By Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber
MOSCOW (Reuters) – A flawed routine could not stop Javier Fernandez becoming the first man in more than 80 years to win six consecutive European figure skating titles on Friday as the Spaniard proved he will be among the title favorites at next month’s Winter Olympics.
Despite losing his balance on a double toeloop and stumbling on a triple Salchow, the twice world champion blew away his rivals by more than 20 points with a combined total of 295.55.
“We were not looking for perfection,” Fernandez told reporters. “We were looking for an improvement. I know the mistakes that I had in this free program. I know myself and I know that will not happen at the Olympics.”
Russian Dmitri Aliev earned silver with 274.06, while his compatriot Mikhail Kolyada improved on his fourth place finish in the short program to snatch the bronze with 258.90.
Kolyada struggled with his quadruple jumps throughout his free skate, starting with a fall on his opening quad Lutz.
Skating to the music from the “Man of La Mancha” musical, the 26-year-old Fernandez became the first man since Karl Schaefer in 1936 to win six in a row. Austrian Schaefer won eight successive golds from 1929.
“To be a six-time European champion… it’s a step forward to make even more history in figure skating,” Fernandez said. “That’s pretty amazing already. I can be proud of myself for what I’ve got in this career, and hopefully I can get much more.”
The Pyeongchang Olympics will be Fernandez’s third and final Games. He is keen to end his country’s 26-year Winter Olympic medal drought after finishing fourth in Sochi four years ago.
“I’m going to try my best to do it and try to bring the medal to Spain,” he said. “But I know how hard a competition it is. I know how strong the skaters are and a lot of things can happen.”
FRENCH ICE DANCERS LEAD
Earlier on Friday, French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron took the lead with an upbeat short dance that puts them in pole position to win their fourth consecutive European title.
Dancing to music by British singer Ed Sheeran, the twice world champions produced a solid performance that gave them a comfortable lead with 81.29 points, less than a point adrift of their personal best in the short dance.
Papadakis and Cizeron, who last year became the first ice dancers to break the 200-points barrier, were left frustrated as they went out of sync on their twizzles.
“It’s not something that happens often and it’s very frustrating,” Papadakis told reporters. “I guess we will have to work on that.”
Russians Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin finished nearly six points behind their French rivals after an energetic performance on home ice.
Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte finished third with 74.76 points.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar)