Javier VI, King of Europe

Long after the medal ceremony has ended, when the lights are almost off in Megasport arena, and the medalists have left backstage, you can still hear a girl shouting with enthusiasm: “Jaaaaavi! Graciaaaas, Jaaaavi!”.
No better time to think about what has just happened: starting with Zagreb, in 2013, passing through Budapest, Stockholm, Bratislava, Ostrava, and finishing in Moscow these days, there has never been anyone better than Javier Fernández at the European Championships. He is indeed the king of Europe, no doubt about it – because keeping your crown for six consecutive years, with the technical requirements of our times, is a performance that will probably never be equalled.

by Florentina Tone

Javier doesn’t think too much about his sixth crown, though. He acknowledges the performance and he’s proud of it – “It means a lot, it is always nice to make history in figure skating for Spain, and it is nice to skate well and win another title” – but his mind, his eyes are already set on the Olympics. And so, in his books, this year’s Europeans might have been just a phase in his preparation for PyeongChang.

“We came here to train, because this is the last competition before the Olympic Games. I came here to improve, and I got a season’s best – so we accomplished what we came here for”.

And he’ll leave right after exhibition. “Brian [Orser] wants me back to work. We only have a few weeks until the Olympics so we need to take as many practices as possible”.

But if Javier Fernandéz doesn’t have too much time to reflect on his chain of successes, we do. And we should.

Because what he has done all these years, apart from winning the titles, was inspiring a long line of talented European skaters to aim high and trust their abilities. For all of them, the Spaniard is definitely a model – and that’s a word that was often used during the medalists’ press conference on Friday.

Take 18-year-old Dmitri Aliev, the winner of the silver medal in his first Europeans: “Honestly, Javier has been a role model for me for a long time, even when I was just a little kid. It is an honor to be on the podium with people who are such big figures in skating, who have proved themselves, and have already made history in our sport”. And take Mikhail Kolyada as well, who repeated as bronze medalist in Moscow: “I have admired Javi for a very long time. I really like him as a skater and he is a role model for me”.

Don Quixote
Skating to selection of music from the musical “Man of La Mancha” – choreographer David Wilson chose wisely the story of Don Quixote for the Olympic season –, Javier put out a beautiful, strong program in Moscow, featuring, among others, a quad Toe, a quad Salchow-triple Toe, two triple Axels; he did stumble on his second quad Salchow – right on the very moment “Dulcinea” is called – and on the triple Flip, but, all in all, that was Javier’s best performance all season, awarded with 191.73 points and racking up 295.55 points overall; and a new European gold medal.

And, no doubt about it, the Spaniard will be one of Europe’s most precious representative next month in PyeongChang – and a perfect performance at the Olympics might be the best prize for this talented young man who kept on working and meticulously climbed the rankings since his first appearance at the Europeans, in 2007.

“At the Olympics of course I will try to be 100%. We still have a few more weeks of training so we will do our best to be in the best condition and try to skate the best programs of the season. That’s all we can try to do”.

Building a home and a career
In his first season in seniors and first Europeans, Russia’s Dmitri Aliev, 2017 World Junior silver medalist, was the revelation of the men’s event. The last to take the ice in Moscow, he delivered an incredible performance – moving, technically demanding – and finished second, with 274.06 points overall, stamping his ticket to the Olympics.

Of course, on Friday, he did not know that yet. Neither did we. But one could have guessed his silver medal in Europeans would tremendously improve his chances to be named in Russia’s team for the Olympics.

Until then, it is still late at night, on January 19 – and in the press conference room, a very serious, mature Dmitri Aliev explains his music choice for the free skate this season: “To Build A Home” by Cinematic Orchestra, and some little fragments from the soundtrack of the movie “Little Miss Sunshine”.

“The program is, in fact, emotionally difficult because it is very personal to me. The theme is related to my parents. It is my life. I moved away from my parents to live alone in a big city, while my parents lived in a different city. So the story of my program is that, at the start, I say Goodbye to them, in the middle I see them again and embrace them, and at the end I am on my own again, building my own career”.

And this might have been the leit-motif of his entire presence at the Europeans this season: in the exhibition gala, Dmitri emphasized again his lyrical side, while skating an emotional “Pray for Parents”.

Take one, take two
“Misha! Misha! Misha!”, people in Megasport arena shout, while Mikhail Kolyada opens the last group of skaters – he comes from the 4th place in the short, and he has a lot to make up for. And the odds don’t seem to play out in his favor: Mikhail falls on the quad Lutz at the beginning, he triples the planned quad Salchow and falls again, on his quad Toeloop. Still, he manages to land two beautiful triple Axels and a couple of more triples, racking up 175.49 points, and 258.90 in total.

…so this is nowhere near a perfect skate from Mikhail Kolyada in his third Europeans – but we appreciate the efforts he put in building the Elvis Presley character, and this is such an enjoyable program altogether. Will it be enough for medal? It is: a second bronze medal for Mikhail – but, understandably, he is not happy at all.

“Like last year, the result isn’t bad, but I’m not satisfied with the skate. But it will motivate me to work harder. […] I am very upset about the quad Toe. The (quad) Lutz, okay, that was to be expected. It is not consistent enough yet and I take a long time to get jumps consistent in competition. On a scale of five, I’d give myself a four with a big minus for my performance today”.

Deniss Vasiljevs: such a dancer
Can we just take a second and appreciate the wonderful quality of Deniss’ skating? Performing a program brilliantly choreographed by Stéphane Lambiel – featuring six clean triples and an attempted quad Toe – Deniss proved he’s already among the best skaters in Europe, finishing the event on the 4th place, with 243.52 points overall.

“It was good, but could be better”, he’ll evaluate his performance in the mixed zone. And then, with a smile: “I am very happy. I really enjoyed it, but I was a bit nervous. A bit… a lot!”.

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