Brezina leads at European figure skating after rivals fall
GRAZ, Austria (AP) — Czech veteran Michal Brezina took a surprise lead at the European Figure Skating Championships on Wednesday as Kevin Aymoz of France failed to qualify for the free skate.
Brezina scored 89.77 points in his short program to take the lead, seven years after he won the only major championship medal of his career with bronze at the European Championships.
He leads two Russians. Dmitri Aliev has 88.45 points and Artur Danielian has 84.63.
Aymoz had been a favorite for gold after winning bronze at the Grand Prix Finals in December as the top-ranked European skater. However, he fell twice and missed another jump element, scoring 64.40 points for 26th place — missing out on Saturday's free skate by less than a point.
Alexander Samarin, last year's silver medalist, also struggled. He finished 13th after a fall.
Russia's Alexandra Boikova and Dmitry Kozlovsky, the bronze medalists last year, led the pairs competition after scoring 82.34 for first place in the short program.
Russia is heading for its fifth European podium sweep in nine years in pairs, with Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin second on 74.92 and Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov third on 73.50.
Tarasova and Morozov were targeting a third career European title until Morozov nearly dropped his partner on a lift. That left them with a fight to hold on to third in Friday's free skate, with an advantage of just 0.02 points over Italians Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise, and 0.07 over Germany's Minerva Fabienne Hase and Nolan Seegert.