Skating into the history books
With five European and two world figure skating titles already to his name, Javier Fernández López has secured his place in Spanish sporting history. Fourth at Sochi 2014, he is now aiming to become the first athlete from his country to win an Olympic medal on ice at PyeongChang 2018.
Dedicated to his sport“I’m aware that I’m the first athlete to achieve a lot of important things for Spanish skating,” said Madrid-born figure skater Javier Fernández, who took his first steps in the sport at the age of six. “My sister watched competitions on TV and decided to start skating,” he explained. “I used to love watching her train, so much in fact that I decided to get involved too.” Twenty years later, he is a firm medal favourite for PyeongChang 2018.
“Figure skating is a fantastic sport,” added the Spanish star. “It feels great when you start to make progress with the jumps, pirouettes and steps, and you have that sense that you control the ice, that you can master it, even though you weren’t born on it. The feeling of speed you have when you skate, the excitement you get from winning a competition, and presenting your programme after days and days of hard work… that’s what I live for.”
Breaking new groundBlessed with a unique talent, despite hailing from a country with fewer than 20 registered figure skaters, Fernández was the first Spanish skater to land a triple axel and then a quadruple jump. After winning the national title in 2010 aged only 19, he earned a place at that year’s Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, becoming the first Spanish figure skater to grace Olympic ice since Dario Villaba at Cortina d’Ampezzo 1956.
Fernández placed 14th on his Olympic debut and continued his rise up the ranks by scoring a series of firsts for Spanish figure skating, taking second place in an ISU Grand Prix event in 2011, third in the 2012 Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final and winning Skate Canada the same year. The pioneer then hit the big time in 2013, becoming European champion in Zagreb (CRO) and world championship bronze medallist in London (CAN).
Onwards with OrserSpeaking after his ground-breaking triumph in Zagreb, he said: “I still don’t feel like a champion. I don’t think winning one competition is such a big deal. I’m just going to keep on working.”
Fernández continued to hone his skills at his Toronto (CAN) base under the watchful eye of his coach Brian Orser, the Canadian former two-time world champion who guided the Republic of Korea’s Yuna Kim to the women’s title at Vancouver 2010.
The Spanish skater retained his European title in Budapest in January 2014 and then headed to Sochi, where he carried his country’s flag at the Opening Ceremony before embarking on his quest for an Olympic medal. He would fall just short. Third after the short programme, he eventually came in fourth after a disappointing free dance, with Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu taking the gold and Canada’s Patrick Chan and Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten completing the podium.
Raising his gameAfter making it three European titles out of three in Stockholm in January 2015, Fernández achieved another landmark for Spanish sport that March in Shanghai. Skilfully executing a free programme containing two quadruple jumps, six triples and multiple technically challenging pirouettes, he edged out Sochi 2014 champion Hanyu to win the first figure skating world title for his country.
Fernández retained both titles the following year, claiming a fourth consecutive European crown in Bratislava and a second world one in Boston, where he produced a scintillating performance to once again beat Hanyu, scoring personal bests of 98.52 in the short and 216.14 in the free.
Then, on 29 January 2017 in Ostrava, the Spaniard made it five European golds in a row, dancing his free routine to the sound of three Elvis Presley numbers. Only one man has achieved such a feat before: former Olympic champion Ondrej Nepela of Czechoslovakia, who collected his five straight continental titles between 1969 and 1973.
A little piece of history?In February 2018, Fernández will step out at the Gangneung Arena and bid to become the first Spanish athlete to win an Olympic medal on ice and only the third to climb on to an Olympic Winter Games podium. The first two were the Fernández-Ochoa siblings Francisco and Blanca, who respectively won men’s slalom gold at Sapporo 1972 and women’s slalom bronze at Albertville 1992.
“I never thought this could happen,” said Fernández after winning his fifth continental gold. Next in his sights is a first Olympic medal in the Republic of Korea.