Golden goodbye for Javier Fernandez at European Championships
Javier Fernandez crowned a glittering career on Saturday as he won his seventh-consecutive European title to equal the record of Russian legend Evgeni Plushenko.
The Spaniard who made his final competitive appearance in Minsk, bounced back from a disappointing short program. He landed two quads and produced a solid free skate, cheered on by his fans, to clinch the gold medal with 271.59 points.
Russia's Alexander Samarin was second with Matteo Rizzo from Italy in third.
"Minsk will be a city that I will always remember. I was a bit sad, because it was the time to retire but was happy at the same time that I was able to accomplish much more than I thought." - Javier Fernandez
Spanish flags waved inside the packed 15,000-seat Minsk arena as the 27-year-old took to the ice for his final free skate.
Just before him, 20-year-old Samarin had taken provisional top spot with a season's best overall score of 269.84.
Fernandez who has not competed since last year, had a shaky start to his program, poorly executing his opening quadruple toe loop and triple toe loop combination jump.
But the PyeongChang 2018 bronze medallist dug deep and proved his mettle, cleanly landing the following quadruple Salchow,
A well executed triple Axel followed as well as a triple loop and triple Salchow.
The double world champion had the crowd on his side as they clapped along to the music of Man of La Mancha by Mitch Leigh.
When he had finished, Fernandez took his time to thank the crowd, blowing kisses as he bowed out.
Heart shaped pillows with "vamos Javi" (let's go Javi) were thrown in his direction and he even picked one up for the kiss and cry area.
Fernandez who was trailing by almost 9 point after the short program, managed to outscore Samarin with 179.75 points to take the provisional lead.
I think this is the work from everyone. The work that we put in every day, the work from my coaches, the work from my family and the work from everybody that supports me.” - Javier Fernandez
Short program leader Kolyada, needed a clean skate to clinch the title.
However the runner-up at the Russian championships had a miserable performance.
The 23-year-old fell several times during his program and appeared to have hurt his wrist.
He tumbled out of contention and finished eleventh in the free skate, fifth overall.
Fernandez's dream swansong had come true. He clinched victory to become a seven-time European champion, equalling Plushenko's accomplishment. However one could argue the Spaniard has the upper hand, having secured all seven of his titles in a row.
What's even more remarkable is that he only had three weeks with his coach Brian Orser, to train for this championship.
"I was confident about myself, I trained great in a short period of time but the practice was efficient." - Javier Fernandez
Fernandez also paid tribute to his former training partner and double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.
"If you skate in a competition in Japan after Yuzuru Hanyu, that teaches you a lot." - Javier Fernandez
'Super Javi' to skate on
Although Fernandez closes the competitive chapter of his career, he has been quite adamant that he will not be hanging up his skates just yet.
Fresh off his Revolution on Ice show, which saw him tour around Spain at the end of last year, Fernandez has plans to continue touring in 2019.
He's indicated his desire to remain a part of the figure skating community and wants to continue promoting the sport in his country.
"I hope that I can make figure skating bigger in my country. I still have a lot of work to do to make figure skating better in my country." - Javier Fernandez
So while he may be finished with competing, it's clear that 'Super Javi' as he is fondly known, is far from done with skating.
*Coming soon to Olympic Channel, an exclusive interview with the newly crowned seven-time European Champion - JAVIER FERNANDEZ. WATCH THIS SPACE!