by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(1 December 2018) The pairs competition at the French Grand Prix 2018 in Grenoble did not have a very high level. But World bronze medalists Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres from France were the best and the correct winners with 205.77 points even if they were not perfect.
In their short program to the music “Uninvited“ by Alanis Morisette, they had been only third after James stumbled on the toe loop which became only double, whereas his toe loop was triple as planned. Their triple twist was excellent, but later her landing on the triple throw flip was a bit shaky. The other elements were very good and the components around 8.4. Cipres commented: “Obviously that was not the performance we wanted to skate in France for the public and for ourselves. But it is normal that we sometimes make mistakes - we are human beings.” James added sarcastically: “I don’t think this will be our spot tomorrow. But if it is, it is because we deserve it.”
With their free program to “Wicked Game“ by Chris Isaak and “The Last Feeling“ by Maxime Rodriguez, they could move up to first place and finished 14 points ahead of the rest of the field. Their triple twist was excellent again, their combination of a side by side triple toe loop and two double toe loops as well, but then James doubled the Salchow which he tripled. The three risky lifts, two triple throws and other elements were very good and had mainly GOEs of +3, one lift even two +5. Their components had an average of 8.9.
“We’re really happy to win this competition,” Cipres explained. “It’s the first time for us to win two Grand Prix in the season and to go to the Grand Prix Final. We have a lot of work to do for these next two weeks.“ James added: “We’re both happy with the fight today, especially after a disappointing short program yesterday. We’re very proud to have our second gold medal at a Grand Prix. It’s nice to have made these few mistakes here to learn from them and be perfect for the next competition.”
The silver medal for the U.S. pair Tarah Kayne & Danny O’Shea with 191.43 points was a little surprise, but it was a correct decision. Their short program to “Turning Page“ by Sleeping at Last was almost faultless, only her landing on the side by side triple Salchow was a bit shaky. All other elements were good, but not spectacular. Their levels were mixed and their components around 8.3. In the free program to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake“, they could move up from fourth to second place. The triple twist and the sequence of triple Salchow, Euler and double Salchow were clean, the triple throw loop and triple throw Salchow very good. Kayne stepped out of the double Axel, but this remained their only mistake. The three lifts and other elements were remarkable again.
Kayne commented: “Danny and I are very pleased with how we skated at this competition on the whole, especially the free skate. Our free skate at NHK, our first Grand Prix, was less than desirable, especially on my part. So, to have come to France and make this much improvement in just two short weeks made us both very happy.”
The young Russian pair of Aleksandra Boikova (16) & Dmitrii Kozkovskii (18) of St. Petersburg is third with 189.84 points. They had taken the lead in the short program to a new version of “Dark Eyes“, performed by Igor Bourco’s Uralski Jazzmen. The side by side triple Salchow, the triple twist and the triple throw Salchow were excellent and three other elements good, only the Backward Outside Death Spiral was a bit slow. Kozlovskii said: “Our performance was good, but I feel myself not in the right place right now, sitting here with these great sportsmen.” Boikova added: “I feel comfortable and I think this is our place, but tomorrow is the free skating and we need to do our job.We were a bit sad when we were fourth at Skate Canada, but we were motivated to work even harder. Maybe it was good that we were fourth there.”
In the free program, the overnight leader dropped to third place, because Boikova missed parts of their combination which was planned as one triple and two double toe loops. And she fell on the triple throw loop. All other elements were good or very good, the triple throw Salchow even excellent. Boikova said: “We had a good experience here, but we have to work harder. I hope you’ll see us in a better shape next time. I am proud to be on the same podium as the French skaters who are our idols.“ Kozlovskii added: “It was our first medal in the Grand Prix, which is nice, and I hope that we’ll skate better in the future.”
The North Korean pair of Tae Ok Ryom & Ju Sik Kim placed fourth with 187.95 points. Between their first Grand Prix in Finland and their second one in France they had stayed in Europe because to get a visa for the European Community twice in a month is complicated. The French had offered them to stay in Villard-de-Lans, a small mountain resort about 25 miles from Grenoble and train there with the French dance coach Karine Arribert-Narce on their skating skills and expression. They were second after a clean short program with a good triple toe loop, a very good triple throw loop and an excellent step sequence with level 4. Their facial expression had improved much since Finland. “We are very happy to do a clean performance. We focused our training on each technical element and the overall performance,” Ryom commented.
But in the free dance to the "Je ne suis qu’une chanson“ (I am only a song) performed by Quebec singer Ginette Reno they dropped to fourth place because Ryom stepped out of the double Axel and also on the triple throw loop. The other elements were at least good, but these two mistakes cost them a medal. When they saw the result in the kiss and cry corner they started to cry.
Camille Ruest a&nd Andrew Wolfe from the Canadian pair skating school of Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte sit fifth, earning 164.10 points. The landing of their triple twist in the short program was not clean, the triple toe loop good and the lift excellent. In the free program the twist was not better, her triple Salchow wobbly, she fell on the triple throw loop and landed the triple throw Salchow on two feet. The other elements were good, but they made too many mistakes for a top position. With more style and elegance they would move up the ladder in Canada.
Andrey Lu & Misha Mitrofanov of Plano in Texas ended in sixth position with 157.28 points. They made no major mistake in the short program to the “Masquerade Waltz“ by Aram Khatchturian, but little slips here and there. Their triple Salchow was excellent, however. In the free program to the soundtrack of “Moulin Rouge“ the majority of their elements was relatively clean, but they aborted a lift, almost had to abort a second one and Lu fell on the triple toe loop. During their free program a big piece of the barrier public relation fell from the boards on the ice, but they were not affected and the referee decided not to siffle and stop them.
Minerva Fabienne Hase & Nolan Seegert from Germany finished on seventh place with 154.77 points. Their landing of the triple twist in the short program was wobbly and he fell on the triple toe loop. Hase missed the triple throw loop in the free program and both made some smaller other errors. They had the sixth best free program, but it was not enough to place ahead of the Americans. They were informed that they had used their free program music by "Heavy Young Heathans“ without the permission of the composer. Does anybody else ask for that?
The second U.S. pair of Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier withdrew from the competition because Denney suffered from an ankle injury and was not replaced.
German coach Robin Szolkowy, twice Olympic bronze medalist with Aliona Savchenko, was in Grenoble to discuss a potential work in the USA with U.S. coaches and Association officials.
The following pairs are qualified for the Final in Vancouver: The top two pairs are Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès from France, followed by Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov from Russia. The other four qualified pairs are Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert, also from Russia, Cheng Peng & Yang Jin from China, Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise from Italy as well as Daria Pavliuchenko & Denis Khodykin from Russia. The alternates are Alisa Efimova & Alexander Korovon from Russia, Tarah Kayne & Danny O’Shea (USA) as well as Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro from Canada.