By Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(18 November 2017) The skating in the Men’s Short Program at the French Grand Prix was nearly devoid of clean skating. The majority of the men took a high risk by trying one or even two quad jumps in the short program and missed one or the other jump. But there was one exception: Five-time European and 2015 and 2016 World Champion Javier Fernandez from Spain took the lead with 107.86 points after a flawless and entertaining program with two quads.
Two weeks before at the Cup of China he had skated a weak free program because he suffered from a stomach flu and finished only sixth. Therefore he has almost no chance to reach the Grand Prix Final even if he wins in Grenoble. Still he chose to compete in France instead of using the time to return to training. Skating to the soundtrack of the Charles Chaplin film "Modern Times“, he entertained the public with some typical gestures of Charles Chaplin. His first element was an outstanding combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, followed by an excellent quad Salchow. For both jumping elements he got several GOEs of +3, as well as for his triple Axel. All nine judges awarded his "Charlie Chaplin step sequence“ GOEs of +3. His spins were very good as well.
He commented: “It was a good day. After my first Grand Prix, I needed a good skate and to be able to smile. It is sometimes hard with all the work and the pressure. The competition isn’t done yet. We still have tomorrow, that is going to be even harder, but I think we started this competition with the right direction and I’m excited for tomorrow to finish this competition with a very good result.”
Shoma Uno from Japan, second at Worlds 2017, sits second with 93.92 points. He began his short program with a quad flip, but he fell on the under-rotated jump. His combination of quad toe loop ad triple toe loop was very good, but his triple Axel a bit shaky. The spins (all level 4) and his step sequence were excellent. He interpreted the “Winter” piece of the Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi in a very convincing style. Therefore his components went up to an average of 9.2. Later he said: “Today it was a very hard short program for me. I hope that tomorrow in the free program I’ll be able to show much more. I haven’t been able to watch the video yet, but while I was skating, it was very difficult and I was so concentrated on the jumps, because it was so hard. But I was happy to see my component scores were all 9s.”
Alexander Samarin from Russia finished third with 91.51 points. His first element was a combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop, but he under-rotated the Lutz. His quad toe loop was clean, his triple Axel excellent. All three spins had a level 4. He skated to a modern version of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, but did not interpret much, but skated from element to element. Therefore his components with an average of 8.1 were way too high, one 8.75 for skating skills is even ridiculous. “I am satisfied with the performance”, Samarin said, “but I understand that I could do even better than that. But I’m happy that I established a new personal best. Right now I don’t feel any special emotions, because the competition isn’t over yet and the most interesting will happen tomorrow.”
Moris Kvitelashvili from Georgia, who trains in the famous Moscow school of Eteri Tutberidze and was 13th at the World Championships 2017, sits fourth, earning 86,98 points. His triple Axel and his combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop looked easy and were landed in high quality and exactly to the beat of the music. But he fell on the quad toe loop. His interpretation of “Feeling Good” by Michael Bublé was good and his components were around 7.8.
Alexei Bychenko from Israel is currently on fifth position with 86,79 points. His triple Axel was excellent, the quad toe loop good and his combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop very good. He skated to the famous Jewish folk song “Hava Nagila” because the State of Israel supports skaters who will compete at the Olympic Games only if they use Jewish music at least in one of their programs. He interpreted this music well and had components of around 8.1. This Grand Prix is his last one because he said that he will celebrate his 30th birthday during the Olympic Games and will finish his competitive career afterwards and work as a national coach of Israel.
Misha Ge from Uzbekistan is sixth, winning 85,41 points. He would almost not been able to fly from his current home in the Los Angeles area to France because the French consulate in Los Angeles was slow and did not want to give him the visa early enough for coming. But four hours before the flight he insisted to talk to the main diplomat in the consulate, showed him his official ISU invitation and convinced him to give him the visa right away. He took a taxi and rushed to the airport with his father and coach and just managed to catch the flight because it was delayed. Ge had a clean short program with four triple jumps, but no quad. Skating to “Ave Maria”, he performed a strong program with his heart devoted to the music.
The 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten from Kazakhstan had been injured in the summer and was not yet in top shape again, like every fall. He finished seventh with 83,70 points. He fell on the under-rotated quad Salchow, but the other elements were good, the step sequence to the music “Tu Sei” by Vittorio Grigolo even outstanding.
Max Aaron of Colorado Springs is on eighth position, earning 78.64 points. He overturned the quad toe loop of his combination and then fell on the added triple-toe loop. Then he two-footed the landing of the quad Salchow. The other elements were clean and he skated to an English version of “Les Miserables”. The young French skater Kevin Aymoz who trains with John Zimmerman in Florida since this September, is ninth with 70,00 points.
The second American Vincent Zhou, also of Colorado Springs, sits on tenth place with 66.12 points after falling on the under-rotated quad Lutz as well as on the under-rotated quad flip. His triple Axel was shaky, the other elements clean. He skated to “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol and had components of around 7.2. The second French skater Romain Ponsart, who trains with Rafael Arutunian in California, ended up eleventh and last with 63.81 points. The third French skater Chafik Besseghier withdrew because he had been in hospital in October with a lung infection and could not compete yet.