It’s always bittersweet to see an athlete retire, especially one with as much historic significance as Javier Fernandez. He’s been a pioneer for Spanish figure skating, inspiring the younger generation in his home country as well as popularizing ice skating in a country more obsessed with fútbol than anything else. For some, this week’s European Championships may be an unexpected surprise because they thought the Olympics was the last they saw of Fernandez. For most, it will be a fond farewell to a skater who has left an unforgettable impression in their hearts.
European Championships predictions
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GOLD Javier Fernandez ESP - Is this a prediction based on emotion? Maaaaaybe. But it’s not as if Fernandez has been sitting around eating donuts for months. He’s been on tour during the fall on a pretty tough schedule, though just recently back training in earnest at the beginning of January. Unless everyone else skates flawlessly, chances are that he won’t need all of his former difficulty to win his seventh European title. It’s not going to be easy, but you better believe he will be trying his best to win a competition that holds a special place in his heart one last time.
SILVER Maxim Kovtun RUS - Can the brilliant comeback continue? After a couple of seasons where he was injured and also just completely done in by his lack of confidence, he returned to Russian Nationals last month like a completely different skater, winning his fourth national title. He returns to Europeans having never won this event with a great chance at taking home his first gold. Also, for those of you who have preconceived notions of what a Kovtun program might be - I’d challenge you to really watch his programs this week with a fresh set of eyes. He might surprise you.
BRONZE Michal Brezina CZE - The Breznaissance has been one of the inspiring stories of this season. Can he ride that wave of inspired skating and consistency to a podium finish at Europeans this week? Crazily enough, he’s only won one medal in his 11 trips to Euros. He has the results to prove that he’s got the goods this season. It’s all about the mindset for him in Minsk.
4. Mikhail Kolyada RUS - It’s been a frustrating season, to say the least, for Kolyada. It seems like every competition has been him trying to get his confidence in the right place. And it’s oftentimes one step forward and one step back. He’s even watered down his technical elements a bit just to figure out some kind of consistency. What he’s got going for him are his two programs - two of his most artistically-inspired programs ever. And if he can get out of his own way, a first European title might be in the books.
5. Kevin Aymoz FRA - Dark horse, that’s what I say. Aymoz has been bubbling under this season. His free skate, in particular, is one of the most musically sensitive and avant garde of the season. He’s got a knack for music interpretation that you can’t teach. Figuring out that quad toe and triple axel all in one competition will go a long way toward giving him a shot at the podium. Hey, judges, not sure if you’ve been looking at the same programs that I have been when you’re giving out those component marks for Aymoz.
6. Matteo Rizzo ITA - Ninth at Euros last season, Rizzo comes into this year’s Europeans as a skater with different pedigree and cred. He’s since added appearances at the Olympics and a top 20 finish at Worlds to his resume, and grabbed a Grand Prix medal this season. His biggest deficit here will be his lack of a consistent quad, but we’ll see if he’s gotten any more consistency in it since the fall.
7. Alexander Samarin RUS - While a bit unpredictable, Samarin isn’t an unknown quantity here. He’s been top 8 the past couple of seasons, and he could very well figure into the medals. But outside of his booming jumps, he doesn’t have the most intriguing programs in this competition (though his free skate is definitely a couple steps forward from his programs in the past). He will need to be clean or near-clean for the podium.
8. Morisi Kvitelashvili GEO - If Samarin is a bit unpredictable, Kvitelashvili is outrageously unpredictable. Eighth at Skate America and silver at Rostelecom Cup, his consistency swings like a pendulum, but not nearly as regularly. Who will we see here?
9. Deniss Vasiljevs LAT - Fourth at Europeans last year, Vasiljevs has the all-around skating to get him near the top. But his efforts on the Grand Prix this season were way far from where he was late last season, so it remains to be seen how he will fare in Minsk.
10. Daniel Samohin ISR - I guess this competition is all about the unpredictable guys, isn’t it? Samohin is a grand talent, but there have been way too much inconsistency in his skating for him to really figure into the top of the standings at major competitions.