Javier Fernandez wins sixth straight European gold

European Figure Skating Championships - Moscow

MOSCOW (AP) — Javier Fernandez won his sixth consecutive European figure skating championship Friday in a free skate full of flair that matched its Man of La Mancha theme.

Fernandez hit two clean quads early in his program — the second one followed with a triple toe loop — but put his hand to the ice on a later quad salchow. That was his only significant problem in the free skate that earned 191.73 points. He finished the competition more than 20 points ahead of silver winner Dmitri Aliev of Russia.

The Spaniard projected both the bravado and humor of the program’s Don Quixote alter ego, including his putting his hand behind his back at the end of a triple-double combination, a gesture reminiscent of sword fighters.

Spain last won a Winter Olympics medal in 1992, a few months before Fernandez was born, and he hopes to end that quarter-century drought.

“It will be something important for me, important for the sport of Spain and of course for figure skating in Spain. It will be good for a lot of things, so I’m going to try my best to do it and try to bring the medal to Spain, but I know how hard the competition is,” he said.

Aliev, in his first European championship competition, landed two quads with assurance, but doubled an intended triple flip. Skating in the high-pressure final slot, he was nervous.

“But for the first half of the program I kept control of myself, and then in the second half I felt confident and enjoyed it. I am incredibly happy,” he said.

Mikhail Kolyada of Russia, who was fourth after the short program, moved up to take bronze despite falling on two of his three tries at a quad. Latvian Deniss Vasiljevs, who had been marginally ahead of Kolyada going into the free skate, ended fourth after falling on his sole attempted quad.

French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron headed for their fourth consecutive gold after the short dance.

Papadakis and Cizeron amassed 81.29 points for their program to Ed Sheeran songs. Papadakis wore a green-gold flapper style dress and Cizeron projected a rough image in a black sleeveless T-shirt.

The score put them nearly six points ahead of Russian pair Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin. Anna Cappelini and Luca Lanotte of Italy were in third place, 0.3 points ahead of Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Russia.

“We feel pretty strong and pretty confident with the changes that we’ve made and we feel like it’s a good base to work on for the Olympics,” Cizeron said. “It’s a program that we enjoy more and more as we practice it.”

Papadakis and Cizeron are unbeaten this season with wins at two Grand Prix competitions and last month’s Grand Prix Finals.

“We’ve been working really hard since the beginning of the season and I think we’re just really happy to see our work is paying off,” Cizeron said.

Stepanova and Bukin are on track for their first European medal since bronze in 2015, and said the cheers of the home crowd in Moscow had given them a big confidence boost.

“We’re really inspired,” Stepanova said. “When you have an audience like that, you don’t need anything else.”

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