Well we made it. Paris brought thrilling victories, and bitter disappointments, but we have, at last, reached the end of the “regular season” in the international skating world.
The men’s competition was again the most exciting.
Prior to the final group, it was announced that the French veteran, Brian Joubert, had withdrawn (due to illness). The gasp in the crowd was obvious, even via the icenetwork live stream! I have to say, I was a bit disappointed as well. However, the show must go on, and fellow Frenchman Florent Amodio was up for the challenge.
Takahiko Kozuka led after the short program, but Amodio was hot on his heals with a free skate that lit up the crowd and the scoreboard alike! But never fear – calm as a cucumber, Kozuka threw down possibly his best free skate ever, quad and all. He just checked the jumps off, one-by-one, and the softness of his knees made his footwork soar. By far the champion here, and Taka has a chance at giving his countryman – reigning World Champ Daisuke Takahashi – a run for his money at Japanese Nationals.
But first, the Grand Prix Final.
For the men, it will be:
1. Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)
2. Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
3. Patrick Chan (CAN)
4. Tomas Verner (CZE)
5. Nobunari Oda (JPN)
6. Florent Amodio (FRA)
Unfortunately, all three US men (who did well in their own right this GP season!) just missed out. Jeremy Abbott is the 1st alternate, followed by Brandon Mroz and Adam Rippon, should one or more of the top six not be able to compete in Beijing.
This competition could be very interesting…but what else would we expect from this year’s men?
The ladies were predictably unpredictable. Actually, though, things shaped up a little more like they were “supposed to” in Paris.
Mao Asada is still quite a mess by her own standards, but compared to her first outing, things went better. She stayed on her feet in the long, however she popped a few jumps, including both planned triple axels. I know that’s her “trademark” move, but I wish she’d drop it to a regular old double axel, at least until she gets her new technique worked out. That way she would have less to fret about and could give more focus to the other jumps.
Regardless, she finished 5th, which was an improvement over her 8th place finish at NHK Trophy.
The battle between the top three was interesting. Alissa Czisny pulled up to third overall after a less-than-perfect free skate. However, her component marks and the technical markks she gets for her footwork and spins gave her an advantage that held her in position for a medal – and for a spot in the Final.
Mirai Nagasu – not skating from 1st after the short – skated a beautiful long that was marred by a rare error on a layback spin – normally one of Mirai’s highest scoring elements! A few underrotations and low levels on her footwork cost her the title, but it was just barely, as she was just two points shy of the champion.
Kiira Korpi skated away with gold after her own les-than-stellar free skate. But her three point lead in the short and a slight edges on the program component scores gave her the win. She is the first alternate for the Final.
The other qualifiers are:
1. Miki Ando (JPN)
2. Alissa Czisny (USA)
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA)
4. Kanako Murakami (JPN)
5. Akiko Suzuki (JPN)
6. Rachael Flatt (USA)
The other alternates are the Americans, Mirai Nagasu and Ashley Wagner.
The pairs competition from France also played out as expected.
The world champs, Savchenko and Szolkowy skated brilliantly once again (although I felt it wasn’t as good as at Skate America). They far out-classed the field, and earned their second gold of the season.
Skating to silver was the Russian team of Bazarova and Larionov. They have a classically Russian style and elegance that serves them well. They don’t have the spark of some of the other teams, but they skate well, and were well above the rest of the field (although there was a significant gap between them and the Germans).
The pairs that will be going to Beijing are:
1. Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER)
2. Pang/Tong (JPN)
3. Bazarova/Larionov (RUS)
4. Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (CAN)
5. Iliushechkina/Maisuradze (RUS)
6. Sui/Han (CHN)
And the alternates:
Perhaps the skate of the competition belonged to the French ice dance team of Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat. Skating at home in front of a crowd that shrieked at the smallest hand motion, they skated a classic, timeless, elegant, sophisticated performance to a Chaplin Medley that stole the hearts of all who saw it. Their lines were stunning, their technique unmatched, and the character and expression they maintained throughout was the cherry on top of their Grand Prix sundae! It was fabulous. They will be competitive with the top teams at the Final, for sure.
Speaking of the Final, the dance line up:
1. Davis/White (USA)
2. Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA)
3. Crone/Poirier (CAN)
4. Bobrova/Soloviev (RUS)
5. Weaver/Poje (CAN)
6. Noffmann/Zavozin (HUN)
The alternates (again, some unlucky Americans who just missed it after skating wonderfully this season!)
Without some of the top North American dance teams on the scene (Virtue/Moir, Belbin/Agosto) the competition is a bit more diverse compared to recent years of so much North American dominance! That said, it will likely be a very competitive event, with Davis and White the early favorites.
And there you have it, friends! Another Grand Prix series nearly complete.
Anyone brave enough to make predictions for the Final?
In other news, the second episode of Skating with the Stars airs tonight…as I said, I reserve my judgement until after this show. I did see on Twitter that Tanith will have some kind of additional role tonight, as she said she’d be coming down from the “nest.” Can I just say that makes me MUCH happier? How much that helps, we shall see.
Then, on to Beijing!