King Fernandez secures sixth European crown

Nick REEVES
From L: Silver medallist Dmitri Aliev, gold medallist Javier Fernandez and bronze medallist Mikhail Kolyada pose on the podium after the men's free skating at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Moscow

Javier Fernandez waltzed off with his sixth consecutive European men's figure skating title in Moscow on Friday to fuel his dream of a first ever Olympic medal at next month's Pyeongchang Games.

The Spaniard produced an imperious free dance routine to rout all the would-be inheritors of the continental crown he has worn every year since Zagreb in 2013.

He brought up the half dozen in style with a tally of 295.55 points, over 20 points clear of Russian teenager Dmitri Aliev.

Another Russian, national champion Mikhail Kolyada, took bronze for the second year in a row.

"It is always nice to make history in figure skating for Spain and it is nice to skate well and win another title," said Fernandez, who bettered the record of five in a row set by Czech skater Ondrej Nepela between 1969 and 1973 which he had drawn level with in Ostrava 12 months ago.

Fernandez, 26, barely put a foot wrong in his four-and-a-half minute coronation set to music from the film Man of La Mancha, based on the famous Spanish fictional nobleman, Don Quixote.

Such was the measure of his superiority the Toronto-based Fernandez could have got away with interrupting his routine to read aloud from Miguel de Cervantes's 17th-century masterpiece, cup of tea in hand.

With his sixth title in the bag the man from Madrid will now set off from Moscow to prepare for South Korea and his third and last Games where he is targeting a debut podium after narrowly missing out on bronze at Sochi four years ago.

"We came here to train, because this is the last competition before the Olympic Games. I came here to improve and I got a season’s best, so we accomplished what we came here for," he said.

Leading after Wednesday's short programme the two-time ex-world champion captivated the Megasport Palace crowd as he opened with a quadruple toeloop, quickly followed up by a quad salchow-triple toeloop combination.

His only slip up was when he had to put a hand on to the ice for balance after another quad salchow.

- 'Very upset' -

Kolyada too had contact with the ice when falling after two quads.

But his Elvis Presley routine was impressive enough to shoot him into the provisional lead where he remained until first Fernandez and then the closing skater Aliev overtook him.

Kolyada reflected: "I am very upset about the quad toe fall. The (quad) Lutz, okay, that was to be expected. On a scale of five, I’d give myself a four with a big minus for my performance today."

Earlier, record-breakers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron closed in on their fourth consecutive European ice dance title.

The French duo led the field on 81.29 points after an accomplished short programme set to a Latin remix of Ed Sheeran's smash 2017 hit "Shape of You".

"We are happy with our performance. We had a little tiny mistake on the twizzle (turn). It's the kind of thing that never happens – but it did," said Papadakis.

The 22-year-old and the year older Cizeron have swept all before them this year, smashing the world ice dance points record to become the first to ever break the 200-point mark in China in November.

The two-time former world champions bettered that in Grenoble and again with a tally of 202.16 to win the Grand Prix Finals title in Japan in December.

There they saw off Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir who are their big rivals for Olympic gold at the Pyeongchang Games next month.

Going into Saturday's free dance, Papadakis and Cizeron have as their closest rivals Russian pair Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin.