Stolbova, Klimov lead European figure skating pairs

STOCKHOLM (AP) Spain's Javier Fernandez won his third straight European figure skating gold on Friday with a free program that had some technical faults but never faltered on verve.

Fernandez's consistently vivid skate to music from ''The Barber of Seville'' began with an attention-getting strong quad toeloop. He later fell on a quad salchow attempt, a planned quad to open a combination turned into a triple and he doubled a triple lutz.

Russians Maxim Kovtun and Sergei Voronov took silver and bronze.

In pairs, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov led after the short program, edging Russian compatriots Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov.

France's Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres were in third place, but a full nine points behind.

Despite Fernandez's lively presentation, he said the free skate was especially tiring.

''I couldn't even bow to the people at the end,'' he said.

He wasn't sure why he was so tired, but said the air in the Globen arena seemed dry.

Kovtun also complained of tiredness, saying ''I felt like a stone was striking me down on each of my jumps.'' Kovtun did two quads, but the first was marked down for under-rotation and he put his hand down on the second.

Voronov said he was satisfied with his second Europeans medal and paid tribute to Fernandez's three years at the top.

''I think I already know the Spanish national anthem by heart because I've heard it three times,'' he said.

There wasn't a fall by any of the top pairs. Stolbova and Klimov, last year's Olympic silver medalists, kept precision throughout their martial-arts themed program, even in the combination spins that saw their challengers lose synchronization.

The two Russian pairs ended just 1.5 points apart, almost all the difference due to Stolbova's and Klimov's higher program components marks. Their triple throw also was a lutz, whereas Kavaguti and Smirnov did a throw triple loop with a lower base value.

The program's percussive, non-melodic music was a contrast to the music of the others, and a challenge for the pair.

''It's not so easy to skate to this music because you're looking for a kind of rhythm, and there's just the drums, and the choreography also is different because of that, but it does suit our fast skating style, and so we feel comfortable skating to this music,'' Klimov said. ''I don't know if it was our best skate, but the marks were fine.''

Kavaguti and Smirnov, who were European champions five years ago before some seasons troubled by injuries and surgery, chose a more classical approach, skating to a placid and soothing Massenet piece.

''This music suits us very well, especially Yuko, and it's not like something sad that puts you down. We want to show something romantic, and with flying feelings with this music,'' Smirnov said.

Kavaguti in fact looked downbeat when exiting the ice, but explained: ''I was thinking so much. That's why I didn't smile, it's not because I was disappointed.''

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