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2016 Trophée de France - Pairs

Paris, France

By Klaus-Reinhold Kany

The pairs competition was the weakest of the four categories at the Trophée de France in Paris, by quantity as well as by quality. Only six pairs competed because the second and third French couples had withdrawn and no alternates were nominated. The remaining six teams made relatively many mistakes, especially in the free program. On the other hand they took more risks, including triple throw Axels and quad elements.

One week after their victory in Russia, five time World champion Aliona Savchenko and her new French partner Bruno Massot, who skate for Germany, also won in Paris, this time with 210.59 points. Therefore they are qualified for the Grand Prix Final in December.

 Their short dance to the Lindy Hop music "That Man” by Caro Emerald reveals an excellent interpretation, there are some ice dance elements and some funny and entertaining movements.  This is no surprise because British ice dancer John Kerr choreographed it in Florida this spring. Savchenko liked it so much that she even thought of not performing it this season, but keeping it for the Olympic year, but then they decided to use it this season. Massot is relatively heavy, but he has improved much in style and really learned to dance and skate quite elegantly. He will soon apply for German citizenship which he needs in order to compete at the Olympic Games in 2018. France and Germany both being members of the European Community, this is possible if you have lived in Germany for three years, which he will have done next year. There is only one problem: He has to pass a German language test and therefore is learning German now.

The Germans‘ first element in this short program was a huge triple twist with an enormous height and an elegant landing, which got eight GOEs of +3. The side by side triple Salchow was very parallel and clean as well. Then Savchenko stumbled on the landing of the triple throw Axel, which only the Canadian world champions Duhamel & Radford (who were not in Paris) also have included in their short program. The difficult loop lift and the intricate step sequence - exactly to the beat of the Lindy Hip rhythm - got some GOEs of +3. The death spiral and the spin were very good as well. The components moved around 8.9, with one perfect 10.0 for composition from the German judge. During the lift the zipper of her costume broke, but they could finish the program without problems. Part of the public gave them a standing ovation.

Later she said: “It was a little step up from last week at the Grand Prix in Moscow, but it still wasn’t our very best. I was surprised when the dress was open, the zipper broke. There needs always to be a problem with something. I just hoped that my dress would not drop before the end of the program." After the short program she still was in good mood about the risky triple throw axel: "No, that's no risk. We land it regularly. But landing it in practice and in competition are two different things.“

But the next day the risk proved to be too big, because in the free program she fell hard on this element and obviously sprained the ankle of her right foot. The choreography of the long program to the song "Lighthouse," sung by Patrick Watson, is outstanding, very romantic and modern. They began with another stellar triple twist which had the same quality as in the short program, and also got eight GOEs of +3. In the jump combination, Massot put his hand on the ice on the triple Salchow, his double toe loop was downgraded and both did a single toe loop as a third jump. Later he doubled the toe loop which she tripled. After the fall on the triple throw axel they did some first-class elements, including three outstanding lifts, among them the very difficult Axel Lasso which got eight GOEs of +3 and 9.60 overall points. At the end they had planned a quadruple throw Salchow, but Savchenko felt heavy pain and only could land a shaky triple on two feet. The components were around 8.9.

Massot later said: "This second Grand Prix, just one week after the first one, was really hard. It was hard physically, but mostly mentally. I am disappointed that I missed two of my jumps, but I came back into the program and we did good lifts. I must say also that it was amazing for me to skate in Paris again and to see all these fans. I think we got a very warm welcome here." Savchenko sat down in the mixed zone, cried and only said: "May God help me that the pains stops and the injury is not so serious.“ They had to skip the exhibition and flew home to Oberstdorf to get treatment on her leg there.

Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov from Russia won the silver medal with 206.59 points. They started their short program to the Electro Swing mix "Glam“ with an excellent triple twist (level 4) which was almost as high as the German version. The triple toe loop was good, the triple throw loop as well in spite of a slight touchdown of Tarasova‘s second foot. Three more elements were clean, but the spin at the end a bit wobbly. They had only one point less than the leaders. Morozov commented: “It was a good short program, but we can do more. In the past two weeks we did good work and now we have to keep concentrated for the free skating.”

The first element in the free program to "Music is my First Love“ by John Miles was a quad twist which is new for them, not perfectly executed, but almost O.K. The side by side triple Salchow was good, the triple throw Salchow (which is planned quadruple one day) as well. But then Morozov doubled the toe loop and singled the second and third one. The other elements were clean, the triple throw loop and the last lift even excellent. Their components had an average of 8.4, the choreography was good but not spectacular.

 “We got the silver medal, but it still wasn’t clean for us. We’re going the right way and today we did the quad twist for the first time in the Grand Prix. We skated better than at Skate America”, Morozov explained. "It's hard to continue a program after you've missed a quad twist. It takes a lot of energy. Then, all the difficult elements have to follow, and we need to land them as well." With this second and a third place at Skate Canada they have to wait and see if they qualify for the Final.

To the delight of the crowd, Vanessa James & Morgan Ciprès from France won their second Grand Prix medal, a bronze with 198.58 points. They have been training in Florida with John Zimmerman since this July. In the night from Sunday to Monday before the competition, they had flied back to France, but Morgan Ciprès‘ suitcase with the skates got lost and did not travel with them. He missed some practices in France and had to wait until Thursday morning, just before the first official practice until the baggage finally arrived. This might be an explanation why some short program elements were not perfect.

In this short program to "Earned it“ from "Fifty Shades of Grey," Ciprès could not catch James correctly in the air and they got only a base level. The side by side triple Salchow was O.K., but James stepped out of the triple throw flip. The other elemnts were clean and their components were around 7.7. James commented: "It's not the best we can do, but it's a good start. This is a new season, a new competition; we have a new way of thinking now. Our elements were done. We should make it if we gain more confidence."

With the second-best free program to the evergreen music "The Sound of Silence“ in a new arrangement, the French could move up from the fourth to the third place. They were the only pair without big mistakes. This time the triple twist was clean and the combination of triple toe loop – double toe loop – double toe loop as well. Then they tried a quadruple throw Salchow, which James landed on two feet, but did not fall. During the triple throw flip with James performing in the "Rippon way“ (holding two arms over her head) she slightly touched with her second foot, but again, it was better than at Skate America. The other elements were clean or even very good, like two of the three lifts. The components were around 8.1.

“We are very happy with our performance today," Ciprès said. "It was hard for us to go back to skating after Skate America, which was a big disappointment. Today we have fought on the ice. We take some risk with these difficult elements. A fall there can become really hard. But we want to improve pairs skating, just like the men do by adding more quads. Skating like this in front of your home audience made me really calm. I felt no pressure. I knew that the audience was wholeheartedly with me. I just wanted them to be proud of us. The move we made to go train in Florida was a big decision for us. The investment is paying off. Everyone -- judges, officials and audience -- can see that we are improving."

Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Ebert from Russia, fifth at Russian Nationals, train in Nina Mozer’s pair school. They are on fourth position, winning 192.56 points. Their short program to Georgi Sviridov’s well-known composition "Snowstorm," which reflects the traditional and sometimes melancholic "Russian soul," was flawless: triple twist, side by side triple toe loop, triple throw loop, everything worked well. Their skating was a bit slow but they showed great harmony and their components were around 8.0. Zabiiako said: “It is a good experience for us, because last year we had only one Grand Prix. This short program was better than in Moscow and we are on the right way.”

In the free program they slipped to fourth place because of two mistakes on the individual jumps. Skating to Michael Bublé’s "Cry me a River“ they began with a good triple twist, but then Enbert fell on the triple toe loop which was planned in combination with two double toe loop. Later both did only a double Salchow instead of a triple one. They have a small chance to reach the final.

The U.S team of Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran, who train in Montreal, finished fifth with 176.18 points. After the triple twist Tran stepped out of the side by side triple  Salchow and Castelli fell on the triple throw Salchow. The other elements were clean and got high levels. "The throw was a bit out of control," she said "It happens." The triple twist at the beginning of their free program to a medley of the group "Journey“ and the loop lift were good. But then Castelli fell on the triple toe loop which was planned a s a combination and stepped out of the triple Salchow.

Castelli fell on the triple toe loop of the team's side by side combination and did the same on their side by side triple Salchows. Their lifts were impressive (all three were rated Level 4), as was their spin. Their spiral received a Level 3. None of her two triple throws was correctly landed. The rest of the program was good. Therefore Tran had the courage to say: "We didn't have the best warm-up, but we came back and went for everything in the program." And Castelli added a bit euphemistically: "We're getting better and better at each competition."

The Austrians Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer, who train in Berlin, ended up sixth with 145.01 points after two bad programs. In the short program, their triple twist was shaky and got only a base level. Then Kiefer doubled the side by side Lutz which was planned triple. Ziegler fell on the triple throw flip, the other elements were O.K. The first minute of their free program was a disaster because they singled the twist and both fell on the side by side triple Lutz which was downgraded. The planned jump combination was a mess though none of both fell, but Ziegler went down on the triple throw flip again. The other elements were more or less clean, but their speed was slow.

"This was not what we had planned here," Kiefer said. "We planned a high technical level this season, but found out this worked only in practice. We miss smaller competitions. We had planned to go into the season earlier but as we changed our whole free program in August, this was not possible. We hope it works better in Japan in two weeks"