January 28, 2015

STOCKHOLM (AP) Javier Fernandez of Spain took a strong lead in his quest for a third consecutive European figure skating championship with a dynamic short program to the raucous rocker ''Black Betty'' on Wednesday.

Fernandez stepped out of his opening, speedy quadruple salchow, and out of the second part of the following triple-triple combination, but then marshaled his control for an explosive triple axel.

Although he appeared to be having trouble containing his enthusiasm, he laughingly faulted himself for just the opposite.

''Actually, this time I was a bit too calm,'' he said. ''I know what I did wrong and I'll fix that.''

In ice dance, France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron were in the lead after the short dance, a paso doble notable both for its flow and its quick steps.

''We work a lot on the interpretation,'' Cizeron said.

Fernandez has a substantial mid-point lead of more than eight points over second-place Sergei Voronov of Russia.

Voronov opened his program to Camille Saint-Saens' ''Danse Macabre'' with a clean quad-triple toe loop combination, then disappointingly pulled off a double axel instead of the expected triple. Late in the program came an assured triple loop.

He didn't explain why he chose the double axel even while looking strong in his other jumps, but spoke of some weariness with the rigors of the season.

''This is my eighth competition, so maybe it's a little tough for me. It's not about the pressure ... it's just that things didn't go the way I wished they would go,'' he said.

The Czech Republic's Michal Brezina was third, just 0.2 points behind Voronov, undone by a mistake late in the program when he fell on a triple flip that was to be the first part of a combination, and he didn't find opportunity to insert the jump into the time remaining.

Making the best of a bad moment, Brezina said the fall showed him how supportive the sparse crowd in Stockholm's Globen arena could be.

''The people were great. They helped me a lot when I fell, because I was ready to get off the ice,'' he said.

Russia's Maxim Kovtun also missed his planned combination, stepping out of the opening triple salchow and not taking the opportunity to tack it on later. He ended in fourth, still well in medal range.

Papadakis and Cizeron have notched several golds in Grand Prix events, but haven't made it to the podium at the world or European championships. Less than two points behind them are skaters with plenty of experience of that level of pressure.

Russia's Elena Ilinykh, who won Olympic team gold and individual bronze in Sochi with Nikita Katsalapov, was in second in Stcokholm with new partner Ruslan Zhiganshin and the defending European champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy, who also hold the world gold, are in third.

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