By Klaus-Reinhold Kany
World Champion Takes Gold, Qualifies for Final
The men’s competition was the greatest highlight of the ISU Grand Prix in Paris, which was called "Trophée de France“ (French Trophy) this year. Especially in the free program no less than nine of the eleven skaters gave a really good performance or even came near their best. This is not the case at every Grand Prix. Sometimes many men falter because the risks they take are mentally too big for them.
One week after his victory at the Cup of Russia, the four-time European and two-time World Champion Javier Fernandez from Spain also won in France, this time with 285.38 points, and therefore qualified for the Grand Prix Final in Marseille. These points are still a bit away from Yuzuru Hanyu’s World records from last year with more than 300 points.
But Fernandez was not faultless in Paris. Brian Orser’s student used the same Malaguena short program as last year, but changed his choreography a bit. After a fall on the opening quad toe loop , his combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop was good, the triple axel and the spins (all were rated level 4) excellent and the step sequence stellar (also level 4). His interpretation of the music was as good as ever and his components were around 9.2 with several 9.5 as highest ones.
He commented: “We did have an improvement in the short program in the spins and steps. In Moscow the levels were quite low. Still it wasn’t perfect, there was a fall on the quad toe. But I have the best program now, what I’m going to have later? You never know how things turn out. You can always fall on a jump, so I have to be really consistent on spins and steps. On these elements you really need to be 100 per cent present to hit the right level."
In his free program he skated to three well-known songs by Elvis Presley: "Trouble," "Fever“ and "Jailhouse Rock“. In the summer Brian Orser said: "At first I was a bit skeptical when Javi and our choreographer David Wilson came with this music, because I was not sure if Javi really can interpret it. But then he performed the program without jumps in our rink in Toronto. And I saw that he can interpret this very well, he just can skate to any music. So we took it.“ And it worked: In Paris his components for this entertaining program had an average of 9.2 with one 9.75 from the Spanish judge as highest one.
He began with a rulebook-like quad toe loop , followed by a good combination of quad Salchow and double toe loop . The next three elements were very good, including the entertaining choreographic sequence. The second quad Salchow was ok, but then he fell on the second triple axel. The rest of the program was at least good again. “I feel a bit tired, it is the first time I did two competitions back to back," he commented. "I was happy that I was able to perform not perfect, but really good. I just hope to go to the Grand Prix Final in a better shape and try to fight to be on the podium one more time, hopefully for a better medal than in the past years.”
The strong performances and the silver medal for Denis Ten with 269.38 points were a surprise because only three weeks ago he had to withdraw from Skate America due to several injuries. But he was in good shape again and said that due to his foot problems he just would only leave out the quad Salchow which he had learnt in springtime and summer. In the last three weeks he has worked with his new main coach Nikolai Morozov in Novogorsk near Moscow.
His opening quad toe loop in the short program was a bit shaky, but the six other elements were good, the step sequence to the music of Prokofiev’s "Romeo and Juliet“ in a modern arrangement even outstanding. His components were around 8.4.
“Unfortunately I had to skip the first Grand Prix and I had quite a rough year last year. I was really looking forward to skating both at Skate America and here. I couldn't skate in Chicago, but I'm really grateful that the Grand Prix was brought back to Paris. It's a huge pleasure and joy to perform here, one year after the tragedy that hit France and canceled the event last year.“
In his clean free program to the classical version of Puccini‘s opera "Tosca," the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist began with a very clean quad toe loop, followed by eight good triple jumps, two superb step sequences and very good spins. He got a huge applause from the spectators and later said, “It was very important for me to start the season despite all the obstacles with a positive spirit and strong skate. I felt that I did a good progress not result-wise, but training-wise. This will lead me to further development. I have two world medals, one Olympic medal, and now I have two Grand Prix medals, one bronze and one silver, which I both won in Paris. So I hope I get the same assignment next year, so I can win the gold medal!"
Adam Rippon won the bronze medal, earning 267.53 points, which was a personal best ever. Competing his clean short program in a tank top again which reflected his rock music of "Let me Think about it“ by Ida Corr vs. Fedde Le Grand, and with starting number one, he did not perform any quad, but his four triple jumps were good, including his trademark "Rippon Lutz“ with two arms over his head. His spins and step sequence were even excellent. His components had an average of 8.4. He commented on his birthday: "I'm happy with my scores and with my levels, which are higher than at Skate America. I want to show that I'm consistent and reliable.“
Rippon‘s long program to the music of "The Arrival of the Birds“ and "O“ was a choreographic and etheric masterpiece in which he imitated flying birds with his arms. Skating in a transparent shirt, the successful quad toe loop (10.87 points) helped him to move from the fourth place in the short program with the second best free program to win the bronze medal. His program components were around 8.8. He began with a clean quad toe loop , which he did for the first time in competition. All eight triple jumps, including two axels, were very good, the "Rippon lutz“ and the step sequence again outstanding.
“I feel like a huge weight is off my back landing the quad today," he explained. "So nobody can say that I never landed it. It just took me 27 years. I took it one element at a time. I just want to build on this at my competitions later this season, keep growing and just get better and better.” He will have to wait how his rivals compete at the two following Grand Prix in Asia and see if two third places will be enough for the final.
The second American Nathan Chen now trains full time with Marina Zueva and her staff (Oleg Epstein, Johnny Johns and Massimo Scali) in Canton, Michigan. He also was special in a way and finished fourth, earning 264.80 points.
In the short program, the 17-year-old teenager was the first skater in the history of skating who performed a clean quadruple Lutz (with a triple toe loop ) and a quadruple flip. These two jumping elements brought him 19.47 and 12.56 points. But then he doubled the Axel (because of lack of concentration), which is allowed but cost him five or six points. The other elements were good and he gained in elegance since he is working in an ice dance camp. He skated to the well-known ballet music "Le Corsaire“ by Adolphe Adam. “This is my first senior Grand Prix, I’m really happy that I was able to hit two jumps today, I made a mistake on the Axel, I doubled it, but that’s how you improve and we’ll take it competition by competition”, Chen commented.
In the free program, he confirmed that he is America best jumping hope for the future because he is not afraid of trying many quads. He tried to land four different quads and five overall, but did not land everything.
Skating to the "Polovetsian Dances“ from the Opera "Prince Igor“ by Alexander Borodon, he hit again the combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop (19.76 points) and then the quad flip (14.44 points). But afterwards he fell on the quad Salchow and also the quad toe loop , but later added a second quad toe loop with a hand on the ice. The rest of the program was good and his components had an average of 7.9.
He said: "I was simply drained after the two most difficult quads. I landed them so early into the program, and they took all my energy. I think that's where I faltered today, and I'll need to work on that, Overall, though, that performance was not too bad."
These four top skaters were not the only ones to perform very well in Paris. Takahiko Mura from Japan finished on fifth position with 248.42 points and collected 26 more points than on his error-filled first Grand Prix of this season in Canada. In Paris, after a fall on the quad and a step out on the triple toe loop of his combination with triple Lutz, he landed two clean quad toe loop s and six very good triple jumps in his long program and only fell on the triple Lutz near the end.
Jorik Hendrickx from Belgium has no quad, but a good style. In the short program everything except an overturned triple Axel was successful. In the free program, he performed six clean triple jumps and only fell on the second triple Axel. He finished sixth with 230.47 points.
Misha Ge from Uzbekistan, who often trains in California, only missed a quad toe loop attempt in both programs, but skated very stylish program otherwise. In both programs he performed his trademark spin, in clockwise direction and then in anti-clockwise direction. He ended up seventh with 229.06 points.
French champion Chafik Besseghier, who now trains with Stanick Jeannette, finished eighth with 225.02 points. In the short program, he touched down his hand on the quad toe loop, but the rest was O.K. His long program was completely clean, with one quad toe loop and six triple jumps. But his skating skills are a bit lower than those of the top skaters.
Artur Dmitriev from Russia performed a much better free program than at his first Grand Prix in Russia and finished ninth overall, gaining 218.70 points. With one quad toe loop and eight triple jumps he was at least technically very good.
Brendan Kerry from Australia, who trains in California, was not at his best and is tenth, earning199.40 points. His main coach Tammy Gambill was preparing for U.S. sectionals with other students and did not come with him. Bus she had asked Frank Carroll to coach him in France because he was in Paris with Gracie Gold.
Ivan Righini finished eleventh with only 185.81 points. He skated in spite of a heavy leg injury and even interrupted his free program for a few seconds because of pain, but then continued to the end. He left his training site Oberstdorf in Germany and now trains with Franca Bianconi in Bergamo in Italy. Some days before the French Trophy he had skated in a Plushenko show in Estonia.