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Borscht belts: Salchow snafu thwarts Spain's hopes

Edmunds' mom back in homeland; What to make of Finnstep levels
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Javier Fernández came within a whisker of winning the first-ever Olympic figure skating medal for Spain. -Getty Images

The world's No. 1 tennis player, Rafael Nadal -- 13-time Grand Slam champion, Olympic gold medalist and Spanish Davis Cup hero -- tweeted his support to Javier Fernández, who just missed out on an historic bronze medal for Spain.

"[I am] sure he will give many successes to Spanish sport," Nadal wrote to his 5.78 million Twitter followers.

Fernández can be proud of his performances here, and the two quads he landed in his free skate. But the payoff could have been far sweeter: Spain's first-ever figure skating medal and its third winter Olympics medal overall.

The Spanish European champion, who led off the final warm-up group, started his program with a quad toe loop followed by a quad Salchow-double toe combination. He landed his triple Axel on his toe, but the rest of the program was clean. 

When his 166.94-point score came up, however, Fernández looked stunned. His final jump, a triple Salchow worth 4.62 points, was zeroed out. Those lost points cost Fernández the bronze medal.

How? Fernandez's sixth element was planned as a second quad Salchow, but he tripled the jump. Later in the program, he had two more Salchows planned: a triple Salchow as part of a three-jump combination and a solo triple Salchow as the final jump element. He purposely doubled the Salchow in the combination but executed the solo triple. 

So, he ended up with two solo triple Salchows in the program. The last one was then called as triple Salchow plus a sequence, giving him four combinations and sequences -- one too many.

Fernández' coach, Brian Orser, saw what was happening on the ice but was helpless to stop it.

"He was trying to think on his feet, but he should have kept the triple Salchow in the three-jump combination and then doubled the solo jump," Orser said. "Or, of course, he should have just landed the second quad Salchow, and then we wouldn't even be having this conversation."

The day after the men's free, a smiling Fernández already seemed to have recovered from his Salchow snafu.

"What can you do? It's a sport, and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose," he said. "I am young. I can go for another Olympics."

"Brian did realize my mistake, but even if he yelled out, I would not have been able to hear him," he continued. "This wasn't a mistake I make a lot, not even in the practice."

Fernández added that he and Orser had not practiced what to do if he tripled the second quad Salchow.

"Brian is not that kind of coach," the skater said. "He doesn't want to say what to do if something goes wrong -- he wants it to go right."

Fernández has finally gotten new boots and is practicing in them. (He competed here in old boots, bound together by duct tape at the top.) He's slated to skate in the gala at the end of the Games and said he will definitely compete at the 2014 World Figure Skating Championships in Japan in March.

- Lynn Rutherford

Edmunds returns to Russia

When her plane touched down in Sochi, Nina Edmunds began to get weepy. A Russia native, Edmunds was landing in her home country, and she was here to watch her daughter, Polina, compete in the Olympics. Nina, who coaches Polina along with David Glynn, is from the city of Tver. She married American businessman John Edmunds and now lives in the Bay Area, where Polina was born.

Nina and Polina flew to Sochi after spending four days training alongside American teammates Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner in Graz, Austria.

"There were tears in my eyes because I still just cannot believe it," said Nina, noting she used her Russian passport to enter the country.

Although Edmunds has family in Russia, she said the trip to Sochi was too difficult and expensive for them to come. But she does have several friends from the city of Nevinnomyssk, about a six-hour train ride from Sochi, who will come to support Polina. Nina's husband is in Moscow with the couple's two sons, and they will arrive in Sochi in time for the ladies event Wednesday.

- Amy Rosewater

Finnstep levels a red herring?

The most talked-about topic to come out the short dance was the loss of a level in Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's first Finnstep pattern. (For their second pattern, the Canadians did receive a Level 4 -- the highest possible level -- from technical specialist Ayako Higashino of Japan.) The difference between a Level 3 (the mark the Canadians received) and Level 4 is about a point. A closer look reveals that Virtue and Moir's levels Sunday night were actually on the high end of what they've received throughout the year:

Finlandia Trophy - 2, 2
Skate Canada - 3, 4
Trophée Eric Bompard - 3, 3
Grand Prix Final - 4, 4
Canadian Championships - 3, 3
Olympics - 3, 4

Coming into the Olympics, Virtue and Moir had averaged exactly a Level 3 for their first pattern and slightly better than a Level 3 for their second. The Levels 3 and 4 they were awarded Sunday seem reasonable, given their past history.

For the sake of comparison, here are the levels Meryl Davis and Charlie White have received for their Finnstep patterns this season:

U.S. International Classic - 3, 3
Skate America - 4, 4
NHK Trophy - 3, 4
Grand Prix Final - 4, 4
U.S. Championships - 4, 4
Olympics - 4, 4

Leading up to the Olympics, the technical specialists on the various panels at their competitions have consistently assigned higher levels to Davis and White's Finnstep patterns than Virtue and Moir's. It's not unreasonable to think that trend would continue here in Sochi.

Carol Lane, a world and Olympic figure skating coach who is in Sochi as an analyst for CBC/Radio Canada's figure skating coverage, saw the Finnstep scores in the short dance as a wild card.

"Everybody can lift, everybody can twizzle, everybody can do footwork," Lane said. "But that Finnstep, on any given day, with those key points, they happen so fast. If you look at all the scores, everybody has varying levels; no one has the same all the time."

- Mickey Brown

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