Meier, Amodio wins individual golds at Europeans
BERN, Switzerland (AP)
Sarah Meier's career came to a perfect end, winning gold at the European Figure Skating Championships on Saturday. Florent Amodio's is just beginning.
Meier turned her last performance before retiring into a victory lap as the 26-year-old Swiss earned her first major title in front of adoring home fans.
A few hours later, the crowd rose again to acclaim Amodio, a 20-year-old French skater whose turn as an arrogant, strutting disco dancer won the men's European title at his first attempt. He had placed 12th at the Vancouver Olympics.
Born in Brazil but adopted as a toddler by a French couple, Amodio sang his anthem with gusto and right hand over his heart before jumping up and down on the top step of the podium with both arms in the air.
''It's a dream that has become reality,'' said Amodio, who thanked the audience for its support. ''Sometimes I couldn't hear the music because they were so loud.''
Saturday's individual events provided an emotional end to an otherwise low-key week in which Russia was shut out of the gold medals, one year after going 3-for-4.
Meier's victory was reward for returning after a disappointing Olympic season, and yet more injuries, for a final farewell at home.
Sitting third after Friday's short program, Meier was the last to skate. She dealt calmly with rapidly rising tension in the arena, as expectations of a Swiss victory grew when each of her main rivals fell.
Meier skated error-free to score a total of 170.60 points, edging defending champion Carolina Kostner of Italy by just over two points. Kiira Korpi of Finland took bronze on 166.40.
''It was so hard for me because it was so emotional,'' said Meier, who buried her face in her hands after completing her career-defining routine.
''Before the free skate I was no nervous. I tried to concentrate and now all the emotions come out.''
After landing her opening combination of jumps - triple lutz-double toeloop-double loop - Meier never faltered in an expressive routine set to music from the film ''Love in the Time of Cholera.''
Kostner, a three-time champion, lost her victory chance by falling in both her programs. Her technical skills meant she scored best in the free skate and rose from sixth after the short program.
''I'm very surprised with the result and so happy for Sarah,'' said Kostner, who denied Meier the European title in 2007 and '08.
Korpi led after the short program but sprawled on the ice landing a triple loop, after also putting her hand to the ice.
Russian teenager Ksenia Makarova, a former United States junior, failed to defend her second-place spot from Friday and finished fourth. Teammate Alena Leonova rose to fifth having been 13th after a poor short program.
However, the Russian national champion could not compete this week. Fourteen-year-old Adelina Sotnikova is not eligible under International Skating Union age rules until the 2013 Europeans.
Amodio brought a teenager's verve on to the rink, showing no tension while defending his lead from Thursday's short program. He concluded his routine - which did not include a quadruple jump - with moves to Michael Jackson's ''Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough.''
''It's true that I don't yet do a quad for competition, but I will try to do it for the worlds,'' he said, targeting the Tokyo event in March.
Amodio scored well on step sequences and amassed a total of 226.86 points, less than four ahead of compatriot Brian Joubert. The three-time champion had the best free skate to climb from seventh.
Joubert, whose silver extended his streak of European medals to 10 straight years, was Amodio's roommate in the French team hotel.
''It's thanks to this kind of friendship between us, and all the team, that we can perform so well,'' Joubert said. France also got ice dance gold from Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat.
Czech skater Tomas Verner, the 2008 champion, took bronze on 222.60 having also performed to a Jackson medley.
''There's a reason why you skate to Michael Jackson music,'' Verner said, before Amodio arrived at the official news conference. ''Even though you skate bad, people still enjoy the music.''