by Klaus Reinhold-Kany
(1 December 2018) The men’s competition at the French Grand Prix "Les Internationaux de France“ of this season had a good level, although some skaters made many mistakes as usual.
Reigning World Champion Nathan Chen of California could compete because the French Grand Prix took place in the Thanksgiving week with no classes at Yale University. He arrived from Moscow where he had trained a few days with Rafael Arutunian who was there with other skaters. In the weeks before they had seen each other only via Skype. Chen won in Grenoble easily with 271.58 total points although he was only third in the short program to the music of Duke Ellington‘s "Caravan.“ He opened his short program with a good triple Axel, but then he fell on an under-rotated quad flip. His combination was a very good quad toe loop with a good triple toe loop. His step sequence only got a level 2 and one spin only a basic level and his components had an average of 8.8. He commented: “The short program didn’t go exactly as well as I wanted it to go. However, I’m glad with what I did technically today and I was very pleased with what I did at (Skate) America.”
Chen began his free program to "Land of All“ by Woodkid with a relatively clean quad flip, followed by an excellent quad toe loop and a combination of triple flip and triple toe loop. The landing of the triple Axel was a bit shaky and the triple toe loop in combination with a good quad toe loop under-rotated. Two more triple jumps were good, the three excellent spins and the two step sequences got mainly GOEs of +3 and +4. His components had an average of 8.8. Later he said: “I’m pretty happy with my performance of the long program, definitely more satisfied with the long than with the short. I’m looking forward to continuing to develop the program and develop the technical side of the program.”
The second American Jason Brown, who now trains in Toronto under Brian Orser, took the silver medal, winning 256.33 points. To the surprise of many observers he won the short program to the music "Love is a Bitch“ by Two Feet with very high 96.41 points although he was one of few skaters not to include any quad jump. But all his seven elements were outstanding: the triple Axel was cleanly landed backwards, the flip and the combination of Lutz and toe loop very sovereign, the spins and steps as excellent as usual. Five of the seven elements had several GOEs of +5 and the step sequence a level 4 which is rare in single skating.
His free program was not as outstanding and again had no quad attempt, but it was easily enough to finish second. Skating to a Simon and Garfunkel medley, he began with a very good double Axel, followed by a good combination of triple Axel and double toe loop. Three more triple jumps got GOEs between +2 and +4, but the second triple Axel was under-rotated and he performed a third double toe loop after the triple flip, but the same jump is allowed only twice in one program. Spins and steps were performed with the usual dedication, his free foot often higher than his head and right to the beat of the music. He explained: “I’m pretty pleased with the way things went. Whereas the short program places my strengths, the long program really tests those strengths. I’m glad that I was able to stay focused and walk away with my first international medal of this season.”
Alexander Samarin from Russia won the bronze medal with 247.09 points. He is more a jumper than an artist, but works hard to improve his style. He opened his short program with a quad Lutz with a three-turn on the landing, followed by a clean combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop. His triple Axel and the other elements were good. His first element in the free program was a quad Lutz with a step-out and one hand on the ice. The quad toe loop and the first triple Axel were excellent, three more triple good, but the second triple Axel under-rotated and the spins and steps not extraordinary. He said: “I am not completely satisfied with my performance as there were mistakes. I am not so pleased with the result either, as the Grand Prix Final was so close and so far away at the same time. But I’m overall glad with how it ended and that I’m not going home empty-handed.” He certainly also thought of the prize money of 9,000 Dollars before tax which every bronze medalists wins at a Grand Prix.
Dmitri Aliev from Russia came fourth with 237.82 points. He has the technical and artistic potential, the elegance and the feeling for music to be a top skater, but he often misses jumps because of bad nerves. He opened his short program with a good triple Lutz and an excellent triple Axel, but fell on an under-rotated quad toe loop which was planned as first part of a combination. With the second best free program he pulled up from ninth to fourth place. This time a quad toe loop and eight triple jumps were very good, he only stumbled a bit on the choreographic sequence and the landing of a double Axel.
Both French skaters have gained stability since they train in the USA. They have more self-confidence and think more positively. Kevin Aymoz, pupil of John Zimmerman in Florida, finished fifth with 231.16 points. He landed a clean quad toe loop in the short program, which had not happened very often before. In both programs he had unusual and innovative steps.
Romain Ponsart, student of Rafael Arutunian in California, sits sixth, winning 229.86 points, 30 more points than his personal best before. He performed an excellent short program with a quad toe loop, a good triple Axel, as well as a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. He opened his free program with a huge quad toe loop, then doubled the second toe loop but added five very good triple jumps. His choreography was done by ice dance world champion Guillaume Cizeron who emphasized his sexy presentation and movements.
Deniss Vasiljevs from Latvia is seventh with 221.76 points. He has some technical problems because of a growth spurt, but is hopeful that he will soon become better again.
Keiji Tanaka finished eighth, earning 216.32 points. He stepped out of his quad Salchow in an otherwise good short program and missed three jumps in the free program.
Boyang Jin from China (ninth with 208.89 points) had forgotten that he needed a visa for Europe, therefore missed the first practice. His golden blades reflect his name because his last name Jin means Gold in Chinese language. But he missed several jumps in both programs.
Daniel Samohin from Israel ended up tenth with 205.99 pints. He also made many mistakes. But he opened his free program with a huge combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop for which he even got one GOE of +5.
Nicolas Nadeau from Canada was eleventh and last in the short program after a popped toe loop and a touchdown on the triple Axel. During the morning practice before the free program, he injured his back and withdrew from the free program.
French champion Chafik Besseghier withdrew due to a longtime foot injury, as the French sport director said. She denied rumors that he has ended his career. The French federation did neither invite another French skater like Luc Economides nor any foreign alternate skater. Therefore only ten skaters finished the competition.
Nicolas Nadeau from Quebec did not skate the long program. He injured his back on a spin during the morning practice before the free program and withdrew from the free program.
The following men are qualified for the Grand Prix Final which will take place from December 6 to 9 in Vancouver, British Columbia: Yuzuru Hanyu has the highest scores. But the Japanese withdrew from the Final on November 29 due to his ankle injury which he had at the Rostelecom Cup. He needs three weeks of healing and four weeks of recovery and therefore will probably also skip Japanese Nationals around December 20.
In Vancouver, the first alternate Keegan Messing from Canada will compete. The other men qualified for the Final are Shoma Uno (Japan), Nathan Chen (USA), Michal Brezina (CZE), Sergei Voronov (RUS) and Jun-Hwan Cha (KOR). The second and third alternates are Alexander Samarin from Russia and Matteo Rizzo from Italy. There will be one change in the Junior Men‘s Final which will take place at the same time as the Senior Final: U.S. skater Andrew Torgashev withdrew because of a foot injury and will be replaced by Canadian, and Brian Orser student, Stephen Gogolev.