Spain’s Javier Fernandez sad he couldn’t medal ‘for my country’

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SOCHI, Russia – Javier Fernandez came agonizingly close to Spain’s third all-time Winter Olympic medal, and perhaps a pat on the back from the Royal Family.

The noted quadruple jump practitioner took fourth at the Iceberg Skating Palace on Friday night, falling from bronze-medal position after the short program Thursday to miss the podium by a mere 1.18 points.

“It’s sad I couldn’t bring a medal from this competition for my country,” said the 5-foot-6 Fernandez, still glistening, his navy blue España jacket collar popped. “Still fourth, it’s a good position. Nobody has done it from my country in figure skating. This is a good thing. I would love to have a medal, but not every time you can get on the podium.”

Fernandez is a student of his nation’s Winter Olympic history.

Yes, his Sochi performance was unprecedented by a Spaniard.

His 14th-place finish in his Olympic debut in 2010, at age 18, had matched the Spanish Olympic figure skating best. He rose 10 spots in four years and came close to joining sibling Alpine skiers Blanca and Francisco Fernandez Ochoa as Spain’s Winter Olympic medalists.

He will wonder what could have been.

Fernandez opened his free skate well, hitting a quadruple toe loop and the opening quad Salchow of a combination, but then he doubled what should have been a triple toe loop on the back end.

He also tripled another planned quad Salchow and doubled a triple Lutz.

“Not bad,” Fernandez said. “I did have good things in my program. I had a lot of mistakes, too. I’m sad that I couldn’t have done it better.

Fernandez, born and raised in Madrid, now lives and trains in Toronto under two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser. Orser also coaches Yuzuru Hanyu, who won gold Friday.

Spain is never far from Fernandez’s mind.

He’s been a special guest of soccer superclub Real Madrid at a Clásico match with archrival Barcelona, where midfielder Xabi Alonso recognized him.

He’s also received letters of congratulations from Spain’s king, queen and president for winning the 2013 European Championship.

The letter from King Juan Carlos I bring to mind Spain’s most infamous Winter Olympian.

In 2002, cross-country skier Johann Muehlegg won three gold medals for Spain at the Salt Lake City Olympics. Muehlegg was born in Germany but moved to Spain following a fallout with the German federation after skiing for his native country in the 1992, 1994 and 1998 Winter Games.

Muehlegg won the 30km cross-country race on the first day of the 2002 Olympics at Soldier Hollow. It was, at the time, Spain’s second Winter Olympic medal. A notable achievement for a nation that celebrates its soccer, tennis and cycling prowess.

So, the king called to express his appreciation for his adopted skier’s accomplishment. Unfortunately, Muehlegg was in standard post-race drug testing, so Juan Carlos sent a telegram instead.

It proved an omen. Muehlegg later failed a drug test in Salt Lake City and was eventually stripped of his 30km and two other gold medals he had won.

That’s not to say Fernandez’s breakout performances should be scrutinized. But he’s from a nation that doesn’t have too many positive Winter Olympic memories.

Fernandez has long sought to change that and to increase the popularity of figure skating in Spain, which has fewer than 20 ice rinks. He began skating in 1998 under tough conditions because figure skating was viewed as women-only sport.

“In Winter Olympics, I think we’ve got only two medals for Spain, right?” Fernandez guessed correctly. “That’s why I said it was going to be great if I could bring another medal for Spain in figure skating, to make more history.”

He did not hear from the king, queen or the Palace of Moncloa in the immediate aftermath of finishing fourth Friday.

“It’s hard, right?” he said. “They have a busy life. Figure skating is still not a huge sport in Spain. I guess I have to keep going and try to get more medals, get on the podium more times to bring the sport to my country and make everybody follow it and like it.”

He plans to skate through the 2018 Olympics.

“I know that [silver medalist] Patrick [Chan] and Yuzuru, they’re great athletes, great skaters, and it’s going to be hard to beat them,” said Fernandez, who was 21.7 points behind Chan and 27.17 behind Hanyu. “I have to keep improving to get those little points that I need to reach them.”

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier win U.S. figure skating pairs’ title in possible final nationals

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier haven’t decided if they’ll compete beyond this season, so Saturday may have been their farewell to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

If so, they went out as dominant winners, the first pair in their 30s to win nationals in more than 50 years.

Knierim, 31, and Frazier, 30, took their second U.S. title together, totaling 227.97 points to prevail by 31.11 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe. They led by a gaping 15.1 points after Thursday’s short.

Knierim and Frazier were solid after errors on their opening jumping combination in Saturday’s free skate. They broke their own pairs’ margin of victory record from the 2021 U.S. Championships under a scoring system implemented in 2006. Knierim appeared to wipe away tears backstage.

“As I get older, the longer I’m in this sport, the more gratitude I have for it,” Knierim, the oldest woman to win a U.S. figure skating title since 1995 (Renée Roca), said on USA Network. “After that music ended, I’m just thankful that Brandon’s by my side and I’m able to do what I love.”

Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea bagged bronze to likely round out the three-pair team for March’s world championships.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Knierim and Frazier considered retiring after last season, after they missed nationals due to Frazier’s COVID-19, petitioned onto the Olympic team and posted the best Olympic finish for a U.S. pair (sixth) in 20 years.

They then became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, beating a field that didn’t include any of the top five from the Olympics.

They returned in part to compete as world champions and rank second in the world this season (during which the top Olympic pairs also haven’t competed). They will likely go into March’s worlds in Japan as underdogs to Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who won their lone head-to-head this past fall at the Grand Prix Final.

Back in October, Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“This U.S. Championships for us was extra special because you’re just reflecting on the journey, and you know that there’s a good chance that this will be your last one,” Frazier said.

Knierim won her fifth U.S. title, tying the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka InaTai BabiloniaRandy GardnerKarol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Silver medalists Chan and Howe continued their recent surge. After placing fourth at last season’s nationals, they rank sixth in the world this season. That’s despite summer injuries that left them unable to practice lifts (his shoulder) and throws (her foot) for a while.

Kam, 18, and O’Shea, 31, made the podium four months after becoming a pair and less than two months after a car Kim was riding in was hit by a drunk driver while crossing an intersection. The car was totaled, but Kim and O’Shea still competed days later in Croatia.

O’Shea won the 2016 U.S. title with Tarah Kayne, retired after they split in late 2020, then came back in 2021 with Chelsea Liu. They ranked sixth in the U.S. going into 2022 Nationals, but withdrew beforehand due to concussions both suffered in a November competition fall, according to Figure Skaters Online.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Women
Gold: Isabeau Levito — 223.33
Silver: Bradie Tennell — 213.12
Bronze: Amber Glenn — 207.44
4. Starr Andrews — 188.24
5. Josephine Lee — 187.68
6. Lindsay Thorngren — 187.19
7. Clare Seo — 175.60
8. Gracie Gold — 173.98
9. Ava Ziegler — 167.70
10. Sonja Hilmer — 166.49
11. Gabriella Izzo — 166.40
12. Ting Cui — 161.27
13. Audrey Shin — 161.12
14. Lindsay Wang — 154.91
15. Michelle Lee — 145.28
16. Elsa Cheng — 138.13
17. Alexa Gasparotto — 129.41
WD. Hanna Harrell

Men’s Short Program
1. Ilia Malinin — 110.36
2. Jason Brown — 100.25
3. Tomoki Hiwatashi — 85.43
4. Liam Kapeikis — 82.27
5. Andrew Torgashev — 78.78
6. Maxim Naumov — 77.71
7. Jimmy Ma — 73.88
8. Goku Endo — 73.45
9. Samuel Mindra — 71.36
10. Yaroslav Paniot — 70.87
11. Camden Pulkinen — 69.47
12. Matthew Nielsen — 67.98
13. Joonsoo Kim — 67.45
14. Daniel Martynov — 64.04
15. Will Annis — 63.46
16. Dinh Tran — 60.63
17. Mitchell Friess — 59.14
18. Joseph Klein — 58.38

Pairs
Gold: Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 227.97
Silver: Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 196.86

Bronze: Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea — 184.01
4. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 179.08
5. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 176.34
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 172.74
7. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 148.84
8. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 137.98
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 135.30
10. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 132.07
11. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 129.80

Ice Dance
Gold: Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 229.75
Silver: Caroline Green/Michael Parsons — 207.46
Bronze: Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko — 198.45
4. Emilea Zingas/Vadym Kolesnik — 198.13
5. Emily Bratti/Ian Somerville — 189.84
6. Lorraine McNamara/Anton Spiridonov — 189.15
7. Katarina Wolfkostin/Jeffrey Chen — 183.05
8. Eva Pate/Logan Bye — 182.61
9. Oona Brown/Gage Brown — 181.89
10. Isabella Flores/Ivan Desyatov — 177.31
11. Angela Ling/Caleb Wein — 167.87
12. Leah Krauskopf/YuanShi Jin — 133.93
13. Cara Murphy/Joshua Levitt — 129.85
14. Caroline Depietri/TJ Carey — 123.40
WD. Raffaella Koncius/Alexey Shchepetov

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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