WINTER OLYMPICS

“I knew anything could happen in Sochi”

Javier Fernández deals with the disappointment of missing out on Olympic glory

Javier Fernández of Spain reacts after he competes during the Figure Skating Men' s Free Skating on day seven of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Javier Fernández of Spain reacts after he competes during the Figure Skating Men' s Free Skating on day seven of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.Streeter Lecka / GETTY IMAGES

When Spanish figure skater Javier Fernández arrives at the Olympic Village the day after missing out on a medal, he cuts a very different figure to the majestic way he appears on the ice. He is alone, unlike during the days in the run-up to Friday's free skate final, in which the 22-year-old Madrid native placed fourth. He's wearing the Spanish red-and-yellow Bosco jacket, a white t-shirt, black jeans and sneakers, as well as a pair of glasses, which make him look even younger than his tender years. He looks tired, as if he hasn't been able to sleep after having come so close to taking advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime, before letting it slip through his fingers - and all because, as he described it, of a silly mistake.

It's easy to imagine him going over and over in his head just what had happened, thinking about the jumps that he decided to change on the spot, which ended up relegating him to fourth place. But nothing could be further from the truth. "I've slept very well, but not for long," he explains, after letting slip a yawn. "I haven't been thinking too much about what went down. These things happen, and there's nothing you can do about it. When I came to these Games I was determined to leave with a medal, but I knew that anything could happen. Having that in your mind from the start is much easier."

Ruiz crashes again

EL PAÍS

Spanish skier Carolina Ruiz lasted just 13 seconds in the women"s Super-G on Saturday, skidding off the icy course at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort.

Last week she also slid off course in the Downhill event, when traveling well near the finish line.

"I made a technical error," she said after the speed event. The 32-year-old announced shortly afterward that Sochi would be the last time she participated in an Olympic Games. A total of 18 of the 50 participants failed to make it to the finish line at the Super-G. The gold was taken by Anna Fenninger of Austria.

He hasn't even gone back and watched his performance yet. He says he hasn't had time to see it, as he had to undergo a drug test straight after, before heading out to have dinner with his parents and with the directors of the Federation and the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE). "I'll watch it soon enough," he says. "I don't have a problem with that — I often watch myself. Sometimes it makes me nervous, as if I were living through it all over again, and sometimes I'm embarrassed at what I'm seeing. But in this case I'm happy. I made mistakes, that's true. But I am satisfied. I know that I did everything I could and my conscience is clear, because at least I tried."

Could he have lost his focus as a result of the controversy he sparked with his comments about gay people before the start of the Games, when he suggested in an interview that "homosexuals should keep it under wraps a little" in Sochi? "No, no, not at all," he replies. "Those days were very tough for me because I like to keep people happy, and when I opened up Facebook or Twitter... [...] I couldn't understand why I was being criticized so much for a misunderstanding. Even though I've apologized, I am still receiving very harsh messages."

But he has also been getting messages of support, even from Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, who sent him his best wishes via Twitter.

Despite the disappointment, the season is not over yet. Fernández, who is based in Toronto, still has the World Championships in Japan to come. And he is not planning on making any major changes ahead of that event. Apart from, that is, getting a new pair of skates. The ones he used in Friday's event have lasted him two years, and won't be good for much longer.

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