitions here when I was younger and I have a lot of friends here and a lot of fans. You could see that today and I just feel like it’s pretty much the same as competing in the Czech Republic.”
Alexei Bychenko and Daniel Samohin, both from Israel, are in fourth and fifth with 84.09 and 82.73, respectively and, with less than two points separating them, will be fighting it out in the free for that sole spot on the Israeli World team. Ivan Righini from Italy is in sixth and was the only man to score over 80 points (82.23) without a quad.
As predicted, the Russian ladies were head and shoulders above everyone else in the short in Bratislava. They were spearheaded by the pre-event favorite Evgenia Medvedeva, although she showed herself to be just a little bit more fallible than usual. Skating to the “Melodies of the White Night” soundtrack, the Russian national champion waited until the halfway point of her program to attempt a triple flip-triple toe combination but she pulled it off successfully.
However, she faltered on a double Axel with a step out before cleanly landing a triple loop. Even with the mistake, she scored a very impressive 72.55. Afterwards Medvedeva admitted that the pressure of competing on such a big stage may have gotten to her. “I felt more nervous here because Russian nationals was at home and also this is my debut at the European Championships,” she said at the press conference. “You can’t really compare. It’s a totally different competition.”
There will be no room for error for the Grand Prix Final champion in the free with Elena Radionova right behind her. The 2015 European silver medalist gave a performance bursting with passion to Lara Fabian’s “Je T’Aime” which was technically the most difficult routine she has ever performed. Aside from a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and a double Axel, she replaced a triple loop with a triple flip and this enabled her to earn 70.96. “I’m very pleased with today’s performance because I did the maximum that I can do,” Radionova said. “I did the triple flip instead of the triple loop and you could say I took a risk and I’m happy that I was able to execute all my jumps perfectly. It was a strong skate and one of the best this season.”
Doubling a triple loop proved very costly for Anna Pogorilaya, but, with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, a double Axel and Level 4 steps and spins in her “Bolero” program, she still had room to spare over the rest of Europe. Her score of 63.81 was well off her best, but it was good enough for third place in the short here at Europeans. “Obviously, I’m not totally pleased with my performance today because of the mistake on the loop,” Pogorilaya said. “But overall it was easy to skate and the audience was very supportive and I hope to do a good free.”
Italy’s Roberta Rodeghiero skated last out of the 36 ladies and she was a surprise fourth with a score of 61.01. She was the only non-Russian skater to break the 60- point barrier. Latvia’s Angelina Kuchvalska and Sweden’s Joshi Helgesson were fifth and sixth respectively.
The European Championships continue tomorrow with the short dance and the men’s free skate.