Javier Fernández leads the way at Europeans, young talents on the rise

As you would expect from a five-time European champion, Javier Fernández is in the lead after the men’s short program in Moscow, with 103.82 points for his embodiment of Charlie Chaplin – but it’s the youngsters’ performance that makes the talk of the town. 18-year-old Dmitri Aliev and 18-year-old Deniss Vasiljevs are in 2nd and 3rd place respectively, while Italy’s Matteo Rizzo (19) is in 6th place and he’ll be skating his long program on Friday in the final group.

by Florentina Tone

Spain’s Javier Fernández is definitely at home at Europeans. No wonder: he just entered the 12th continental competition of his career, and he won the last five. He’s on his way to his sixth triumph – more than 12 points separate him from Russia’s Dmitri Aliev after the short program – but he’ll take it one step at the time: “My goal for Europeans is to win, because it is important for me – important to keep writing history not only in Europe, but for Spain especially. [But] there is still the free skating to come”.

Another little thing you can’t deny: the Spaniard was at ease in Charlie Chaplin’s clothes and character – and the program choreographed by David Wilson embraces him beautifully. There’s smoothness in his skate, there are so many lovely details (the Chaplin-walk, the Chaplin-spin, him blowing kisses in the air) – and there’s this very tangible impression that Javier lets his program breathe, he doesn’t rush it; and that clearly comes with time, with the maturity of his skating.

In Moscow, Javier opened with a gorgeous quad Toe-triple Toe, followed by a somehow overrotated quad Salchow, and a perfect triple Axel – behind the boards, you could see a smiling Brian Orser, and in the stands, Javier’s parents as fervent supporters.

And he is loved in Moscow: heading to the centre of the ice for the opening pose, you can hear someone scream “Davaaaai!”, and an enthusiastic response from the audience follows his performance.

In the Kiss and Cry, after seeing his scores, Javier shrugs his shoulders – he is pleased. Brian jokes: “That will qualify you”, prompting a smiling answer from his student: “I guess I have to go to the Olympics now”.

Olympics are surely on Javier’s mind, he’ll say it minutes later, in the mixed zone: “I will leave [Moscow] right after the exhibition and go back to Toronto to prepare for the Olympic Games. To be on the podium there would be nice, but there are so many strong skaters so that you can’t be sure”.

Recondita Armonia
At 15:49 local time, Latvia’s Deniss Vasiljevs takes the ice for his short program – and what follows is a beauty of a performance to „Recondita Armonia” by Puccini. Deniss’ skating is a joy, and seeing him jump into the air for the triple Axel, no fear, no hesitations, even a bigger joy. His commitment to music is so, so obvious throughout the program – and, at the boards, a very happy coach greets his student: “You were handsome! So smooth, so good, I’m so happy for you”.

A ballet dancer on skates – and 85.11 points that have Deniss on the third place at the end of the event. And a good thing that his feet are still on the ground after such a marvelous result: “It feels good [to be on 3rd]. I didn’t expect that. It is pleasant, but it is not a big achievement yet”.

The Waltz
Skating in the final group, Russia’s Dmitri Aliev found himself on the 2nd place, with 91.33 points, at the end of men’s SP. And in spite of turning his opening quad Lutz-triple Toe combination into a triple Lutz-triple Toe, he danced beautifully to the impressive waltz from the “Masquerade Suite” by Aram Khatchaturian. And elegance is already an important ace up his sleeve – such a beautiful, convincing skate in Moscow from Dmitri.

…about the quad Lutz in the opening combination, he was sure he would nail it. But he was nervous while taking the ice, he’ll admit later in the Kiss and Cry: “I was a little nervous, I ripped my laces while tying them. So it was tying-untying-tying together. Then I just put tape over them. Maybe that threw me a little off”. But he’ll definitely attempt it again, the quad Lutz: “Right now, this is the most valuable element in figure skating and I want to prove to the world that the Russian guys can do it as well”.

“Grande Matti!”
And now the revelation: Italy’s Matteo Rizzo sitting in 6th place after the short, with 78.26 points, after skating a heartfelt, powerful performance to “Torna A Surriento”.

“Grande Matti!”, you hear the coaches, and the flying, generous performance of Matteo in only his second Europeans will have him skate in the last group on Friday, and that’s an incredible performance for the Italian.

In the mixed zone he’d share some thoughts – he’s thinking big Matteo: “For me European Championships is a transition toward the second part of the season. The first part of it was very good, but the most important starts now. […] My focus will be the team event at the Olympic Games”.

In between the intermediate podium placements and Matteo there are Mikhail Kolyada (4th place, 83.41 points) and Jorik Hendrickx (5th place, 78.56 points). Men’s event resumes on Friday, at 17:45 local time.