by Klaus Reinhold Kany
(16 January 2014) Thirty-five men competed the short program at the European Championships in front of about 1,500 spectators from all over the world in the SYMA arena in Budapest. Many fans, even many from Asia, had brought several or even a dozen different nationals flags to hold them for their favorite skaters. They are different from most of the North American fans. The 24 best skaters reached the final. 12 of them tried one quad and one even two different quads which has been allowed in the short program only for a few years. Last year’s European champion Javier Fernandez from Spain is in the lead with 91.56 points. He performed a flawless short program to the music “Satan Takes a Holiday” which has rarely been used since Robin Cousins became Olympic Champion in 1980 with this music. His excellent quad Salchow got seven +2 and one +3, his triple axel was very good as well and his combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop was good. Two spins had level four, one level 3 as well as his entertaining step sequence.
He commented: “I felt pretty good out there. It was my season’s best score. I feel I have a very good chance to win the gold medal again but every skater coming behind me has a chance to steal it from me. So I have to be calm and strong. Early in the season I had problems with my skates. You can’t train well if the skates are not good. But I went back to my old skates. The crowd here was amazing, so many Spanish flags.”
Sergej Voronov was third at Russian Nationals and had a good Grand Prix season after a few weaker years before. He now trains with Eteri Tutberidze who is also the coach of Julia Lipnitskaia. He is the best of the three Russian skaters in Budapest and on second position, earning 85.51 points in total. He got 14.41 points with a very good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, followed by a triple loop. His spins and step sequence were good but not outstanding.
“Today it was hard for me”, he commented, ”because I remember last year I was not good. And today it felt as if one year was a short time ago. Of course I know what is happening in Russia with the Olympic spot, I am not an idiot, but I try not to think about it.”
Third is Tomas Verner from the Czech Republic with 83.51 points. Last summer he returned to Oberstdorf in Germany after a few not very successful years in Canada and also went back to his former coach Michael Huth who also coaches Carolina Kostner. Verner stepped out of the quad toe loop, but the rest of his entertaining and charming program to the soundtrack “Deliverance” (a Western theme) was convincing, including a triple axel and a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. His step sequence was a highlight. He said: “The audience is great and that gives me the boost and the confidence.”
The new Russian champion Maxim Kovtun (18) sits on fourth position, winning 83.15 points. He is mainly trained by Elena Buianova and Peter Tchernychev, who is a former US dance champion of Russian background who moved back to Russia again, but Tatiana Tarasova is behind him as well. Kovtun’s opening combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop was good. But then he popped the toe loop which was also planned quadruple and performed it only double. The rest of his flamenco program was good, a bit stylish, but also a bit junior-like.
He said, “My energy was good, I was calm and my practices and the warm-up were all excellent. But then there is just the smallest part of a second in the take-off for the toe loop where something wasn’t right. I could not even get a triple from it, I just popped it.” He seemed not to know that a triple toe loop is not allowed as he already had performed a triple toe loop in the combination.
Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic is fifth with 82.80 points. His first element to “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg was a solid, but not outstanding combination of quad Salchow and double toe loop, followed by a triple flip and his trade-mark easy looking triple axel. His spins and his step sequence were excellent.
The Swedish champion Alexander Majorov is sixth with 79.62 points. His quad toe loop was a bit shaky, the triple axel as well, but the other elements were ok. The French champion Florent Amodio sits on seventh position with 78.60 points. He changed his short program recently and now skated to a new version of “La Cumparsita”. He started with a solid quad Salchow, followed by a very good triple axel. He simplified his combination showing only a double toe loop after the triple Lutz. During the camel sit spin at the end of his program, he could not do more than one turn, therefore he got no credit for this spin at all. Peter Liebers from Germany is eighth after trying a quad toe loop in vain in an otherwise good program. Brian Joubert is ninth with only 73.29 points. He had trained with Nikolai Morozov in Moscow for ten days in early January after Morozov had offered him practice time in December. He came to Budapest with a new short program to the soundtrack of “Amaluna”. He fell on his opening quad toe loop and again on the triple axel, but recovered and added a triple toe loop to his planned triple Lutz. His spins, however, were relatively weak.
During the performance of Kim Lucine of Monaco (who ended up 18th), a black colored balloon filled with helium slowly came down from the roof and Lucine had to skate around it and even bowed in order not to touch it. This looked funny because Lucine played a circus clown, but he confirmed that the balloon did not come down intentionally. As it was no danger, the Polish referee did not blow the whistle and did not ask the skater to stop.