Everything is possible, when a perennial champion like Javier Fernandez retires from competition. Czechoslovakia’s Michal Brezina won the event, ahead of two Russians: Dmitri Aliev and Artur Danielian. Two of the main favorites have disappeared in the process: Alexander Samarin, the 2019 European silver medalist, and France’s Kevin Aymoz, who missed his three jump elements and couldn’t even qualify for the free program.
Brezina landed a quad Salchow – double toe combination, a triple flip and a triple Axel in what was one of the few clean programs of the day. Brezina has matured so much through the years: he attacked each one of his jumps, and yet delivered a fluid performance, with high speed and strong edges.
“This is the key thing Raf (Rafael Arutunian, who coaches him in Irvine) tried to implement,” Brezina offered. “You should remember that is called skating. You have to make sure you push between your elements, to skate with flow and look pretty. What I do is just Raf’s speaking to me.”
Brezina amassed 89.77 points and is standing 1.32 points ahead of Aliev before the free. “This is my 13th Europeans,” Brezina smiled: “It took only 13 years!”
Aliev did honor his brand-new National title. The new Russian champion landed a quad Lutz – triple toe, quad toe and triple Axel (although his Lutz and Axel were deemed underrotated). “This is a new competition,” he offered, “and this short program is only a step in between. Tomorrow I’ll have to come with a new strength, for a new fight with myself,” he said quietly.
Danielian delivered a solid quad Salchow and a delightful triple Axel, which was preceded by a change of edge on one foot. “At first this was only a training exercise,” Danielian explained. “When I landed it, we added some arm movements to make it more beautiful and add points.” Quite musical and upbeat to his “Don Juan” routine, Danielian garnered 84.63 points, 5.14 points from first place.
Pairs short program
It had been so long since 19 teams had competed in Pairs at a European Championship. Pairs are celebrating a new dimension these years, with added tricks and steps and attitudes to densify their elements. The podium tonight belonged to Russia. Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii, who skated last, proved their superiority and beat their Personal Best by 2.2 points. Competition is far behind: Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin are standing in second place before the free, some 8.58 points behind, and favorites Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are coming third, with 9.16 points to catch back.
Skating to Franck Sinatra’s “My Way”, Boikova and Kozlovskii dominated both their program and the field with ease. Their program included a side-by-side triple Salchow, a beautiful triple twist, Boikova holding an arm over her head while rotating, a throw triple flip and precisely matched curves to accommodate for their size and power difference. With them, everything looks so easy. “We’re happy with our points,” Boikova stated, “but… We’d rather concentrate on our skating. That’s when you master your skating that your points increase!”
Pavliuchenko and Khodykin offered a superb program as well. They skated fast and in complete synch, their program was theatrical and completely congruent with their music. They embarked the whole audience at once. “We were much calmer here than at Nationals,” Khodykin offered afterwards.
Tarasova and Morozov displayed their Bolero program with their trademark power and amplitude. They went from their huge triple twist to their side-by-side triple toe and throw triple loop in full control. And then, in their final lift, he tumbled and she nearly fell. That was nothing per se, just a wrong step in a rut maybe. But when you skate so perfect and powerful, the slightest unbalance appears like a major breach in perfection. “It was really a shame,” Tarasova said. “We skated the first part of the program so well and then there was this stupid mistake. I was not frightened, as Vladimir held me tight. But it’s too bad.”
The Austrian organizers didn’t have an easy task organizing these European Championships. The local hockey team claimed the main ice rink of the city, which was the planned original venue for the Championships. A specifically made ice rink and built-up stands were assembled in a big hall, which usually hosts professional shows close to a lake resort South of the city. The hall is well heated, and can seat 5,000 spectators. In a way, skating is going back to his native Austria: skating remains one of the countries where figure skating was born, as it provided so many of the earlier champions of the sport! Young children skated parts of the winning programs of Austrian superstars, Sissy Schwartz and Kurt Oppelt, Emmerich Dantzer, Trixi Schuba, Claudia Kristoffics-Binder all won European medals. However difficult their programs were in their times, they can now be performed by children. But their class was only theirs…
For the first time in 8 years, Spain’s Javier Fernandez won’t win the European Championships. But … Two Spanish journalists are still in the stands! Spanish skating has rocketted since Fernandez started winning on the global stage. “Revolution on ice”, Fernandez’s show, has again been highly successful this winter in his country. In Graz, Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz, as well as Sara Hurtado and Kirill Khaliavin, will be eyeing to the podium in ice dance, and there are even two Spanish teams in the pair category! “We’re here,” one of the Spanish journalists offered laughing, “but we’re still fighting to get space in newspapers!”
“Who made this program?” famous pair coach Tamara Moskvina asked her colleague from Germany, Knut Schubert, after she saw his pupils, Austria’s Miriam Ziegler and Severin Kiefer, practice. “From your former student John Zimmerman!” he answered. “Wow!” She whistled. “I have always stressed the importance of entrance and exits from elements,” Tamara explained. “Look now!” “I never hided my tricks as a coach,” Moskvina said, smiling. “That’s true!” Schubert, who took from Moskvina as he was skating from East-Germany, acknowledged. “That has been so useful for us, coaches!” he emphasized. For sure, most pairs are now pushing the limits of their sport in that direction, making their sport much more interesting to watch.