Golden Skate

Amodio wins European title in his debut

Florent Amodio of France won the men's title at the 2011 European Figure Skating Championships.

Florent Amodio of France won the European title in a turbulent Men’s competition as veterans Brian Joubert (FRA) and Tomáš Verner (CZE) fought back to capture silver and bronze. The Men’s event was an exciting end of the 2011 ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Bern, Switzerland.

Amodio was a real crowd-pleaser in his program to pop music by Michael Jackson, Black Eyes Peas and others. The 20-year-old pulled off two triple Axels, a triple Salchow-triple toe combination, and three more triples, as well as fast and precise spins to score 148.75 points. He totaled 226.86 points.

The program might contain too much posing and Amodio doesn’t has as many transitions and ice coverage as some of his competitors do, but the crowd loved it. The Frenchman danced on the ice, drew the audience into his performance, and got them going. It was fun, it was entertaining, and the performance continued off the ice: When the Frenchman realized that he had won the title in his debut at the European Championships, he jumped around, and also jumped into the Kiss & Cry area for the winner’s interview, which was, by the way, conducted by Stéphane Lambiel.

“It was hard to skate for a medal tonight,” said Amodio. “I had two, three minor errors but overall I’m so happy with this program. The audience was great. I almost couldn’t hear my music anymore. It was magical to be out there. It was something special to compete for a medal and to skate in this last warm up group. It was a new experience for me and I’m happy with it.”

Joubert took the ice with a determined look. Sitting in seventh after a sub-par short, the three-time European Champion had to skate in the penultimate group. He had nothing to lose. Performing to Symphony No. 9 by Ludwig van Beethoven, he put out a quad toe as well as five triples, only touching down with his hand on the loop and Salchow. The program to classical music is something new for Joubert, but he focused too much on his elements. The 26-year-old won the free with 152.57 points and earned his tenth consecutive medal at the European Championships with a total of 223.01 points. He equaled the record of Karl Schäfer and Ulrich Salchow who competed early in the past century.

“It was close, three points and I would have had my fourth title,” Joubert noted. “I paid for my fall on the Lutz in the short program. I didn’t think that I would be on the podium. Florent (Amodio) skated very well. I’m not disappointed. The most important for me was that I was able to come back strong and that I didn’t give up.”

Asked about his plans for Worlds, the Frenchman answered: “This kind of competition makes me very confident. Putting two quads in my free program is my goal for World Championships. I don’t know yet what type of quads I will do, two quad toes or one quad toe and one quad Salchow. It depends on my training. I have to work and improve but I have done it before and I know I can do it again.”

Verner, although only 24 years old, can be considered a veteran as well now with eight European Championships under his belt. After a gold in 2008 and a silver in 2007, the Czech now took bronze. He performed to a Michael Jackson medley and landed a quadruple toeloop as well as five triple jumps, but he stumbled out of his first triple Axel and doubled a Lutz. Verner scored 149.69 points and moved up from fifth to third at 222.60 points.

“I am not too happy with my performance today,” analyzed Verner. “I wanted to skate better. It was cold and I didn’t give one hundred percent in the last step sequence, which is the highlight of the program. However, I am pleased with the opening quad. This medal completes my collection as I now have gold, silver and bronze. I would have preferred another gold one though, but the other competitors were very good.”

Kevin van der Perren, who competed in his 12th European Championships, was another highlight. His performance to The Mummy soundtrack featured a quad toe and eight triples. The 28-year-old finished fourth at 216.07 points.

“My goal was to skate into the top five,” the Belgian revealed. “After the short program I was even thinking that a medal could be possible because I missed the third position by about 0.15 points. I decided before that this should be my last competition – but I can change my mind tomorrow.”

Artur Gachinski of Russia also landed a quad toe but fell on a triple Axel and dropped from third to fifth at 216.07 points.

“I’m angry with the Axel!” joked the 17-year-old. “But I don’t really know what went wrong. I didn’t feel pressure. I just wanted to give a good performance. It was a great experience to be here and it is good to know that I’m able to compete with the top skaters. I learned a lot and I’m very happy.”

Samuel Contesti started strongly with a big triple Axel, a triple flip and Lutz into his routine to South American panpipe music, but he ran out of steam in the second half. He came in sixth with 204.88 points.

Russian Champion Konstantin Menshov was the only man to try two quads, both of them toes, and landed both to move up from 14th to seventh overall.

“I tried to forget about the short program,” a pleased Menshov told the press. “I was very disappointed. But today my girlfriend arrived. She called me yesterday and told me that she was coming, but I thought she was joking. Finally I did a clean free program; it was the first almost perfect performance of the season.”

Michal Březina, who had looked great in practice, stood in second place after the short, but wasn’t yet ready for the podium. The Czech fell on both his triple flips and doubled a Lutz and his planned quad Salchow to plummet to eighth. Maybe the lack of competition played a role as Březina missed the Grand Prix due to injury. He didn’t think so, though.

“I don’t know what happened on the jumps,” said Březina. “I am confident about my condition. I felt comfortable in the air and just went down after I landed. I was surprised I fell. I don’t feel that the fewer amount of competitions I had this season had anything to do with it. I think it is more about what you do in practice. Overall I felt the short program was amazing and the free was good as well. The triple Axles were the best so far. For the Worlds I will try to do much better. I know I won’t have a problem improving as in practice I have been skating clean daily.”

Spain’s Javier Fernandez finished ninth.

Adrian Schultheiss from Sweden, landed quad toeloop’s but there were mistakes and he placed 13th overall.

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