Figure skating-Fernandez wins gold, Russia face Olympic dilemma

Sat Jan 18, 2014 6:34pm EST

Gold medallist Javier Fernandez of Spain poses with medal after the Men Free Skating at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Budapest, January 18, 2014. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

Gold medallist Javier Fernandez of Spain poses with medal after the Men Free Skating at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Budapest, January 18, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Laszlo Balogh

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(Reuters) - Javier Fernandez proved he has what it takes to challenge Olympic favorite Patrick Chan at next month's Sochi Games after easily outclassing his rivals to win a second successive men's title at the European figure skating championships on Saturday.

The Toronto-based skater, who became the first Spaniard to win the title 12 months ago, was far from perfect in Budapest as he failed to land two of his three quadruple jumps cleanly.

But despite the wobbles, he beat his nearest rival, spiky-haired Russian Sergei Voronov by a commanding 14.56 points with a total of 267.11.

Voronov's fellow Russian Konstantin Menshov was a distant third with 237.24.

Fernandez belongs to a select band of skaters who attempt three quads in their free programme and his 'Peter Gun' routine did not quite produce the kind of fireworks he had hoped for although his high-flying jump combinations and fast-paced footwork still impressed the judges.

Fernandez, a bronze medallist at the 2013 world championships, wasted little time in outlining what he has to do to iron out the flaws before he leaves for Sochi.

"I had a couple of mistakes that I have to fix for the Olympics. I think with a little bit more I will have a chance (of gold)," he told reporters.

"My quad-triple combination was under-rotated, that was a big mistake ... these mistakes you lose points and points and points and in a competition like the Olympics every single point matters."

He became the first man to defend his European title since Yevgeny Plushenko in 2006.

The performance of Russian trio Voronov, Menshov and Maksim Kovtun, who finished fifth, also left the door open for 2006 Turin Games champion Plushenko to snatch the country's only Olympic spot in the men's competition in Sochi.

A win for any of the trio in Budapest might have made it difficult for Russian officials to pick Plushenko ahead of an in-form European champion.

But the outspoken three-times world gold medallist, who is due to perform behind closed doors for selectors next week after skipping the Europeans, could be picked ahead of the trio if he avoids any major mishaps in his trial.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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