January 26, 2013

Javier Fernandez became the first Spaniard to win the European figure skating title, his exceptional performance drawing notice all across the world.

With three quadruple jumps in his free skate Saturday, Fernandez established himself as a medal contender at the world championships in March. Few men attempt that ambitious of a program, let alone do it successfully.

"When I stepped on the podium I felt amazing," Fernandez said. "I was thinking, `This cannot be, this is impossible. I am at the European championships and at the top of the podium!' All I wanted to do was to get down and hug my parents. They put me into the sport, they made me who I am."

Carolina Kostner of Italy successfully defended the women's title, edging 16-year-old Russian Adelina Sotnikova by less than a point to claim her fifth European crown.

"Somehow they have all been quite difficult, but this was really hard," said Kostner, who was competing in her first major competition since winning the world title in March 2012.

"It was hard to sit on the couch and watch the others skating. But it was important for my private life and important to be just a 25-year-old girl."

Sotnikova, who could not compete at Europeans until this year because she was too young, led after a sparkling debut Friday in the short program. But she could manage only third in the free skate, allowing Kostner, who placed second on both days, to win with a personal best of 194.71 points.

Another 16-year-old Russian, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, placed first in the free skate to claim the bronze with 188.85 points.

"I am just incredibly happy right now," Tuktamysheva said. "If I skated like that yesterday it would have been even better."

Earlier, Fernandez, performing to a Charlie Chaplin medley, had a quadruple toe loop, a quadruple salchow and a quadruple salchow-triple toe loop combination for a personal-best 186.07 points, giving him 274.87 overall.

Florent Amodio of France, who led after Thursday's short skate, had to settle for silver after finishing third in the free skate. Czech skater Michal Brezina was second to Fernandez in the free skate, and claimed the bronze medal.

Three-time world champion and 2006 Olympic gold medalist Evgeni Plushenko dropped out Thursday after aggravating a chronic back condition.

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