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Fernandez silences men's field with 'Chaplin' free

Gold is first ISU medal for Spain; Amodio takes silver; Březina breaks through with bronze

Javier Fernández is Spain's first European figure skating champion.
Javier Fernández is Spain's first European figure skating champion. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(01/26/2013) - Javier Fernández, the dashing, charismatic skater from Spain, made history in Zagreb by winning the European men's title by a resounding 24 points.

It was his country's first ISU medal of any color, and it came in stunning fashion, with Fernández hitting three quadruple jumps in his free skate to a medley of Charlie Chaplin tunes.

"I hope that in Spain more and more people will know that there are good figure skaters," Fernandez, 21, said. "Skating will never be as popular as football (soccer), because you have a football field in every village, but only a few ice rinks in all of Spain. But we will try our best to win medals to make the sport more popular."

Fernández, who trains in Toronto under two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, led off with a huge quad toe loop, followed by a quad Salchow-triple toe combination and a superb triple Axel.

After this jumping display, he got fully into character with a step sequence that embodied much of the charm, and some of the pathos, of "The Little Tramp" before reeling off another perfect quad Salchow. Four more triple jumps followed.

The jumping pyrotechnics, combined with solid spins and engaging performance quality, gave Fernández a personal-best 186.07 points, including program components that averaged around 8.9 and ranged up to one 9.75 for interpretation.

He ended with 274.87 points.

"I am still overwhelmed," the personable skater said. "I wanted to do this Charlie Chaplin program already last year, because it is a character, and a character [program] fits me best. When I suggested it to my coach and my choreographer, David Wilson, this summer, they were enthusiastic about it."

This is the second time this season Fernández has included, and executed, three quadruple jumps in his free skate. He also did so at the Grand Prix Final in December, and plans to do three or four at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario, in March.

"I felt really brave with the three quads," he said. "It was really difficult to win because Europe has so many good skaters. I know that worlds will be much harder with the skaters from the Four Continents Championships; some of them are amazing. It will be a big fight in London."

Florent Amodio of France, who led after the short program, won the silver medal with the third-best free skate of the event. He performed two quad Salchows, but neither was in combination, so he got only 80 percent of the points for the second quad.

Two triple Axels and two more triple jumps followed, and he ended with 250.53 points overall.

"I am so excited. I fought to the end, and I gave my best," said Amodio, 22, who won Europeans in 2011. "I did two quads for the first time. That is a big first for me. We showed skaters in Japan, the U.S. and Canada that European skaters are also excellent. It was an extraordinary European championships, and I am so pleased to have ended it this way."

Amodio, who was born in Brazil but adopted by a French couple as an infant, trains under Nikoli Morozov in Moscow.

"It is a sacrifice to go to Moscow every time for practice, because my family and all my friends are in France, but if you want to be on the top, you have to do this," Amodio said. "In order to beat Javier, I must do four quads the next time."

After fourth-place finishes in Europe in 2010 and 2012, Michal Březina of Czech Republic finally won his first medal at a senior ISU championship, a bronze, with the second-best free skate. He finished with 243.52 points.

Brezina, 22, pulled himself together quickly after falling on an opening Salchow, performing an excellent triple Axel and a successful second quad Salchow, as well as six other triple jumps.

"I am really happy that after so many fourth places I've finally made it to the podium," said Brezina, who trains under Viktor Petrenko in Hackensack, N.J. "It was really tough today. I had planned to go full-out. My main work with Viktor is to become more consistent."

Brian Joubert, the veteran Frenchman who has won this event three times, was fourth with 232.47 points. Skating a new free to music from Gladiator, he landed a clean quad toe but later made some small mistakes, and only landed one combination.

Maxim Kovtun, the 17-year-old from Russia, placed just fifth at the Russian championships in December, but was controversially nominated for Zagreb because a committee of coaches felt he had the best international potential. He justified the selection by placing fifth with 226.57 points.

The reigning Junior Grand Prix Final champion landed two quad toe loops, one in combination with a triple toe, as well as two triple Axels. He lost at least seven points when he did a fourth jump combination, a triple Salchow-double toe loop. Only three combinations are allowed in a free skate.

Alexander Majorov of Sweden was sixth with 211.88 points. Russia's Sergei Voronov, who executed three triple toes (only two are allowed), was seventh.

In the finest showing of his career, Austrian Viktor Pfeifer, who trains in Wilmington, Del., was eighth. His previous best finish at Europeans was 17th.