Dmitri Aliev claims European title from fellow Russian Artur Danielian

Aliev repeats Russian nationals win over Danielian with Georgia's Morisi Kvitelashvili taking bronze and overnight leader Michal Brezina dropping to seventh

By Rory Jiwani

Dmitri Aliev is the new European men's singles figure skating champion after a scintillating free skate in Graz, Austria.

Alive produced a big personal best to win with a total of 272.89, 26 points clear of 16-year-old Artur Danielian with Georgia's Morisi Kvitelashvili taking bronze.

Overnight leader Michal Brezina had a nightmare start to his free skate and finished down in seventh place.

Aliev's victory means the crown returns to Russia after Javier Fernandez bowed out with seven consecutive European titles 12 months ago.

Interviewed in front of the audience, Aliev said via a translator, "I am very happy. Thank you all for your support. I was feeling great yesterday and today, and now I feel very grateful for this perfect performance."

A talented skier in his youth, Aliev chose to dedicate himself fully to figure skating in 2013.

He commented, "I think it was the right decision but skiing taught me a great deal about strength and motivation. Today, I'm the champion of Europe and I'm very grateful for this experience."

Grassl and Aliev star as Brezina toils

In the penultimate group, Daniel Grassl had the performance of his young life and almost earned himself a medal as a result.

The 17-year-old, who won the Italian national title in December 2018, landed a quad Lutz, a fine quad flip, a quad loop and a triple Axel in an excellent free skate.

Grassl, who was forced to change his skating boots after his short program at last month's Junior Grand Prix Final, received a huge ovation at the end of his routine.

His score of 168.27 was almost 10 points higher than his personal best and set the target of 244.88.

He was followed by compatriot Matteo Rizzo who tripled what should have been an opening quad loop and then under-rotated and fell on his intended quad toe loop.

It was a below-par skate from last year's bronze medallist and Winter Universiade winner and he scored 157.94 to go second on 237.01.

The Italians remained one and two until Morisi Kvitelashvili who was fourth overnight.

Trained by Eteri Tutberidze in Moscow, the city of his birth, the PyeongChang 2018 Olympian is one of the taller skaters on the circuit at 1.80m.

He put in a fine skate, opening with a quad Salchow-double toe loop combination and a triple Axel before falling on a quad toe loop.

Kvitelashvili quickly regained his composure and achieved a career best score of 163.94 to go into the lead on 246.71.

European Championships men's singles podium (L-R): runner-up Artur Danielian, winner Dmitri Aliev, third-placed Morisi Kvitelashvili

There could not have been a greater contrast between the long levers of Kvitelashvili and the slight figure of Artur Danielian.

The youngster was third after the short program and opened with a quad Salchow-Euler-triple Salchow combination.

And despite stepping on landing a triple Axel and falling on a triple Lutz, he racked up a higher Technical Elements score than Kvitelashvili.

He received a mark of 162.11, third in the free skate, but good enough for the overall lead by just 0.03 points to guarantee himself a medal.

Then came the man who beat him in last month's Russian nationals.

Dmitri Aliev started with a slightly shaky quad Lutz followed by a better quad toe loop.

Next up was a fine quad toe loop-triple toeloop combination as he put together a stunning routine to Disturbed's cover of Simon and Garfunkel's 'The Sound of Silence'.

A solid triple Axel and a triple loop-Euler-triple Salchow combo at the finish saw him score 184.44, smashing his previous personal best by 15 points, for a daunting total of 272.89.

The crowd desperately wanted Michal Brezina to put up a challenge, but his gold bid did not last long.

The 29-year-old Czech popped his intended opening quad Salchow and then fell on his second attempt at the jump before another fall on the quad Salchow which was supposed to be the start of a combination.

Brezina showed great professionalism to bounce back and skate clean for the rest of the routine, but he took a knee on the ice before acknowledging the crowd as he skated off.

And he could not hold back the tears in the kiss and cry with his score of 141.48 leaving him down in seventh on 231.25.

Grassl was fourth ahead of Rizzo with Latvia's Deniss Vasiljevs sixth and German champion Paul Fentz rounding out the top eight.

A dejected Michal Brezina takes a knee on the ice after his free skate at the European Championships in Graz, Austria

Papadakis and Cizeron lead, but only just

World ice dance champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron have a fight on their hands if they are to clinch a sixth consecutive European title in Graz.

Dancing to the Fame soundtrack in their now familiar 1980s inspired outfits, the French duo were just over a point down on their world record rhythm dance set at November's NHK Trophy, scoring 88.78.

But world silver medallists Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov were just fractionally behind with a new career-best 88.73 to set up an exciting free dance on Saturday afternoon.

Italy's Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri also set a new career-best with 84.66 to take third on the day, a point ahead of 2019 silver medallists Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin of Russia.


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