GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – After Spanish figure skater Javier Fernandez won his sixth consecutive European title last month, he knew he still had work to do for a chance at the podium in Pyeongchang.
Despite winning the European title by more than 20-points over second-place finisher Dmitri Aliev, the 26-year-old had lost his balance on a double toe loop and faltered on his triple salchow in his free skate at the championships in Moscow.
“They were not perfect in the competition, but I’ve been training well,” Fernandez, a two-time world champion, said of his jumps at the European championships after his morning practice at the Gangneung Ice Arena on Tuesday.
“We did really good work back in Toronto in practice before I came. I feel confident. I feel really good. The jumps have been going really well. Hopefully it shows up in the competition here.”
Fernandez said at the Europeans that he was not looking for perfection but for improvement.
Alongside his Canadian coach Brian Orser, he has worked on pacing himself throughout the season in the hope of peaking in Pyeongchang.
“You cannot peak in every competition 100 percent,” Fernandez said. “You have to save a little bit for the biggest.”
He has also adjusted his training schedule to adapt to the early start times in Pyeongchang.
For his practice on Tuesday, Fernandez said he woke up at 4:55 a.m. local time.
“I’ve been training in the morning every day, instead at noon as we usually train,” he said. “I’m kind of used to it.”
Fernandez made history last month when he became the first man since Karl Schaefer in 1936 to win six successive European titles.
In Pyeongchang, he has another chance to make history. If he steps on the podium in his third Olympics, he would end Spain’s 26-year-old Winter Olympic medal drought.
The country has won two medals at the Winter Olympics — a gold in the men’s slalom in 1972 and a bronze in the women’s slalom in 1992 won by siblings Francisco and Blanca Fernandez Ochoa.
German-born cross-country skier Johann Muehlegg won three golds for Spain at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games but was disqualified for doping.
After a disappointing fourth-place finish at the 2014 Sochi Games, Fernandez’s podium hunger grew stronger.
Since Sochi, he won successive world titles, four European titles and two Grand Prix Final silver medals.
Fernandez knows that success in Pyeongchang will have profound repercussions on the sport in his native country, but he faces stiff competition from Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, Nathan Chen of the United States and Canada’s Patrick Chan.
“After Europeans, I got letters sent to my home and federation from all of them,” Fernandez said of the Spanish authorities.
“But you know, after this competition is done, we will see what has happened.
“It will be important for the country, for the sport in my country, but I still have to do it.”