Budapest (AFP) - Spaniard Javier Fernandez boosted his Olympic medal hopes as he defended his men's crown at the European figure skating championships in Budapest on Saturday as Russia faced a dilemma over who to choose for their men's team in Sochi.
The 22-year-old from Madrid landed three quadruple jumps in the free skating final to take the gold by a 14.56-point margin on Russian Sergei Voronov, with another Russian veteran Konstantin Menshov taking bronze.
Fernandez's free skate to the "Peter Gunn" soundtrack and "Harlem Nocturne" was not without error but in a weak field it was enough to hold his title as he scored 175.55 points for an overall total of 267.11.
He becomes the first man to defend his European title since seven-time winner Yevgeny Plushenko of Russia in 2006.
Veteran Plushenko's bid to return to compete in a fourth Olympics has been boosted as national champion Maxim Kovtun, 18, slumped to fifth after an error-strewn free skate.
Russia have just one men's berth for Sochi and three-time world champion Plushenko, the Olympic gold medallist in 2006 and two-time silver medallist, is due to have a test skate before federation officials.
Plushenko, 31, is not competing in the Europeans with the Russian skating federation due to make a final decision next week.
"I had a couple of mistakes that I have to fix for the Olympics. I think with a little bit more I will have a chance (of gold)," said Fernandez, who trains in Toronto with Canadian coach Brian Orser.
Fernandez went for three quads, but stepped out of the quad toeloop and the second quad Salchow.
He nailed another quad Salchow, but under-rotated the triple toeloop in this combination jump, and also included a triple Axel and four more triple jumps.
Despite his overall score being over 28 points off world champion Patrick Chan's world record, Fernandez believes he can close the gap on the Canadian in the weeks until the Games skating gets underway on February 6.
"My quad-triple combination was under-rotated, that was a big mistake, and the step sequence I have to try to make it level 4," he explained.
"These mistakes you lose points and points and points and in a competition like the Olympics, every single point matters."
It is the first podium place for both 26-year-old Voronov and Menshov, 30, who moved up from 11th after the short programme, as former winner Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic fell to seventh.
Verner had been sitting third after the short programme.
Voronov scored 167.04 for his Tango-themed programme for 252.55 overall, with Menshov achieving 165.12 and 237.24 overall.
Voronov, who trains with newly-crowned women's champion Julia Lipnitskaia, credited the 15-year-old with his improved form.
"When I was training with her I saw the way she works and I learned from that," said Voronov, whose previous best was a European fourth in 2008.
Lipnitskaia on Friday became the youngest woman to win the European title.
"I continue to skate because I still feel strong. I don't feel like I'm a 30-year-old," added Menshov, the oldest man in the field who hit two quads, two Axels and three more triples as well as two level-four spins in his routine to music by Rene Aubry.
Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte won the ice dancing gold earlier in the week.
The continental championships conclude Sunday with the pairs final where holders Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia are leading Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy going into free skating final.