Experience made difference this year, says freshly-crowned European figure skating champion Verner

Tomáš Verner, photo: CTK

The figure skater Tomáš Verner has been all over the Czech media since last week taking the Czech Republic’s first European men’s gold medal in 16 years. A year ago he had led the field in the European Figure Skating Championships after the short programme on day one, but ended up finishing second after surrendering his lead on day two. When I spoke to Tomáš Verner (21) on his return to Prague, he told me what the difference had been this time out.

Tomáš Verner, photo: CTK
“The most important difference was that after the short programme I didn’t sleep at all last year. But this year I slept all night, really well, and then I came on the ice rink for the free skating with a feeling of what I can get from my programmes, not what I can lose. That’s what helped me – this experience from last year.”

When you came off the ice on Thursday did you think you could have won?

Tomáš Verner, photo: CTK
“Well, I didn’t go on the ice to take the gold medal, I went on the ice to present a really solid programme. I wanted to prove my skills, and I wanted to say to the European figure skating family that I’m back after a shaky start to the season.

“Then after the programme I wasn’t really sure that I could be the winner of this event. But then after a while I saw the marks and I saw that the competition was difficult for everyone, not just for me, it was really tough. Then I was just so happy to win the gold medal.”

What was the feeling when you learned you were the European champion?

“It’s a great feeling…it’s really difficult to describe with words. But inside you feel a lot of satisfaction for everything that you’ve done for the sport, and for what the people behind you have done – because I have the best team in the world working behind me.”

Tomáš Verner, photo: CTK
Tell us about your outfit, you were wearing a Chinese top, and your music was from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. What’s the Chinese connection?

Tomáš Verner performs during the exhibition gala, photo: CTK
“We wanted something different from what we skated last year. When the music first came I didn’t really feel it was the right decision, but then I realised that the music is deep and I could say much more than I said last year.

“I really like the music and I like the way the programme is built. And I really enjoyed skating it. Some people said it’s really difficult. But if you’re not improving yourself, if you’re not trying more difficult stuff that you did the year before you stay the same and you’ll be a loser then.”

In two months’ time you’re going to Gothenburg in Sweden for the World Championships – how do you rate your chances of repeating your success in Europe at the world level?

“The main goal is to put two more solid programmes in the competition, and this is the only one goal. I can’t tell if I could take this or that medal or this or that position – I’ll just go and fight. It’s going to be tough again. There’ll be Japanese, Canadian and US guys, plus we’ll have all of Europe behind me now – and they want to beat me, they want to get revenge.”