Brian Joubert of France was the surprise winner in the mens event, defeating the reigning European champion, Evgeni Plushenko of Russia. Plushenko had to settle for silver while his teammate, Ilia Klimkin, won the bronze.
The men’s event begin with Qualifying Round which accounts for 20 percent of the final score. The short program is worth 30 percent while the long is worth 50 percent.
Qualifying Round – Group B
Joubert led Group B of the qualifying round, landing a quadruple toeloop and six triple jumps. He attempted a triple Salchow-triple flip combination but stumbled out of the Salchow. His marks ranged from 5.0 to 5.9.
“I’m quite satisfied with my program,” said Joubert. “There was a little mistake on the triple Salchow, it happened because I wasn’t focused enough.” He added, “I was a bit tight. My warm up didn’t go well. I changed my program somewhat for the qualifying. I moved the flip and some other elements to make it less tiring.”
Teammate Frederic Dambier landed a quadruple Salchow as well as a triple Salchow-triple toeloop combination, and six more triples, but his first Axel was shaky. He received marks up to 5.1 to 5.8, placing second.
“This wasn’t the first time for me to put out a performance like this,” said Dambier. “I did almost the same at the Cup of Russia [in November 2003]. The [first] Axel was wobbly, I had to fight for it, but I did a quad, a triple-triple, another triple Axel. We decided to do only one quad in this program, we wanted to skate a clean program.”
Russia’s Andrei Griazev landed a triple Axel-triple toeloop combination, but stumbled on his second Axel and triple flip as well as doubling a Lutz. At his first European Championships, Griazev scored respectable marks from 4.7 to 5.6. for a third place finish.
“For my first performance, I think it was ok,” said Griazev. “I made a few mistakes, like on the second Axel and on the Lutz. I will improve on that. I’m skating in my first Europeans, but I’m not nervous. On the opposite, I feel like I just go out and do my job.”
Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland landed a quadruple toeloop-double toeloop combination, but fell on three jumps to finish fourth.
Ukraine’s Vitali Danilchenko was fifth.
Qualifying Round – Group A
Plushenko led Group A of the qualifying round, landing a quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop-double loop combination and two huge triple Axels (one in combination with triple toeloop) as well as four more triples. The defending champion was awarded 5.8s and 5.9s for both technical merit and presentation for a first place finish in his group.
“It went well. I feel well prepared,” said Plushenko. “Performing in the shows in Switzerland [the week before this event] was a good preparation. I landed a good quad-triple-double combination.” Plushenko and his coach, Alexei Mishin, decided a second quad wasn’t necessary for the qualifying round. Of his knee injury, he said, “The [right] knee is ok. I’m used to the pain now. The left knee is ok, I can skate. I can skate with an injury. This is a tough sport.”
Teammate Klimkin landed two triple Axels (one with a triple toeloop), but fell on his quadruple toeloop. Though he landed four more triples, he doubled the first loop, and received marks from 5.4 to 5.7 for a second place finish.
“I think my qualifying was between good and very good, but it could have been better,” said Klimkin. “I’ve been bothered by my injury [Achilles tendon] for three months now. I had ten days of rest, so I feel better now.”
Stefan Lindemann of Germany fell on his quadruple toeloop and popped one his Axels, but he landed five clean triples, including a triple Axel-double toeloop and a triple flip-triple toeloop combination. His marks ranged from 5.1 to 5.5 for a third place finish.
“My practices here have been excellent,” said Lindemann. “The fall on the quad toe in the program was my first fall ever on the ice here in Budapest. I had a 90 percent success rate on the quad here in practice.” Lindemann was more disappointed with his Axel. The Axel was at a 100 percent in practice,” he said.
Gheorghe Chiper of Romania doubled-footed the landing of his quadruple toeloop and placed fourth, followed by Germany’s Andrejs Vlascenko who was fifth.
Dambier was first to skate in the final flight. Performing to Suite No. 4 in D Minor by Händel, the Frenchman executed a quadruple Salchow-double toeloop combination and a triple Axel. He finished fourth in the Short Program and overall with marks ranging from 5.4 to 5.8.
Skating to Swan Lake, Klimkin landed a triple Axel-triple toeloop combination, a solid quadruple toeloop, and a double Axel. The two-time and reigning Russian silver medalist earned marks ranging from 5.4 to 5.9 for a third place finish in the short and overall.
Klimkin felt that he did his best short program this season so far. The 23-year-old elected to use the traditional music of Swan Lake in honor of his late coach, Igor Rusakov, who died last summer. “It was the last program he did for me so I will skate it for him this year,” said Klimkin.
And he skated it well. “It was the best short program this season,” Klimkin continued. “I feel better about the program than yesterday. Many of my supporters from Japan and Switzerland came here. It is very important to me and helps me a lot.”
Plushenko, who heard the high marks of his fellow countryman, skated next. The reigning World and European Champion had to fight for the landing of his quadruple toeloop but added a double toeloop. He also landed a triple Axel, a triple Lutz, and displayed fast footwork. His marks ranged from 5.4 to a perfect 6.0, placing first in the long and maintaining his overnight lead.
“I didn’t do a quad-triple [toeloop] combination,” said Plushenko, “only a quad-double combination. It wasn’t the best but it was ‘ok’.” Despite the pain in his knees, the 21-year-old feels that he is in good shape. “I don’t know how I saved this jump,” he said, referring to his quadruple toeloop. I didn’t expect that [problem].”
Joubert was last to skate in the final flight, and performing to Pink Floyd’s Time, landed a quadruple-triple toeloop combination, followed by a triple Axel, a flying sit spin and a triple flip. The 2004 French champion earned marks from 5.4 to 5.9 , and took four first place ordinals as well, placing second in the short and overall.
“It was awesome,” the excited 19-year-old said. “My warm up was good, and I had fun in my program. It wasn’t such a long wait [to skate last], but I knew that the others had skated well. I didn’t watch them, but I could hear it.”
Kristoffer Berntsson of Sweden put out a good performance, landing a triple Axel and a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination to finish fifth in the short and overall.
Vlascenko finished in sixth after the short and overall, followed by his teammate Lindemann, who placed eighth in the short and seventh overall.
Skating to The Matrix soundtrack, Joubert landed a quadruple toeloop followed by a triple flip, and a triple Axel. The 2003 European silver medalist then landed a second quadruple toeloop (in combination with a triple toeloop) right at the boards where his coach and team officials were standing. The two-time and reigning French champion landed a total of six triples, scoring marks from 5.5 to 5.9 for a first place finish in the long and overall.
“I don’t know what’s happening yet – it hasn’t sunk in,” said the jubilant 19-year-old. “I will realize what has happened tomorrow.”
The previous European Champion from France, Alain Calmat, also won his title in Budapest 40 years ago. “I saw him before the competition,” said Joubert. “It’s just a shame the Olympic Winter Games won’t be in Hungary.”
Joubert commented that the 2002 Olympic champion, Alexei Yagudin, helped him before the French Championships. “Now we keep contact by internet and he gives advice,” said Joubert. “He gives me tips on jumps and mental preparation. He will be in Dortmund.”
Joubert wasn’t certain of his win as defending champion Plushenko had yet to skate. “I was happy with my performance but I knew that Evgeni still had to skate,” said Joubert. “He is a champion and I knew the competition was far from over.”
Plushenko appeared calm when taking the ice to perform to Tribute to Vaclav Nizhinski by Edvin Marton. The three-time and reigning European champion opened his program with a quadruple-triple toeloop-double loop combination. Then disaster struck. The 21-year-old took off for a triple Axel, but popped it, landing awkwardly and then falling. He attempted another triple Axel, but singled it. He finally hit a triple Axel-triple toeloop-double loop combination on the third try, but after that he fell on the triple flip. The two-time and reigning World champion landed three more triple jumps, but doubled the final jump, a Salchow. With marks from 5.4 to 5.9 Plushenko placed second in the long, slipping to second overall.
“Things like this happen, that is not the end of life,” he said the young Russian. “I’m already a three-time European and a two-time World Champion. I have many titles.”
Plushenko, was disappointed and had no real explanation to offer for his mistakes. He didn’t blame them on his knee injuries.
“My knee is ok, my practice went very well,” continued Plushenko. “I did a great combination quad-triple-double [toe-toe-loop]. Today, I looked at my toepick and I thought, ‘What is happening?’. I don’t understand what happened.”
It just wasn’t Plushenko’s night. To make matters worse, the composer of Plushenko’s long program music, Edvin Marton, was in attendance. The wrong composer was listed on the scoreboard.
Klimkin opened his long, Dr. Diesel by H. le Bars, with a triple Axel-triple toeloop followed by a quadruple-triple toeloop combination. Though he fell on an attempt at a second quadruple toeloop, the 1999 World Junior Champion completed excellent spins, and one of his trademark moves, a triple Salchow right out of a camel spin. Klimkin’s marks ranged from 5.4 to 5.8. for a third place finish in the long and overall.
“I’m very happy to reach my first podium [in an ISU Championship] since the World Junior Championships in 1999,” said the two-time and reigning Russian silver medalist. “I did almost everything as planned. I had a little chance to get the gold, but I felt tired after the first quad. I lost a little bit my concentration, but the third place is very good for me.”
Dambier placed fourth overall as well as the long in which he landing a quadruple Salchow and seven triple jumps. His routine to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack earned marks from 5.3 to 5.7.
“I’m quite happy with my performance during the whole competition,” said the 26-year-old Frenchman. “I did 3 good programs and there was only one mistake.”
Lindemann, who was in seventh after the short, placed sixth after his long, moving up one spot to fifth overall to earn a spot at Worlds next month.
“I’m really satisfied with my program, because we put many years of hard work in it,” said the 2000 World Junior champion. “I think this result may give me a big chance at the Worlds in Dortmund. The family, the friends and the coaching staff helped me a lot.”
Lambiel delivered an inspiring performance to Edvin Marton’s Gypsy Dance, moving up four spots from 10th to sixth overall.
“Finally, after one week, I did it,” said the 2004 Swiss champion. “It was very tough. Today I told myself, ‘What do you have to lose?’ I told myself, ‘Fly. Breathe and fly.'”
Vlascenko, who has announced that this is his last eligible season, placed ninth in the long for an overall seventh place finish. The 29-year-old lost his berth for the World team to Lindemann.
Berntsson, who was in fifth after the short, had a disastrous long program, placing 17th in the long for an overall 13th place finish.
“I feel terrible, just terrible,” said the 2004 Swedish champion. “No, there wasn’t really pressure on me, only from myself. I just thought about doing a good program, that was what I was aiming for.”