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Trophée Eric Bompard
by Sonia Bianchetti
The Trophée Eric Bompard, held in Paris on November 15 and 16, was the fifth of the six Grand Prix events that will lead to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
The Olympic season is always a special one and although the middle of November is still early and it is therefore understandable that some competitors, especially those aiming for the podium, may have not reached their best condition, the list of entries was exciting. It included many skaters who, at least on paper, might claim a medal at the next Olympic Games as well as a few promising young skaters such as Han Yan of China and Anna Pogotilava of Russia, both winners of the Cup of China, Jason Brown from the US, and Adelina Sotnikova from Russia, who represent the future of our sport.
Well, the promises have been maintained. The event was very successful and the beautiful Bercy Sport Arena was filled with enthusiastic and supportive people, both for short programs and the free skating.
The men's competition was the most exciting.
Patrick Chan, three-time world champion, placed first both in the short and the free program. Skating to the "Four Seasons" by Vivaldi and a section from Arcangelo Corelli's "Concerto Grosso", he performed a flawless and gorgeous free program, the best I have seen by far in recent years. Technically, he was outstanding. He opened with a super quad toe loop/triple toe loop combination, followed by another great quad toe loop and six more triple jumps and jump combinations, plus very well executed and attractive spins. But even more fantastic and breathtaking were both the step sequences, through which Patrick was really reaching the heart of the spectators, expressing the music in the best possible way, even with his breathing.
Patrick really flows on the ice on deep edges and transmits his joy of skating. Each movement of his body, hands, and head corresponded to what one would expect on this beat of the music, just as in ballet. He was intense and communicative. Simply magic.
The marks he received in the Program Components, ranging between 9.50 and 10, this time were fully deserved! This is what I believe figure skating at the top level should do: generate an artistic emotion. The whole arena stood up in a standing ovation. Thank you, Patrick.
Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan won the silver medal, placing second both in short and free. In free skating, Hanyu recovered brilliantly after a nervous start when he singled his opening quad Salchow and then fell on the quad toe loop. My impression was that he rushed to execute these two elements as if he wanted to get rid of them! Never mind, Yuzuru. We do know that you can execute marvellous quads out of the blue. All the other planned six triple jumps, including an excellent triple Axel/triple toe loop combination, were perfectly executed. His jumps are of the highest technical quality, properly started and landed, without any visible effort. Impressive were also his step sequences, especially, in my opinion, his choreo sequence, filled with original and beautiful moves. Skating to marvellous music, "Romeo and Juliet" by Nino Rota, he was invincible in combining speed, athleticism and elegance. His skating is very soft and graceful and filled with passion. He surely is a natural talent.
The bronze medal went to Jason Brown from the US, 2013 World Junior silver medallist. He placed third both in short and free. Brown's Irish-themed program to "Reel Around the Sun" by Bill Whelan included five triples as well as beautiful spins and a very attractive and original choreo sequence. In spite of one mistake, a singled triple Axel, he performed a very beautiful and appealing program with innovative movements preceding the take-off of the jumps. Jason, in my opinion, is really a fantastic young talent with a bright future in figure skating.
In fourth place we have Han Yan, 17 years old, from China. Yan had placed first at the Cup of China, but unfortunately, in Paris he did not have his best day. In free skating he placed only sixth because of the many errors. However, his skating is very good, he has unbelievably soft knees, and the height and length of his triple Axel that we saw in his short program was just amazing. No doubt he is another very talented, promising young skater with a brilliant future in front of him.
The dance event was also very attractive. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN) took the gold. Their performance was simply fantastic. Skating to "Petit Adagio" and "Waltz in Concerto No. 2" by Glazunov, they captured the hearts and minds of the public with their free dance. And the choice of music by a Russian composer will surely warm up the audience in Sochi. The choreography features intricate steps and amazing and innovative dance lifts. Very appealing.
Dancing to "Swan Lake" by Petr Tchaikovski, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov placed second with a very passionate and appealing program. They were intense and communicative.
In third place were the French Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bouzart, who performed a very sparkling program to the "Le Petit prince et sa rose". They were penalised with a one-point deduction for a lift that lasted too long. Pechalat/Bourzat have been known for many years for their innovative programs, and this year's free dance is no exception. Really enjoyable and attractive.
In pairs, Qing Pang and Jian Tong (CHN) won the gold medal. Performing to "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Miserables", Pang/Tong did not skate at their best. They committed several important errors at the very beginning of their program. Qing singled the Axel in their opening jump sequence and then missed a triple toe loop and Jian badly landed the throw triple Salchow. However, they executed a very good triple twist and a breathtaking throw triple loop, as well as very original lifts and steps. In my opinion, their program still needs some work before the Olympics.
In second place were Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford from Canada. Skating to "Alice in Wonderland", they performed an interesting program with good triple twists, lifts and throw triple jumps, plus a very well executed side by side triple Lutz. Their program is pleasant and enjoyable to watch.
Caydee Denney and John Coughlin from the US placed third. Skating to the "Phantom of the Opera" by Andrew Lloyd Webber, they performed a passionate, flawless program highlighted by beautiful throw triple jumps, high triple twist jumps, a side-by-side double Axel-double toe loop/double toe loop sequence, an excellent death spiral, beautiful and very difficult lifts and spins. I did love this pair.
In the ladies, Ashley Wagner of the US placed first in total but only second in free skating. Skating to "Romeo and Juliet" by Sergei Prokofiev, she had a few errors in her jump combinations, while her spins and the step sequence were well done and appealing. Personally I was not that impressed by the choreography and the interpretation of her program. Probably it needs to be improved in the next months before the Olympics.
Adelina Sotnikova from Russia, European silver medallist, took second place. She was third in the short but first in the free. Skating to "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso" by Camille Saint-Saens, Adelina performed a clean program with seven triples, including a double Axel/triple toe loop combination, as well as excellent spins. She skates and moves very well on the ice and is definitely a promising young talent.
In third place was another wonderful young Russian skater, winner of the Cup of China, Anna Pogorilaya, 15 years old. She opened her program to "Mermaids" from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" soundtrack with an outstanding triple Lutz-triple toe combination, followed by a triple loop-half loop-triple Salchow combination as well as three more triple jumps and three Level-4 spins. Pogorilaya executes high and long jumps, seemingly effortlessly. Both her short and free programs are very well choreographed. In spite of her young age, I was particularly impressed by her elegance, by the way she moves on the ice, feeling and expressing the music. Very pleasant to look at.
Samantha Cesario from the US placed fourth. Interpreting Carmen by Bizet and Shchedrin, she skated a clean, elegant program, very pleasant to look at. All the jumps were well executed and her spins and step sequences really beautiful and original. I very much appreciated the moderate and appropriate use of her arms and hands.
Very emotional was the medal ceremony. The French federation was paying tribute to Jacqueline Vaudcrane, the legendary French coach who has trained many World and European champions, for her 100th birthday. Jacqueline was not present but was represented by some of her most famous pupils, among them Jacqueline Du Bief, Alain Calmat, and Patrick Pera, who distributed the medals. It was deeply emotional for me to see those champions, most of whom I had the pleasure and the honour to judge and referee during my many years in skating.
I will surely treasure many memories of this Grand Prix in Paris.