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Meier says goodbye with European ladies title

Amodio wins men's crown; Joubert mounts charge in free

Sarah Meier (center) won the Europeans gold medal in her home country of Switzerland.
Sarah Meier (center) won the Europeans gold medal in her home country of Switzerland. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus Reinhold-Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(01/29/2011) - The European Championships in Switzerland's capital city of Bern finished on Saturday with the ladies and men's free programs.

Switzerland's Sarah Meier won the ladies title in what she called the last competition of her career. One lady after another faltered, but Meier, who skated last, showed all of her main elements including five triples, two of them done in combination with a double toe loop, as well as two double Axels. Her only mistake was singling the toe loop after the triple Salchow in her third combination.

"I was so nervous before the competition; I could not hold back all my emotions because I had always said that this would be my last competition," Meier, who earned 170.60 points, said. "So I was nearly dying, but fortunately I survived and could concentrate on my performance."

After a week of harsh criticism because of the low temperatures in the rink, Meier's victory is finally good news for the host country.

Carolina Kostner moved from sixth to second despite stepping out of her triple flip, falling on her first triple loop and under rotating her second triple loop. She did two good triple Salchows and a toe loop, and high program components helped her win the free skate. Overall, she earned 168.54 points.

"I'm very pleased and surprised with the result and so happy for Sarah [Meier]," Kostner said. "We have to see now how I can improve and do the flip better. Maybe I'll do some different combinations. I will decide with my coach. I don't think there is a real explanation for my errors. For sure we didn't decide before, 'let's fall'. Everybody gives their best."

Kiira Korpi of Finland, the overnight leader, slipped to bronze after missing four of her triple jumps. She ended with 166.40 points.

"The program was quite a struggle," Korpi said. "It didn't start out well, and I fell on the loop. But the crowd was very supportive. I fought until the end. I am happy with this medal even though I know I could have done better."

Ksenia Makarova and Alena Leonova, both from Russia, were fourth and fifth, respectively. Makarova made mistakes on her two triple loops. Leonova was only 13th in the short program, but showed six triple jumps in the free. Sweden's Viktoria Helgesson from Sweden ended up sixth.

French men win gold and silver
Twenty-year-old Frenchman Florent Amodio is new European champion on his first try.

Amodio was 12th at the Olympic Winter Games in 2010 but had never competed at Europeans before. His greatest strength is his showy skating style. In his free program, he skated to a medley of Michael Jackson music, sometimes with provocative body movements.

The Frenchman started with two good triple Axels, then stepped out of the triple loops but continued with five more clean triples. He was only third in the free program, but it was enough to win overall with 226.86 points.

"The audience was great. I almost could not hear my music in the last minute," he said. "It was magical to be out there. It was the first time that I competed for a medal at a big event, a new experience for me and I am happy with it. I know I have to include a quad into my program soon in order to cope with Patrick Chan and the Japanese boys. I am working on it, but it is not yet safe enough."

Amodio's countryman Brian Joubert won the silver medal with 223.01 points, his tenth medal in a row at his tenth Europeans championship. He won the free program skating to the music of Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony," starting with a clean quad toe loop, followed by two triple Axels and five more triples.

"I went out in a fighting mood. I had nothing to lose," Joubert said. "I didn't expect a medal today. The marks were not so high, the judges left some room for other skaters. I'm paying for my mistakes from the short. But it feels good to have skated like this today. This gives me motivation for my practice."

Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic won the bronze medal with 222.60 points. After a solid quad toe loop he stepped out of the triple Axel but pulled together to show five more triples. Like Amodio, he skated to a Michael Jackson medley, but in a more classical way.

"I am not too happy with my performance today," Verner said. "I wanted to skate better. It was cold and I did not give one hundred percent in the last step sequence, which is the highlight of the program."

Kevin van der Perren from Belgium, who also included a quad toe in his program, was fourth. Artur Gachinski of Russia, Alexei Mishin's 17-year-old new star, was fifth. He started with the best quad of all skaters, but fell on the triple Axel. The only skater with two quads (toe loops) was the Russian champion Konstantin Menshov, who placed seventh position.