By Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(18 November 2017) The short program of the eight pairs at the French Grand Prix in Grenoble had a good level. The 2017 European Champions and 2017 Worlds Bronze medalists Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov from the Moscow school of Nina Mozer took the lead with 77.84 points.
Their triple twist is always extremely high, elegantly landed in his arms and outstanding. This time they had Level 4 again, eight times GOEs +3 and one +2. Their side by side triple toe-loop was very good, their triple throw loop excellent and the three other elements, all with level 4, very good as well, he only stumbled a bit on the step sequence. They interpreted Sergei Rakhmaninov’s second piano concerto and had components with an average of 9.2 with some 9.75 as highest ones. One point was deducted for time violation.
Morozov later commented: “We skated good, but it was not the best. We made a little mistake in the last element (step sequence). But overall we are happy to see our progress and to be on the right way in this important season, We like this music, it is strong and impressive. We skate well with this music, we are in harmony with Rakhmaninov.”
The French couple of Vanessa James & Morgan Ciprès sits second with 73.18 points. They train near Tampa, Florida, in the school of John Zimmerman and Jeremy Barrett for the second season and have improved impressively since. Their main choreographer is former ice dancer John Kerr who gives them very modern programs. In Grenoble, they skated to "Make it Rain“ by Ed Sheeran with a ot of character and got components of 8.7. Their triple twist was good, the side by side triple Salchow as well, the triple throw Lutz (which they regard as a triple throw flip) a bit shaky, the lift and the step sequence (level 4) excellent. “We’re pretty happy with the performance and to skate for our public at home“, James said. "Due to a mistake on the (throw) flip and probably a few levels we lost points. We have to work on that. So we’ll have to pay more attention to not lose points. I think that’s our weakness lately. Other than that we’re very proud with our short program performance.”
Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise from Italy are currently on third position, earning 70.65 points, which was a personal best for them. All their seven elements were clean, including a good side by side triple Salchow, a good triple twist with level 3 and an excellent lift. Like many skaters in the Olympic year, they used an old program from a few years ago, in their case the religious song "Magnificat“ by Mina. Some observers think it is a bit kitschy, but they interprete it well and had components with an average of 8.0. “It was so far our best performance this season but it still is not the perfect program that we can do. We skated relaxed and did what we do in practice, so we’re pretty satisfied,” Della Monica later said. Their main coach ist Christina Mauri in Bergamo, but in the summer they also train in the Russian school of Nina Mozer. After their program they had to wait for the points about ten minutes because of a computer problem in the judging system which had to be restarted again.
Liubov Iliushechkina & Dylan Moscovitch from Canada train with Lee Barkell in the famous Cricket, Skating and Curling Club in Toronto (of which Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson are the bosses). They had to wait for ten minutes because of this delay and put on their jackets again until they could finally begin to compete. No wonder that after a very good triple twist their next two elements had mistakes: Moscovitch touched down one hand on the triple toe-loop and the triple throw Lutz was shaky. The rest of the program was good again, their forward inward death spiral even very good. Ilishechkina, who is a former Russian pair skater, got Canadian citizenship some weeks ago. But even if they were sixth at the World Championships 2017, they have to fight hard to secure an Olympic spot. Canada has four very good pairs, but "only“ three Olympic spots.
Cheng Peng & Yang Jin from China were fifth at the Four Continents Championships 2017 and fifth at Skate Canada in Regina three weeks before. In Grenoble, they are on fifth place again with 62.40 points. Jin is relatively small and does not look like a typical pair skater but he is strong enough for good lifts and throws. In their short program, Peng doubled the side by side toe-loop which he tripled as planned and therefore they got GOEs of -2 for a double toe-loop. The triple throw loop was impressive, the triple twist and the other elements as well.
Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran compete for the USA and train in Montreal in the school of Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte. They came as alternates for the Czech couple of Anna Duskova and Martin Bidar and are on sixth place with 58.99 points. Duskova had to undergo meniscus surgery after a bad off-ice fall while warming up for practice in their home rink in October. Even if Castelli and Tran win U.S. Nationals this season they know that they cannot compete at the Olympic Games because Tran has no U.S. passport, but a Canadian one and will not get U.S. citizenship quickly enough. Their triple twist was O.K., but Castelli landed the side by side triple toe-loop forward, which therefore was downgraded. She touched her hand on the triple throw Salchow, but the other elements were good and got plus points.
Lola Esbrat & Andrei Novoselov, the second French pair, are currently seventh with 51.90 points. She doubled the loop which he tripled as planned and she landed the triple twist on his shoulder instead of in his arms. She almost fell on the triple throw Lutz, but the other four elements were clean. France had two Olympic spots in pair skating but gave back one before the Olmypic qualification at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany in September because Novoselov is of Russian nationality and will not get French citizenship before the Olympic Games. And France has no other second pair with French citizenship who is good enough for Olympic Games.
Zoe Jones & Christopher Boyadji from Britain came as alternates for the Chinese pairs of Xuehan Wang and Lei Wang. They are on eighth and last position with 44.59 points after making several mistakes. Jones is already 37 years old, has three children and had skated in adult competitions for years before going back to senior pairs one year ago. She skated in spite of a flu because this might be their only Grand Prix in their career.