Fernandez leads European figure skating championships

BY AP • January 17, 2018

MOSCOW (AP) Javier Fernandez took a step toward his sixth consecutive European Figure Skating Championships gold medal on Wednesday by being the only skater in the men's short program to land two quads.

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France took the lead in the pairs, where the top five are within 5.15 points of each other after the short program

In the last major competition for European skaters before next month's Olympics, Fernandez of Spain opened with a clean quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination. He followed with a quad salchow, which he landed awkwardly but upright. He scored 103.82 points, the only skater in triple digits and more than a dozen ahead of second-place Dmitri Aliev of Russia.

''I was able to perform pretty good,'' said Fernandez, who also executed a clean triple axel. ''We were not looking for perfection.

''I felt this was a good run through and practice for the Olympics,'' Fernandez added. ''My goal for Europeans is to win, because it is important for me, important to keep writing history not only in Europe, but for Spain especially.''

Aliev, skating in his first European championship, had planned a difficult quad lutz-triple toe to begin, but tripled the opening jump.

''In the first hundredth of a second, I rethought the quad, because I took off awkwardly so I went for the triple,'' he said. ''An impulse in your brain says `Something's not right,' and you have to react.''

Deniss Vasiljevs of Latvia was in third place. He didn't attempt a quad, but landed all four of his triples cleanly.

''I'm really looking forward to upcoming challenges, the free program,'' Vasiljevs said.

Mikhail Kolyada, whose three Grand Prix medals this season had raised hopes he would lead a resurgence in Russian men's skating, was in fourth place after stepping out of his first quad and doubling his second attempt.

James and Cipres were followed by two Russian pairs: Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert and Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov.

James said the challenge of competing against the Russians before a home audience sharpened them in a program that included a precise triple salchow and a throw triple lutz. They lead with 75.52 points.

''We had to skate well, no matter what ... we were a little bit nervous today,'' she said.

Zabiiako and Enbert lost synchronization on their triple toe loop, but managed a clean and dramatic triple twist lift and throw triple loop.

Stolbova and Klimov, who won team gold in the Sochi Olympics, were nearly 3.5 points off the lead after she fell on the triple toe loop.

Klimov said he thought they were suffering a sort of reverse stress because of competing at home. ''It's nice when they're greeting you and applauding you, but I really can't get it into my head that I'm at a competition when I've got the ability to just go home at any moment,'' he said.


James Ellingworth in Moscow contributed to this story.

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