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Tomas Verner at the 2014 Europeans in Budapest, practicing his tango

Tomas Verner at the 2014 Europeans in Budapest, practicing his tango

One of the best stories of this edition of the Worlds – those stories which will live forever in the hearts of the figure skating admirers – has already happened: Tomas Verner has finally come back to his old self. Remember the guy who was second at the Europeans and fourth at the Worlds in 2007? The guy who won the European title in 2008? I know, you haven’t seen him in a while – you might have even ruled him out of the contenders for a medal, any medal. Well, that guy is back on form: you must have seen him on the first day of the Worlds in Japan, after his short program, lying on the ice, breathing happily, relaxed, relieved. Fourth after the short, with a flawless routine and a great set of scores from the judges, Tomas Verner was today the embodiment of joy.

by Florentina Tone

Tomas was seventh at the Europeans in Budapest and eleventh at his third edition of the Olympics – and you might have sensed he could still do great things on the ice in his last season of competitive skating. But giving his last couple of years – not that good in terms of results – you wouldn’t have guessed in a million years he’d be breathing down Yuzuru’s neck at the Worlds in Saitama: the Czech has earned 89.08 points for his short program, whereas the reigning Olympic champion was awarded (for his not-so-perfect routine) a score of 91.24 points. Verner should enter the free program with a great amount of confidence – and, if everything turns out as great as today, he might even fight for a medal. Until then, Tomas’ joy and coach Huth’ tears while standing in the Kiss and Cry were by far the most touching flashes of the day.

In terms of performance, the star of the short program was a Japanese – but not the Olympic champion, as many might have expected. First – with a stunning performance, cheered by 19.000 people in Saitama Super Arena – is Tatsuki Machida, who received 98.21 points from the judges; almost two points ahead of Javier Fernandez (second after the short, 96.42 points) and seven points ahead of Yuzuru Hanyu. Skating rather cautiously in Saitama, the Spaniard got a Season Best for his performance and he’s in a great position entering the free. One day from now, the boys will fight tooth and nail for a place on the podium in Saitama.