Three Grand Prix events down, and three to go. This weekend sees the Grand Prix head to France, promising a battle royale as more skaters fight it out for spots in the Grand Prix Final.
The Trophee Eric Bompard will be held in Bordeaux, France, from November 13 to 15.
Skating fans were already looking to this event as one of the toughest fields of the Grand Prix, but recent results have upgraded the field from just tough to absolutely crazy, with no less than six top contenders.
Patrick Chan of Canada will be riding high after winning the gold at Skate Canada on his return to competitive skating, particularly given that he had several mistakes at that event. Chan has a buffer over the other men thanks to his usually-high second mark, but it would take a complete meltdown for him not to win this event.
Max Aaron is looking to become the first American man to qualify for the Grand Prix Final in four years when he sets blade to ice here. His confidence will have received a massive boost from his Skate America win, and he will be out to prove that it was no fluke. With no other US man in chance of contention, Aaron will also be hoping for a berth in the Final to firm up his chances of scoring a spot on the Worlds team for Boston.
Shoma Uno of Japan will know exactly where he lost the title at Skate America – the fall on the quad toe in the short program. With this in mind, and knowing the depth of the field here, Uno will undoubtedly have taken steps to correct this. But it’s not just from other countries that Uno has to beware – his compatriot Daisuke Murakami will still be smarting over his bronze medal at Skate Canada, and while still in with a shot to make the Grand Prix Final, will need to make sure he beats his teammate.
This will be Russian favourite Maxim Kovtun’s first outing of the Grand Prix, and it couldn’t come at a worse time, with Chan, Aaron, Uno and Murakami all already with established form. Kovtun will have to rely heavily on his technical content to feature, but in years past that has not always been consistent. And waiting in the wings to play spoiler is Olympic bronze medallist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan, who has no chance of the Final after his poor showing at Skate America but, provided his injury has healed, could very well ruin several others’ chances.
PREDICTION: Chan, Aaron, Uno
Redemption will be the theme of the ladies’ event here, with several big names hoping to recover from under-performances at previous Grand Prix events.
Reigning World Champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia’s legendary willpower could tip the balance of this competition. Tuktamysheva recovered from a disastrous short program at Skate Canada to finish second there, with a show of determination that will scare some of the other ladies. And with Mao Asada landing two triple Axels at Cup of China, Tuktamysheva will also want to make sure she lands hers here. Her compatriot Julia Lipnitskaya also had a difficult outing at Skate America, and will be hoping for a strong result here to keep her in touch in the massively deep Russian ladies’ field.
American star Gracie Gold will also be hoping to secure a spot in the Final here. After a disappointing short program at Skate America she pulled up to second, and a second silver medal will guarantee her a spot, but for Gold it will be about attempting to skate two clean programs and keep in touch with Tuktamysheva.
Team Japan is sending two very strong ladies in Kanako Murakami and Haruka Imai. Neither is able to make the final at this stage, but Murakami can certainly position herself strongly as a first reserve if she can build on her fourth place at Skate America, and both ladies have massive potential to play spoiler.
PREDICTION: Tuktamysheva, Gold, Murakami
Brooklee Han returns to the Grand Prix circuit for the second year with her only event here in France. Brooklee has been skating very well in her Senior B competitions, including setting new ISU personal bests, and made a positive impression at her events last season; she will be hoping for more of the same here.
Brooklee is certainly very capable of a strong placement at this event, and a strong performance will boost her confidence ahead of the Australian National Championships, now only two weeks away.
It is likely to be an all-Russian showdown at this event, with Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov looking to stamp their authority on the Grand Prix series in their first event. After a strong showing at the Nebelhorn Trophy, the newlyweds are unquestionably the favourites here. But they will face opposition from their compatriots Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who are coming off the back of a classy performance at Skate Canada that saw them take the silver medal. Tarasova and Morozov can improve their chances of making the Grand Prix Final with another silver medal here, but doubtless this impressive young pair will be hoping to get one over their more senior teammates.
Potentially playing spoiler here are the French couple Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, who will be buoyed by the fact that this competition is on their home ground. James and Cipres were fifth at this event last year and have started their season well with a bronze medal at the Nebelhorn Trophy. This will be their first Grand Prix of the season, and a strong start will be key.
Canadian pair Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau are also in contention for a medal here, and could keep themselves in the hunt for a spot in the Final after their bronze at Skate America. American pair Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran had a strong start at Skate Canada with a fourth place, and will be looking to build on their season here.
PREDICTION: Volosozhar/Trankov, Tarasova/Morozov, James/Cipres
Reining World Champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron will open their season at this event. Originally scheduled to compete much earlier, the French Champions suffered a major setback when Papadakis sustained a concussion during training and was out for a prolonged period of time. But they are back on the ice now and firing on all cylinders, and hopefully Papadakis has suffered no long-term ill-effects. EDIT: Just after I finished this, Papadakis and Cizeron withdrew from both Grand Prix events. Get well soon!
Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirer will be hoping to continue their good form, after a bronze medal at Skate America, and keep themselves in contention for a Final spot. They will almost certainly be challenged by Russian couple Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, the reigning European bronze medallists, who will be looking to start their season off in the strongest possible fashion. Compatriots Anna Yanovskaya and Sergey Mozgov will also be in the mix.
British couple Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland had a torrid end to the last season, with a series of illnesses derailing both their Europeans and Worlds campaigns. The Brits have returned strongly, with a silver at Ondrej Nepela, and will be looking to regain lost ground. And the Danish couple Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorenson can’t be counted out either.
PREDICTION: Papadakis/Cizeron, Gilles/Poirer, Coomes/Buckland
REVISED: Gilles/Poirer, Coomes/Buckland, Stepanova/Bukin
All times AEDT.
Short program - Saturday November 14 - 4:50am - 6:25am
Long program - Sunday November 15 - 4:30am - 6:25am
Short program - Saturday November 14 - 1:30am - 3:05am
Long program - Saturday November 14 - 11:30pm - 1:20am (Sunday)
Short program - Saturday November 14 - 6:45am - 7:55am
Long program - Sunday November 15 - 6:50am - 8:10am
Short Dance - Saturday November 14 - 3:25am - 4:30am
Free dance - Sunday November 15 - 1:40am - 2:55am
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hi folks. Terribly sorry about a lack of updates over the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately I have broken my wrist, and while I can type in a limited fashion it does hurt, so there will likely be no TEB recap or COR preview from me. :(