A cold snap with freezing fog enveloped Bratislava as everyone arrived for the European Championships, but as the week wore on temperatures gradually rose. It was no different inside the Ondrej Nepela Arena where the battle to be crowned European champion in all four categories was hotly contested.
2016 Europeans Men Medallists
Javier Fernández won his fourth straight European title, clearing 300 points in one competition for the first time. The Spaniard became only the second man after rink mate Yuzuru Hanyu to achieve the latter feat. With both men now attempting two quadruple jumps in the short programme, it is going to make for a very interesting World Championships.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you win something, if it the first time or second time, it is always special”, Fernandez said. “It is so important to keep making history in my home and in figure skating. To be among those great figure skaters who have won this title four times in a row is such a special thing.”
As well as Fernández, it was great to see skaters from countries that don’t normal feature in the hunt for medals doing well. In particular, Alexei Bychenko brought Israel its first European medal when he won silver and, along with compatriot Daniel Samohin, earned his nation three spots in the men’s event for next year’s Europeans in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Maxim Kovtun had been in 2nd in the standings after the short, but a disastrous start to his free was not what he wanted. Clearly struggling, the Russian gamely fought hard to the end of the routine to salvage a bronze medal.
It was a highly emotional ending to Florent Amodio’s career as he had skated probably the best he ever has in the free in Bratislava. Unfortunately, it was no fairytale ending as the 2011 European champion was just too far behind after the short to make up the difference on the medallists and he wound up in fourth place overall. Amodio stated that he hopes to become a journalist now that he has stopped skating.
“I can’t believe it. That was the best program of my life and it was last one I will ever do,” Amodio said. “It is a dream to skate like that and to skate like that at this moment? It’s unbelievable.”
Bychenko stood on the podium at the ripe old age of 27 and he wasn’t the only late bloomer. Felipe Montoya (25) from Spain participated at his first Europeans and skated the short of his life to qualify for the free skating much to his own and everyone who was watching’s delight. Originally born in Colombia, Montoya only started skating when he was 13 years old.
Skating is a tough sport at the best of times, but Sweden’s Alexander Majorov has had more than most to cope with this season. His father, who is also his coach, was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer and, due to the lack of suitable donors, the three-time Swedish national champion spent most of autumn 2015 donating blood and ultimately bone marrow to his father. Despite the curtailed training time and the physical pain endured, Majorov showed up in Bratislava and finished 11th for the third year in a row.
It was a bittersweet competition for Michal Brezina who received raucous support from the audience in Bratislava as a former citizen of a united Czechoslovakia. After finishing 3rd in the short, Brezina bombed in the free and tumbled to 10th overall. He’ll have another opportunity next year to skate at home when Europeans comes to Ostrava in the Czech Republic.