2007 European Figure Skating Championships: Men’s Highlights
France’s Brian Joubert won his second European title, while Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic, who was 10th last year, captured the silver.
Belgium’s Kevin van der Perren edged out Sergei Davydov of Belarus by .08 points for the bronze. It was a first European medal for both men.
It was also the first time in 60 years that a European medal was won by a single Belgian skater. Fernand Leemans was the last, capturing the bronze at the 1947 European Championships.
Switzerland’s Stephane Lambiel withdrew from the event earlier last week, citing that he needed a ‘break’ to consider his future.
“I need some time to bounce back better,” said the 2006 Olympic silver medalist. I’m not ruling out anything,” he explained, referring to whether or not he would compete at Worlds.
Since no qualifying round was held, the top 24 of the 32 skaters from the short program advanced to the long.
Skating to selections by Bach and Vanessa Mae, Verner landed three solid jumps: a triple flip-triple toeloop combination, a triple Axel, and a triple Lutz. The 20-year-old also produced a good level four combination sit spin, as well as two very good footwork sequences, edging out Joubert with a new personal best of 76.56 points for a first place finish after the short.
“This comes as a huge surprise to me!” exclaimed Verner. “I never expected the PCS to be so high. I gave everything in this program. I wanted to entertain the people and the judges.”
“It’s hard to describe my feelings,” continued the 2006 Karl Schäfer Memorial silver medalist. “These are the European Championships and I drew the last [starting number] in such a good group with those guys sitting around me. It was quite a lot of pressure. I tried not to look at them and at how they skated, so I didn’t know anything about what they did in their programs. I just concentrated on my work. So I did what I usually do in practice and I’m happy. Now finally I can show in competition what I do in practice.”
Verner added that being in first place after the short program ‘really didn’t mean anything’. “I have to fight again tomorrow, may be even more than today. I’ll go for the quad tomorrow for sure. I have no strategy for keeping the first place.”
Joubert fell out of the landing of his opening quadruple toeloop (meant to be a combination jump), but otherwise delivered a solid triple Axel and triple flip, three good level four spins, and a very good circular and straight line footwork sequence. The two-time and reigning World silver medalist was awarded 75.18 points for his powerful routine to music from the Die Another Day soundtrack, placing second after the short.
“I am a bit disappointed because I’m second after the short program for the first time this season,” confessed the 2006-07 Grand Prix Final Champion. “I had a big mistake on the combination jump and lost a lot of points. I was rightfully penalized for it. The entrance curve was too flat. It’s really a minor mistake, but it cost a lot. I’ll try to avoid repeating it. But the rest of the program was clean.”
“It’s very close with Tomas Verner,” Joubert continued. “It will be interesting tomorrow. We’re going to see a good fight.” The French Champion added that the size of the arena played no role in the error on the quad. “In fact, the rink in Poitier is even smaller, so I have better conditions here.”
Davydov opened his routine to Hymn to the Moon by Eugenia Manolides with a good triple Axel, followed by a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination, and a triple flip. The two-time Olympian also produced good footwork and spins, placing third with a new personal best of 70.14 points.
“The third place after the short program is a big surprise for me,” said Davydov. “I made a few little errors. The program could have been cleaner, but overall I’m still pleased with it. I had to fight for the elements, and I guess it that was obvious. But I did succeed, so I am satisfied.”
“When I placed fifth in 2001 at the Europeans, I actually didn’t skate that well,” he continued. “It was just an accident that I placed 5th. After that, I was always bothered by something. I had some little injuries, some off ice problems. Now I’m ready to fight and I think I still can improve.”
Van der Perren landed a triple Axel, a solid triple-flip-triple toeloop combination, and a triple Lutz in his routine to Adagio by Albinoni. The 24-year-old also produced good level 1 footwork and spins, placing fourth with 67.18 points.
“I am satisfied,” said van der Perren. “I finally showed what I can do in training. The program was good, better than other competitions this season. I just want to show two good programs for a change.”
Russia’s Andrei Lutai seemed tentative but focused in his routine to To Be by Saint-Preux, which featured a triple Axel, a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination, a triple loop. The 20-year-old also displayed good spins and footwork, placing fifth with a new personal best of 66.97 points.
“I was a little nervous,” admitted Lutai, therefore the landing of my jumps weren’t so solid.” The 2007 Russian National silver medalist didn’t feel that the Level twos he received were fair. “It shouldn’t be like that. I usually have a level three and even a level four on my flying camel spin. Maybe the judges deducted something, I don’t know.”
“I feel good here,” Lutai added, when asked how he felt about competing for the first time at Euros. “I went out on the ice like any other competition and this is my eighth [event] this season. I was composed and I think I did well.”
Alban Preaubert of France also delivered a good performance, opening with a triple Axel and a triple flip-double toeloop combination (meant to be a triple-triple), but the Frenchman stepped out of a triple Lutz. Despite the mistake, he also delivered good spins and two good level three footwork sequences, placing sixth in the short with 66.10 points for his delightful routine to Night on the Bald Mountain and Buzzy Bee.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Preaubert, who withdrew from the 2007 French Nationals due to a back injury. “I can do better. I am in a good shape and was feeling good during warm up. I wasn’t nervous. I don’t have any excuses. It is very sad because that’s a lost competition for me. I hope to put out a good program tomorrow.”
Kristoffer Berntsson of Sweden was seventh (64.83 points), followed closely by Italy’s Karel Zelenka (64.53 points).
Performing to music by Metallica, Joubert reeled off a quadruple toeloop-double toeloop, followed by a triple Salchow, and a triple Axel. The two-time and current European bronze medalist went on to produce five more good triple jumps, a very good level two circular and straight line footwork sequence, and good spins, earning 151.94 points for a first place finish in the long and overall (227.12 points).
“I didn’t plan to do the three quads due to circumstances,” said the 22-year-old, “but I’m a little disappointed not to have done the quad salchow. I’ll have to do it at the Worlds.”
“I think it’s nicer than the first one,” continued Joubert, on winning his second European gold. “It was much harder to get [this time], even though the competition was weaker. Mentally, it was hard. I think I never had so much stress during competition. It was very hard for me after Stephane Lambiel withdrew. The French press didn’t stop writing that I’m the top favorite. Then I was second in the short, and the pressure was even higher.”
Van der Perren, who stood in fourth after the short, opened his Pirates of the Caribbean routine with a solid quadruple toeloop, a double Axel, and triple Lutz. The two-time Olympian went on to executed five more triple jumps and two double Axels (one in combination with a double toeloop). The Belgian Champion also displayed good level 1 and 2 spins and footwork, placing second in the long with a new personal best of 137.67 points, edging out Davydov by .07 points for third place overall (204.85 points) to win the bronze.
“This was the best quad I’ve ever done!” exclaimed van der Perren, adding that he felt the triple Axel was the hardest jump. “The goal was top 5, and I’m happy that I did not quit after the bad results last year. I was lucky because Lambiel was not here, but it doesn’t matter, I got it.”
Overnight leader Verner fell on his quadruple toeloop, stepped out of a triple Axel, and singled a flip, but otherwise delivered five good triple jumps in his routine to Fundamentum by Lesiëm. Despite the mistakes, the Czech Champion also produced a very good level three straight line footwork sequence and level four flying sit spin, earning a new personal best of 136.13 points for a third place finish in the long. However, with a total score of 212.69 points, the 2006 Nebelhorn Trophy Champion slipped from first to second place overall.
“It was a hard fight, because it was a new position for me [to be in lead after SP],” confessed Verner. “It was a lot of pressure, although I tried not to think about it.” When asked about fighting for the title, he replied: “This is my first medal at such an important competition. I’m disappointed with my free skating, I can do it better. It made a difference from all other competitions. I’m not used to it, but it’s not too late to learn. It was a big fight with myself. I was a bit upset, my choreography is better in practice. I’m also upset with the flip (singled), because in practice I always to 3-3 on purpose to keep the strength.”
Davydov performed his routine to Minkus’ Don Quixote, opening with a triple Axel-triple toeloop combination and triple Axel, but then turned out the landing of his last jump in a triple Lutz-double toeloop-double loop combination. Despite the mistake, the 27-year-old produced four more good triple jumps, a double Axel, and four difficult spins, earning 134.64 points (personal best) for a fourth place finish in the long and overall (204.78 points).
“I skated well,” said Davydov, “but I struggled a bit with my spins and with my combination.” When asked about skating first, he said it didn’t affect him at all. He was also asked why he didn’t show many emotions after his program(s), he replied: “Why should I pump the fists? First I have to skate, then I can celebrate.”
Preaubert opened his routine with a quadruple toeloop (a first for him in competition), followed by a triple Axel-double toeloop-double loop combination, a triple Lutz, and a double Axel. The 21-year-old also produced three more good triple jumps, while delivering good spins and footwork throughout. The Trophee Eric Bompard silver medalist placed fifth in the long with 133.85 points for his entertaining routine to music from the soundtracks of Mike Hammer, Swing Kids, Bob Fosse Show, and The Mask, placing sixth overall with 199.95 points.
“I was very disappointed yesterday after the short program,” admitted the 2006 Skate America bronze medalist. “I had wanted to medal here and I lost a lot of points. After yesterday, I wanted to try new things and to do everything in the free skate, hoping to maybe be able to catch the silver. I knew it would be difficult. I landed the quad toe. It was my goal and I’m happy I finally did it. It’s difficult, it’s a new jump for me, and I was a little tired after the jump because it took so much energy out of me.”
Skating to a modern arrangement of The Four Seasons, Lutai fought for the landing of a triple Axel, but then pulled off a quadruple toeloop, a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination, and a triple loop. The 2006 Karl Schäfer Memorial Champion later stepped out of a triple Salchow, but otherwise produced two more triple jumps, as well as good spins and footwork, placing sixth in the long with a new personal best of 133.57 points and fifth overall (200.54 points).
“I’m happy most of all that I was able to cope with my nervousness at such a big competition,” said Lutai. “I did two good programs. Of course I felt pressure. It was an important competition and I had a good placement after the short.”
Zelenka (23) earned a new personal best of 127.20 points, placing seventh in the long and overall (191.73 points).
Berntsson, who stood in sixth after the short, placed 11th in the long (112.71 points) and 10th overall (177.54 points).
Jamal Othman of Switzerland was eighth (182.14 points), followed closely by Slovenia’s Gregor Urbas who was ninth (181.07 points).