Ponsero wins men's free skate at Europeans

Joubert takes gold medal

France's Yannick Ponsero won the men's free skate but finished fourth overall at the European Championships.
France's Yannick Ponsero won the men's free skate but finished fourth overall at the European Championships. (Getty Images)


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By J. Barry Mittan, special to
(01/23/2009) - France's Yannick Ponsero, who was only ninth after the short program, rebounded with a season best score of 151.85 points to win the free skate at the European Championships.

Even though Ponsero had a personal best of 219.30 total points, he still missed the podium in the final standings by .06 of a point, finishing fourth overall.

Ponsero skated to Caravan and Sing, Sing, Sing by Brian Setzer and Summertime and Porgy and Bess by Louis Armstrong.

"For this season, I completely changed my presentation," Ponsero said. "Everyone thought that I always looked like a classical dancer. Now I have two really different programs."

"I really enjoyed the free program today," he added.

Ponsero landed a quadruple toe loop, triple toe-triple Salchow sequence and a triple Axel-double toe and triple Salchow-double toe-double toe combinations. Ponsero also completed a triple Axel, triple Lutz, triple loop and double Axel.

His countryman, Brian Joubert, finished second in the free skate with 145.11 points, 15 points below his season best, but won the men's competition overall with 232.01 points.

It was his third European win, but Joubert had trouble from the start, stepping out of his opening quadruple toe loop and failing to add a planned double toe loop to the combination.

He later fell on his triple Lutz and doubled the first jump on his planned triple loop-double toe-double toe combination, missing the remaining jumps.

He completed a triple Axel and double Axel, triple Lutz and triple flip as well as a triple Axel-double toe and triple Lutz-triple toe combinations, but was ten points below Ponsero on his technical mark.

Joubert changed back from the Last of the Mohicans program that he used earlier in the season because he did not feel comfortable with it. He has reverted to using the Matrix Reloaded and Requiem for a Dream soundtracks for his music.

"I changed only two weeks ago," he said. "I knew it was going to be difficult today, but I had a good sensation."

"All of the victories are important, but this one is the most important because the beginning of the season was so hard, but I came back," he added.

Italy's Samuel Contesti, who was third after the short, was also third in the free skate with 144.97 points, a personal best.

He finished with a personal best 220.92 total points and won the silver medal, the first of his career at an ISU international.

"It is just fantastic [to medal]," Contesti said. "This is a beautiful victory for all people that believed in me."

Born in France, Contesti moved to Italy after having problems with the French federation. "It was very difficult to wait three years to compete," Contesti said."

"It was a lot of work with my wife, a lot of sacrifices on our part," he added.

Contesti, who gained the most applause from the crowd, used a Western theme, skating to "Once Upon a Time in the West" and "Cotton-Eyed Joe."

He landed a triple Axel-triple toe loop to open his program, then doubled a planned triple Lutz.

He got stronger as the program went on, landing a triple flip, triple Axel, and triple loop, then finished with a triple Salchow-triple toe loop combination, a double Axel and a double Axel-double-double toe combination.

"I felt good," he said. "It is easy to finish when you have done everything before."

Belgium's Kevin van der Perren was fourth in the free skate with a season best 143.56 points, skating to "Hero's in Action" by Safri Duo.

The theme was prophetic as van der Perren hobbled off the ice at the end of his program. "I was in excruciating pain all day and didn't know if I could make the free skate," he noted.

With a personal best 219.36 total points, van der Perren added another bronze medal to the one he won in 2007 at Europeans.

"This medal means so much to me," he added. "I wasn't expecting to skate this well and I'm surprised I did my personal best."

He landed a triple Salchow-triple toe loop-triple loop, the highest scoring element in the competition and a triple flip-double toe and double Axel-double toe combinations later in the program.

The Belgian also completed a triple Axel, triple Lutz, triple loop, triple flip, and double Axel.

France's Alban Préaubert scored 138.72 points in the free skate, about eleven points below his season best to finish fifth in the free.

His 212.22 total points kept him in fifth overall. He was also fifth after the short program.

Preaubert skated to "Kalinka" and "Volga Boatmen," landing a quad toe loop, triple Axel, triple Lutz, triple loop, and triple Salchow.

He also had a triple flip-triple toe loop and triple flip-double toe-double loop combinations, but under rotated his triple Axel in a planned triple Axel-double toe loop combination and did not attempt the second jump.

"Everything wasn't perfect but I fought well," he said.

Czech Tomas Verner, who was second after the short program, was a disappointing seventh in the long program with 126.53 points, more than 23 points below his season best.

"I don't know what happened," Verner said. "I screwed it."

The defending champion had trouble from the start. He two-footed his opening quad toe loop and later popped a planned triple Salchow, triple Axel and triple Lutz.

The latter two jumps were the opening jumps of combinations and Verner failed to complete the following jumps. He did tack a double toe loop and double loop on to his last triple flip, but his marks were low.

Only a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, triple Axel and triple loop were clean.

Verner's tango program included "Oblivion," "Adios Nonino" and "Libertango" by Astor Piazzolla as well as "La Cumparsita" by Matos Rodriquez.

He finished sixth overall with 207.98 points.

The biggest improvement in the free skate was by Switzerland's Jamal Othman who jumped from 20th in the short to ninth in the long, 12th overall.