Trophee Eric Bompard

by Alexandra Stevenson

The fourth of the six (Senior) Grand Prix events, now sponsored by the Cashmere Fashion House which is run by Eric Bompard, and before then by the famed Lalique crystal creations, has taken place in Paris at the Bercy Palais OmniSport for many years.

The building, by the Seine River near the massive train station, Gare de Lyon, is an architecturally unique grass (yes Ė grass) pyramid topped by glass and a mess of blue piping. It houses a maze of rooms and staircases and a second rink for practice named after Sonja Henie. (Henie won her 10th and last world title here in Paris, though not at this rink.)

LADIES

        Ladies Free Skate

1. 180.73 (SP1; FS1) FS 121.19 (60.87+60.32) Rochette gave a flowing, lovely, womanly "senior" performance to Concierto de Aranjuez to finish a huge margin over the nearly five-year younger Japanese triple Axel jumping phenom. "Yes, Virginia, there may not be a Santa Claus but it is still possible for an adult to be a Ladies figure skating champion." This is what "Ladies" skating used to be all about Ė capturing and holding the audiencesí attention by expressing joy and beauty through unstrained flowing edges.

Canada has been in the fore front of the new system from the start. Their Association plunged whole-heartedly into trying it to work for them. Jeff Buttle and Virtue/Moir led the way and now Rochette is making the "impossible" happen. (Of course, thereís still a long way to go. It ainít soup yet!!)

Rochetteís performance wasnít perfect. She singled her third element meant as a triple loop but had a ready explanation for the problem. She said, "I didnít take my time so I didnít have the correct rhythm." And she stumbled out of the second of her two double Axels in a sequence. But that was the 10th of her 12 moves and she must have been exhausted by then. She still held the crowdís attention throughout the four minutes and there were no jarring moments. She began with a glorious, eye-popping +1.0 GoE three-jump combo, triple Lutz to double toe to double loop, which earned 9.80.

That great first impression was enhanced by the next move a +1.20 triple flip. The loop misstep was quickly wiped out by two Level 4 spins, a flying sit and an unusual change foot upright. Her choreography was created by two women. The SP by 2003 world and many-time Canadian ice dance champion Shae-Lynn Bourne and the FS by Lori Nichol and they seem to understand what a woman can do and, more importantly should NOT do, in the pursuit of points.

Her second triple Lutz, timed just after the point when the 10% bonus clicks in, got a +1.0 GoE and so Rochette banked 7.60. That was followed by a triple toe to triple Salchow sequence which was given +1.20 and so earned 8.68. Her Level 3 straight line steps were awarded +0.70 which gave her a total of 4 points. The spirals were Level 4 and earned 4.80. Her last two moves, the triple Salchow and Level 2 change foot combination spin respectively received +0.2 for 5.15 and +0.10 for 2.60. "Overall, I had a good fight. Iíve still got a long way to go," the modest Rochette said at the press conference a short time after her win.

She added, "I think of worlds in Calgary (in 2006 where she achieved her second highest finish Ė 7th) and it was not as good as I could have done. I think about (the recent) Skate Canada and how I feel at home now before a Canadian audience so Iíll probably do the Four Continents to get used to Vancouver." And what does Rochette do in her spare time? Ė She changes into her longer blades and races round the rink. Doesnít she get tired of the rink atmosphere? "Oh, no!" she says with a smile.

2. 167.59 (SP2; FS2) FS 109.47 (51.59+58.88 -1.0) Dressed in black reflecting the angst in her music, Khatchaturianís Masquerade Waltz, Asada seemed stressed right from the start. In her first element, she stepped out of the triple Axel and so did not attempt the double toe loop in this planned combination. Because she accomplished the full three-and-a-half turns, she still got a reasonably good score, 6.52 points. In itself, that mistake was not so critical. What destroyed her chances of defending her Eric Bompard title was doubling the next element, meant as a triple loop and then singling and falling on her sixth move, a planned triple Salchow, which was credited with a single rotation. Immediately after that mistake, she accomplished a second triple flip but could team it with only a single loop, instead of the planned triple.

There were some good parts. Her first triple flip was combined with two double loops, with the second having a pleasing "Don Jackson" variation of flinging one arm above her head during the rotation. That earned a +0.60 GoE for a total of 9.10 points. That was followed by two Level 4 moves, a flying sit spin, which received +0.50, and her spirals, which were rewarded with +1.20.

Her eighth and ninth moves revealed her lack of sophistication in the finer points of the new system. Since Asada had presented only two and not the allowed three combinations, she could have tacked on a double toe to either of these jumps but, in the fashion of the Johnny Weir syndrome, she did not take advantage of this (and, in reality, this would only have been important had the decision been tight). Instead, she contented herself with a +0.20 triple toe which was originally planned as a triple Lutz and a base level double Axel.

At that point, Asada seemed, finally, to relax, presenting two Level 4 spins, the flying combination (+0.30) and the change foot combination (+0.70), with Level 3 straight lines steps (+0.70) connecting them. Asada admitted through a translator, "Today, I performed was far from 100% of my usual."

3. 156.54 (SP3; FS3) FS 104.78 (55.66+49.12) This is Zhangís second season on the senior Grand Prix circuit despite her youth. Her May 20 birthdate made her eligible by 41 days when she won bronze in Skate America in Reading and silver in the Cup of China, and was fourth in the Final. This season, therefore, has been a little bit of a disappointment since her fifth in Skate Canada and bronze here will probably not qualify her for the top six who progress to the Final in December in just outside of Seoul.

But she was pleased with one aspect. She explained, "It could have been better but it was a lot better that the short and I got the levels I was looking for." Zhang earned the maximum, 4, for all three of her spins and for her spirals.

She began with a combination of two triples but both jumps, the flip and the toe loop, were downgraded. That, and the -0.76 GoE, meant she only received 2.24 for the move. She did better on her next element, a triple Lutz to double toe although the first jump was saddled with an "e" for wrong edge which meant the judges could go no higher that -1.0 GoE. (Only one went that high. The other eight punched in -2 and so, because she got credit for the rotation, she received 5.30 only 2 points lower than its base value.) Her third move, a double Axel, was given a -0.16 GoE.

But, from then on all her elements received the base value or above including a triple flip, triple loop, triple Salchow and a combination of triple loop to triple toe to triple loop that was placed near the end and earned 8.58. She skated to Tchaikovskyís well known music for The Sleeping Beauty ballet.

Zhang is taught by Mingzhu Li, who produced Chinaís first notable singles skater, 1995 world champion, Lu Chen, who also had reversals including being dethroned in the world championships by Michelle Kwan and not qualifying initially for the 1998 Olympics (in which she won her second Olympic bronze). So Li is very experienced in helping a competitor through the ups and downs and who, with the exception of Peggy Fleming, ever went through her skating career without a period they would rather forget about?

4. 135.25 (SP5; FS4) FS 87.29 (48.05+40.24 -1.0) Candice Didier, who trains at the Bercy music, performed to two very different pieces, Bachís well known Toccata and Fugue and music from a Korean movie, My Memory. She survived a fall on her second element, a triple Lutz, and still managed to overtake Liang in the overall standings, although that was by less than a point.

5. 134.29 (SP4; FS5) FS 84.69 (41.33+45.36 -2.0) Liang presented a beautiful routine choreographed by Brandon Overett set to music from the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. She was attired in a kimono style mauve and purple creation. She obviously feels the music so it is no surprise to learn she is a classically trained pianist who competes and teaches that instrument.

But Liang got off to an unfortunate start with her first element, triple Lutz to double toe, receiving an "e" for wrong edge takeoff. She doubled her second Lutz which again was saddled with an "e". She fell on her second triple flip which was meant to be a three-jump-combo and then fell a second time on her final element, a double Axel.

Liangís spirals and her three spins received Level 4 and the first triple flip and her triple loop received +0.20 GoE. But she put her hand down on her tenth move, a triple toe and couldnít do the planned second jump, a double toe.

6. 123.83 (SP10; FS6) FS 83.15 (46.59+36.56) Xu, dressed in a striking lime green and yellow outfit, interpreted The Legend of Ashitaka from the soundtrack of Princess Mononoke, climbing up from last place to sixth more than ten points behind Liang overall but only 1.54 marks behind her in the Free. Though Xu did not fall, she was given substantial negative GoEs for her first element, a trip Lutz (-1.0), for her triple flip (-2.0) and for her planned triple toe to double in which she singled the second jump (-0.80). She received Level 4 only for her spirals and her final spin, the change foot combination. For four of her elements (her double Axel to double toe, her triple Salchow, her Level 2 straight line steps, and her second double Axel), the GoE was zero, which meant nothing was added to the base value. only the base value for four elements.

7. 121.78 (SP9; FS7) FS 80.30 (41.74+40.56 -2.0) Gedevanishvili skated to a Latin Medley. She began with a combo of triple flip to triple toe which earned 8.30 points even though it was saddled with a -1.20 GoE and was given a warning exclamation mark for a briefly wrong edge on the take-off. She singled her next move, a planned triple Lutz. Then came a double Axel combined with two double toes which earned +0.40 over the base value of 6.10. Two of her spins and the spirals gained Level 4 although the change foot combination got a small negative GoE (-0.24)

At the point where the bonus 10% clicks in, she executed a triple Lutz and fell. It was an unusual fall and she sort of rolled over the way dogs sometimes do. It didnít seem to faze her and, on her next jump, a triple Salchow, she earned a +0.60. She had planned a triple toe to double toe next but she ended up doing a combo of three double toes which was ruled an "invalid" element which meant she got no points at all for it. Right after that she fell on a double Axel.

8. 116.99 (SP7; FS8) FS 71.55 (30.75+40.80) Gimazetdinova, skating to what she described as "oriental" music, she did not fall but neither was she very exciting. She began with a double Axel for which she received the base value as she did for a combination of two double toes, a Level 2 flying sit spin, Level 3 spirals, and her Level 2 layback.

Her triple Lutz was saddled with -1.80 GoE and she did only a double flip. Her second attempt at a triple toe was also doubled. Her first triple Salchow received a minus 0.80 GoE and her second attempt was downgraded.

9. 115.48 (SP8; FS9) FS 71.16 (34.32+39.84 -3.0) Hughes has a lovely program set to some interesting parts of the Gone With The Wind soundtrack. She began well with a nice +0.40 double Axel but then she fell at the end of a triple flip to double toe combination in which both jumps were downgraded and that move was awarded only 1.20.

She was given credit for full rotation in her three-jump combo, triple Lutz to double toe to double loop which had -1.0 taken off the base value but still earned 7.80 points. Her Level 3 sit spin got a marginal minus (0.06). That reflected the situation in which six judges thought it was good enough to award the base value, but two thought it was flawed and should have -1.0 taken off and another thought it was good enough to have a point added!!

Similarly seven judges believed her triple Salchow was fine and should get the base value but two disagreed and thought it should be penalized with a -1.0. She fell a second time after singling her second triple Lutz and her straight line steps were only Level 1. But her layback earned the base value for Level 4. Her spirals were an excellent +1.60 over the Level 4 base value but she fell for the third time on a downgraded triple toe. Her final move, a Level 4 combination spin had a marginal -0.06 taken off the base value. Again, that reflected seven judges thinking it was worthy of the base value and two seeing a flaw in it.

10. 111.18 (SP6; FS10) FS 63.60 (31.44+34.16 -2.0) Gwendoline Didier fell on her first move, a downgraded triple Lutz. Her triple Salchow got -1.0 GoE, and an attempt at a triple flip was singled. A triple toe to double toe earned the base value but she fell on her second attempt at a triple toe. She got the base value for her first double Axel but the double toe she attempted to combine with a second double Axel was singled.

Her straight line steps were Level 1. She received her only Level 4 for her change foot upright which was given a marginal minus (-0.06). Her spirals earned Level 3 base value. The change foot combination spin also received Level 3 but with a -0.24. She was very disappointed to drop from sixth to last.

        Ladies Short Program

1. 59.54 (32.50+28.04 -1.0) Joannie Rochette, who was fifth in her sixth appearance at Worlds last March, couldnít stop smiling. At the official press conference after she had won the SP, she said with a huge grin, "I didnít think I would end up on top. But I think no one of the ladies seemed to want to skate a perfect program tonight. Iím happy with the rest of the program, but not so much about the flip."

The 22 year old four-time Canadian champion, who trains with Manon Perron in Montreal, was slotted to skate eighth in the field of ten. That was two short of the maximum 12 entries for singles. Kiira Korpi of Finland withdrew because of illness and Valentina Marchei of Italy pulled out after she was injured during the Skate America Grand Prix. Although a reserve list is kept by the ISU, the host countries are not obliged to replace vacancies which occur unless there is still a two-week period before the event in which travel arrangements and visa requirements can be dealt with.

Rochette, in pink, performed a delightfully graceful presentation set to the well-loved Summertime from George Gershwinís opera, Porgy and Bess. She soared through her opening move, a superior +1.80 double Axel, but fell on her triple flip meant to be combined with a triple toe loop. Only Rochette, Mao Asada and Caroline Zhang had planned to execute a combo with two triples. The others all hoped to accomplish a triple-double.

Rochette revealed that she has been working with a psychologist for the last couple of years to help her deal with things going wrong. It appears to have worked because she snapped right back into action executing a Level 4 sit spin that received 0.40 above the base level. "I started working on my mindset because I would get so pressured and I started to think, ĎWhy am I putting myself through all this stress? Skating is my life and I should be happy, not upset and nervous when I do it.í Itís taken a while, but finally I am getting calmer which means I can produce what I do in practice. I donít get stressed out and tense which makes you fight your body. I think itís finally working."

Everything else in her program received a positive GoE. Her triple Lutz gained +0.80. Her other two spins received Level 3 as did her straight line steps. Her spirals were Level 4. She said, "I feel I belong in with the top skaters. That fact doesnít put extra pressure on me. Itís what I want. I canít wait to skate my long much better than the short. "Jumps happen so fast you donít have time to think. My practice was going well but in a competition you feel different."

2. 58.12 (29.00+29.12) Mao Asada, as world champion, earned the "star" position, to skate last in the Short Program. The 18 year old twice Japanese champion first broke into most peopleís awareness after she beat the then reigning world champion, Irina Slutskaya, in the 2005 Grand Prix Final but was too young to go to the Olympics. (For the senior grand prix events the age limit is one year below that for set for the world senior championships and Olympics.)

Asada is now trained by Tatiana Tarasova who choreographed both her routines along with Shanetta Folle. "I learn everything from her, not only the choreography. She focuses on the jumps, spins, the steps Ė everything," Zhang replied speaking through an interpreter when asked for specifics of their relationship. "I donít think I have a lack of concentration but I think, today, my mind was a bit weak. I think too much. Itís not good to think while you are skating. You need a plain mind. I have trouble with my mind so I didnít have confidence. I work hard with my edge problem. Iím trying to improve the edge for the triple Lutz."

Asada wore a long sleeved mauve creation for the SP, which was set to Debussyís Claire de Lune. In her first move, she executed a triple flip but then singled the triple loop it was meant to be combined with. Then, horrors, she doubled her planned triple Lutz which received an exclamation warning mark for wrong edge. All six other elements received substantial positive GoEs, ranging from a low of +0.50 for the Level 3 flying sit spin up to a very rare +2.0 for her double Axel. She received two Level 4s, for her spirals and the change foot combination spin.

Rochetteís lead over Asada was only 1.42. The Canadian was 3.50 ahead of the Japanese technically while Asada was 1.08 was ahead of Rochette on components. In addition there was the point deduction for Rochetteís fall. Asada said, "I feel a bit nervous because this is the first competition for me this season. Iím not satisfied. Tomorrow, Iíll try to do better."

3. 51.76 (26.80+24.96) Caroline Zhang, the now 15-year-old 2007 world junior champion, who placed fourth in her first Senior U.S. championship this year, said, "Iím just hoping to skate better than I did at Skate Canada (where she finished fifth). "Iím focusing on just trying to think about technique going into each of the jumps, trying to get all the levels I can get on my spins and spirals and have a higher program component score."

She and Rochette joked about counting in spins and spirals. Rochette said, "My coach asks, when I get a lower level than I hoped for, ĎDid you count?í And I say, ĎYes.í But I must count faster in competition. Now Iíve started counting to four instead of three for each position and I may have to bring it to five!"

Zhang skated to Leon Minkusí delightful music for the ballet La Bayadere. She wore a light blue dress, tie-dyed to fade to white. The triple toe after the triple flip in her combination was downgraded. She received the base value for her triple loop but aborted her double Axel and got no marks for this element. There was a discussion as to whether she should have tried the move again as did European champion Carolina Kostner ,who fell on her leading steps into her double Axel in Skate Canada and then tried it again (and fell). That was allowed because she hadnít got onto the entry edge for the jump. Zhang, however, was on the forward outside edge on her take-off when the problem occurred so a retry would have been penalized as an illegal element.

4. 49.60 (28.20+22.40-1.0) Beatrisa "Bebe" Liang, 20, who is ranked fifth in the U.S. after competing at national senior level since she made her debut as an 11 year old, (matching Michelleís first finish in seniors of sixth), has had a checkered career. She competed in this event, when it was called Trophťe Lalique back in 2003, finishing fourth. She made her first appearance in worlds this past season in Gothenburg, finishing tenth.

Liang, who is trained by Ken Congemi and Frank Carroll, has kept her energetic SP set to Dukasí The Sorcererís Apprentice from last season. She fell on her double toe after the triple Lutz which was given an "e" for wrong take-off edge. Her triple flip received a -0.40 GoE. The other four elements all received better than base level GoEs including a +0.80 for her double Axel and +1.00 for her Level 4 spirals. She also was awarded Level 4 for her change foot combination spin. Her steps and the layback spin were Level 3.

5. 47.96 (28.24+19.72) Candice Didier, 20, is no relation to Gwendoline Didier, who is also competing for France in this competition. Candice achieved much at an early age. She was the national senior champion twice, taking the title in the 2003 & 2004 seasons, and made her debut in World seniors in 2005 finishing 23rd. But then she grew.

She is fighting her way back and took the silver medal nationally in the 2007 season and was sent to worlds in Gotherburg where she finished 38th in an enormous field. She was the first to skate and, since she is currently ranked only fourth in France, she was very excited about lying fifth, marginally ahead of the French champion. Four of her eight required elements were saddled with negative GoEs, including her triple Lutz to double toe which also received an exclamation mark. She skated to Blues for a Clock by Eddie Louis.

6. 47.58 (28.34+19.24) Gwendoline Didier, 22, is the current French champion and has a lot of pressure on her because the French Association has decided the decision on who will represent the country at the European championships will be made not only on the result of the national championships but also on how Candice and Gwendoline fare here and on the Masters event in which Candice beat Gwendoline.

7. 45.44 (24.40+21.04) Anastasia Gimazetdinova, 28, is the three-time national champion of Uzbekistan (2003-2005). She competed in the 2006 Olympics, finishing 29th. In her three world appearances, she placed 21st (2006&2008) and 19th (2007). Last year, at this event, she was 12th. She skated to Yes, I Loved You by Vladimir Kuzmin.

8. 44.32 (22.44+22.88 -1.0) Emily Hughes wants to combine her Harvard university courses with skating, but are there enough hours in the day? Of course, itís a truism that if you want to get something done, you ask a busy person. They get by by really organizing their time. Sarahís little sister wants it all. "Sheís a full time student," her coach Bonnie Retzkin explained. "Sheís enjoying the differing paces of the academic world and the physical demands of top class skating. If thatís what you want, why not get all you can out of life?"

Hughes, who will turn 20 on January 26, was not pleased with her scores. She is no longer the youngster who could fly through routines and was rewarded with seventh in the Olympics and 8th & 9th in the 2006 & 2007 worlds. She is enjoyable to watch and presented a fun, exuberantly extroverted routine to George Gershwinís I Got Rhythm. However, she fell on her first move, a downgraded triple flip. The triple Lutz in the combination to double toe had a very strained landing and was also downgraded. However, the double Axel received a slight +0.20 and she was awarded three Level 4s, - for her spirals, and her layback and change foot combination spins. Her steps and the flying sit spin were only Level 2.

9. 41.48 (20.40+22.08) Elene Gedevanishvili, who is now 18, was a sensation at the 2006 Olympics when she did well in the SP in Torino and finished in the top ten. She grew up in Tblisi, the capital of Georgia, and, the year before the Olympics, she was the first from her country to win a medal in a Junior Grand Prix. On the strength of her potential, she was invited to Moscow to train.

But then she grew up and out. We all know what that can do to stymie jumping abilities. Because of the problems between Georgian and Russia, her mother ended up being deported from Moscow back to Georgia which, at that point, had little ice time available. Eventually, her family ended up in New Jersey, where she is still trying to recapture the great potential she had as a child. She is still representing Georgia and is now coached by Roman Serov who trains her in Hackensack, NJ., she is. Here in Paris, she skated her SP to the Cabaret soundtrack with great energy but singled her first jump meant to be a triple Lutz. Although she was able to complete the second jump, a triple toe, that did not count as a combination. Then she doubled her triple Salchow and fell on her double Axel. Today, skating is a tough sport.

10. 40.68 (20.92+19.76) Binshu Xu, a 20 year old from Changchun was Chinese champion for the 2004 and 2006 seasons but is currently ranked only fourth nationally. The marks tell the full story. Skating to Carmen, she doubled her first jump, a Lutz, got a -2 GoE for her triple flip and had her double Axel downgraded.

MEN

        Men's Free Skate

Patrick Chan gained his highest point score ever and won this event for the second straight year by a significant margin. Both SP and FS were far better than Skate Canada where he didnít win either section but still landed up with the gold. Kosukaís silver proved his win in Skate America was not a fluke. But the talking point of the event was about Joubertís sub-par performance which left him without a medal. Even as a fourth-place finisher, he was featured as the "star" performer in the wrap-up gala, which is much more elaborate than the usual exhibition program and features a fashion show organized by the Eric Bompard company.

(1. Overall) Chan 238.09 (1SP; 1FS); FS 156.70 (79.80 + 76.90) "I felt much better performance wise," said a relieved Chan. "Considering I had to wait 40 minutes (to skate after the warm-up), I felt really good on the ice. I didnít feel tight and it was great relief to see I was first right after I skated." (As the leader going into the free, he performed last.) He began with a +2 triple Axel which earned 10.20, a triple flip to triple toe which gained +1.60 over the 9.50 base value and a +1.80 triple Lutz which gave him 7.80.

Chan was the youngest competitor, although Mroz, who turns 18 on December 22, is only nine days older. His choreography, set by Lori Nichol to two selections by Rachmaninov, Andante from a Cello Sonata and the Allegro Scherzando from the well-known Piano Concerto No. 2, was very creative. There was hardly a back cross-over in the entire four and a half minutes. Only one of his "level-earning" moves was given less than the maximum of 4. The exception was the straight line step sequence which received Level 3. Chan said, "(The performance was) a big jump from the long program I did at Skate Canada, a big difference. The personal best is icing on the cake."

He was NOT perfect, however. All but two of his moves earned positives ranging upwards from +0.50. But, when the bonus marks clicked in, he tried a second triple Axel, meant to be combined with a double toe loop. He did receive credit for the full rotation of the first jump, but he fell on the landing. That put him off his stride and he made a mess of the triple Salchow which followed. However, he pulled himself together to perform a triple loop and a three-jump combo of triple Lutz to double toe to double loop. Both those moves earned +1.2 GoE.

Past Canadian champion Mike Slipchuk, who is now Canadaís High Performance Director and was in Paris, attributed Chanís win to his extremely high GoEs. "Patrick tends to capitalize on a lot of areas that other skaters donít. Often, we concentrate only on the technical elements but the packaging is extremely important. Both Patrick and Kozuka delivered that. Itís the direction in which we want the sport to go, to make it an art as well as a physical activity. The audiences (and judges) appreciate that."

Much was made by the Canadian Press about the fact that each win was worth US$18,000 plus Chan will earn more money depending on his placing at the Grand Prix Final. "Oh! Why do you guys always ask that?" Chan asked, but still, like the polite young man he is, patiently answered, "I usually split it with my mom. She pays a lot of my bills, so it seems only the right thing to do. The rest, most of it, goes to paying the other bills. I try not to throw money away. I try to save some, in various bonds or stocks or whatever, even though the economy is doing horribly."

Like Jeff Buttle, whom he dethroned in the 2008 Canadian championships, just a couple of months before Buttle won the world title, Chan doesnít present a quad. "I know I will need one for the Olympics and Iím working on it but they arenít consistent yet." It was only last season that he got his triple Axel. "I think itís all a learning experience and I kept telling myself, ĎKeep your head in the game. Keep focused!í Iím going back to Florida (where he trains with Don Laws, who guided Scott Hamilton to Olympic gold).   Last year at the Final (where he finished 5th), I think the top four guys at least planned a quad, so I know itís necessary."

2. Kosuka 230.78 (2SP; 2FS); FS 153.78 (82.68 + 72.10 -1.0) Falling on his first move, a downgraded quad toe, didnít seem to bother Kosuka. Skating to Nina Rotaís score for Romeo and Juliet, he popped back up and almost immediately banked 14.20 for his +2.0 triple Axel to triple toe combination. Everything else received positive GoEs with two jumps, an early triple flip and a second triple Axel, which was the 11th of his 13 moves, gaining +1.40! He also included a +1.0 triple Salchow to double toe, a +0.20 triple Lutz to double toe to double (which was his 9th move), a +0.40 triple loop (10th move) and a second triple Lutz (+1.20 12th move). He was awarded Level 4s for his first two spins. Both step sequences and his final spin were Level 3.

His element score was 2.88 higher than Chanís but he was ranked third on components behind the top placed Chan and Joubert. This caused quite a stir amongst the educated fan groups. Joubertís supporters may have agreed, but others felt that Kosukaís transitions clearly were far better than the French ex-world champion.

3. Preaubert 222.44 (4SP; 3FS); FS 149.20 (81.30 + 67.90) What an upset this was! No one would have forecast Preaubert overtaking Joubert, although he did beat Joubert earlier in the season in the French Masters when Joubert had a skate problem. Joubert, sportingly, immediately came up to his teammate, tapped him on the shoulder since he was facing away, and, when Preaubert turned around, took his hand, shook it and strongly congratulated him.

Preaubert is not easily categorized. In Paris, he definitely produced the most "entertaining" program from the point of view of involving the audience which gave him a standing ovation. He comes across as "just folks" performing with an unsophisticated, good-hearted but a little clumsy, working man approach to famous Russian folk pieces, Kalinka and The Song of the Volga Boatman. Included were some unique humorous moments and many precarious landings which he held with sheer will-power. He won many international fans when he first adopted this type of comic "persona" when winning a bronze in Skate America in 2006 in Hartford.

He said, "I was very upset not skating at last yearís worlds (because of back problems). I had to work very hard in the summer to catch up for the time missed. Beating Brian is not very important for me. What is important is to skate well and enjoy my performance. I had a lot of pleasure today because the audience was very supportive. I was very confident. I didnít feel any stress. The program is almost a tribute to my first coach who died a couple of years ago. She spoke a lot about this music and the Russian scene. It was planned to be my Olympic program, but I wasnít patient. It seemed right because my (current) coach (Annick Dumont) just adopted a Russian girl."

He began with a -1.08 quad toe followed by a +1.0 triple Axel to triple toe and a base level triple flip to double toe. Then came a +0.80 triple Axel and a change foot sit spin. (All three spins earned Level 4 and earned base value or higher. Both steps sequences were Level 3 with positive GoEs.) At the point when the bonus comes into play, he executed a triple Lutz. It received a warning exclamation mark and -1.2 GoE. That was followed by a +1 triple loop. His only other jump was a -0.20 triple Salchow.

4. Joubert 221.13 (3SP; 4FS); FS 147.38 (74.78 + 73.60 -1.0) Joubert, wearing gloves, opened his routine, set to The Last of the Mohicans, with a quad toe. Things went wrong right from the start. He had to add a double three to that landing to keep from falling and that saddled him with a -1.28 GoE which meant he earned only 8.52. His next move was also meant as a quad, this one a Salchow, but it turned into a +1.2 triple. Things calmed down for a while as he executed a +0.40 triple Axel to triple toe and a Level 3 spin and Level 3 circular steps.

After the bonus time clicked in, he executed a lovely +2 second triple Axel but then fell again, this time on a triple loop which was downgraded. He again snapped back with a +1.0 triple Lutz to double toe to double loop which earned 10.46, and a +1.2 double Axel. He received only two Level 4s, for his last two spins which received small positive GoEs (+0.20 & +0.30). Between these spins he executed Level 3 straight line steps and +0.40 double Axel to double toe.

His component scores were the second highest but the element score was the fourth best and he ended up fourth in the FS, 1.82 behind Preaubert. Joubert had been only 0.51 ahead of his teammate after the SP and so he lost the bronze by 1.31 marks. A definite factor in his loss is that he no longer presents triple flips.

"My flips are Lutzes, so I have to change the technique and that is very hard," he explained. "I know I can be faultless in my short program and this is my objective for the Cup of Russia next week. I will be in a totally different frame of mind. There will be less stress and less nerves. I really wanted to win here especially after missing out last year. I have to learn from this and find out what I need to do to bounce back. Iíve had setbacks before in my career, but have always found a way to come back."

5. Mroz 189.46 (6SP; 5FS); FS 124.02 (67.52 + 57.50 -1.0) Mroz climbed a place to fifth with a fifth ranked placing, two above Bradley his more experienced teammate, despite falling on his opening move, a quad toe. Though he got credit for the rotation, the penalty for falling on this move has increased and he banked only 5.0. He got a -0.84 on his triple Axel to double toe because the landing on the second jump was flawed but that still earned him 8.66. He received 8.50 for his +0.24 triple flip to double toe to double loop. However, he under-rotated his second triple Axel. Shortly after the bonus marks clicked in, he earned 11.00 for a base level triple Lutz to triple toe. He was given Level 4 for two of his three spins. The other spin, the change foot sit, was Level 3 as were both footwork sequences. He performed to a string version of Bachís Toccata and Fugue in D minor.

6. Liebers 176.88 (8SP; 6FS); FS 115.29 (60.49 + 54.80) Liebers moved up two places to finish sixth performing a martial arts program set to the Asian music, Ying and Yang. He opened with a +1.0 triple Lutz quickly followed by a +0.60 triple Axel. But then he put two hands on the ice landing a triple Axel before getting airborne for the second jump, a double toe. Later, he almost fell on a triple loop.

7. Bradley 175.62 (5SP; 10FS); FS 106.27 (49.27 + 59.00 -2.0) Bradley did this routine, set to a Latin Medley by Perez Prado, so much better in Canada. His opening move, a quad toe, became a very big triple and he splattered on both triple Axel attempts. The first was downgraded and he earned only 1.0. He was credited for the rotation in the second one and so earned 2.36. Because he was not able to do the combination on the second triple Axel, he added a double toe to his final jump a triple flip but that resulted in getting no points at all for this move. It was deemed "an invalid element" because the second triple Axel had to be classed as a combination or it would have been disallowed. That meant Bradley executed four combinations instead of the allowed three. A triple flip to double toe, executed after the bonus time, is worth 7.48 base value. That was a lot of points to lose but it would only have given Bradley sixth place overall.

As it was, he plummeted down two slots. The trouble with a "dance-y" routine is that falls completely mess up the artistic impression. He did accomplish a three-jump combo, triple Lutz to double toe to double loop, which earned the base value +10% of 9.68, a triple loop, which was given 5.50, and a triple Lutz to double toe which received 8.03.

8. Wu 169.36 (7SP; 9FS); FS 106.62 (58.02 + 49.60 -1.0) Wu, performing to Standing the Storm from "Beyond" by William Joseph, dropped a place. He began with a triple Lutz to triple toe but then fell on his first triple Axel and singled the second. He had an unusual cantilever into a double Axel joined with two double toes.

9. Urbas 167.87 (11SP; 7FS); FS 112.86 (62.66 + 50.20) Urbas, skating to Wagnerís Tristan and Isolde, advanced two positions. He began with an 11.30 base value triple Lutz to triple toe to double toe. He messed up his triple Axel attempt but got credit for the rotation and then whipped off a base level triple Lutz. After a Level 3 base value flying sit, he accomplished a triple Salchow to triple toe. But then he presented only Level 1 steps and had minuses of five other elements.

10. Macypura 165.20 (9SP; 11FS); FS 103.62 (54.82 +49.80 -1.0) Macypura, skating to Spring by Loreat which is a Tango, landed a triple Axel to double toe but it was given a -1.12 GoE. He immediately tried a second triple Axel which popped into a -0.12 single. He got base level for his triple Lutz and a triple Salchow to double toe, and a +0.40 for a triple flip but he messed up his triple loop. He did get a Level 4 for his flying sit spin. He dropped one place to 10th.

11. Lutai 160.10 (12SP; 8FS); FS 106.77 (53.77 + 54.00 -1.0) Despite taking eighth place in the free, which he performed to the music from Headhunters, Lutai was unable to advance much out of the hole he had dug himself into in the short. He fell on his first attempt at a triple Axel and his second became a single Axel to double toe. He got credit for the rotation on his quad toe but it was a messy landing which rated a -2.56 GoE. At least he didnít finish last.

12. Deslot 156.68 (10SP; 12FS); FS 101.03 (51.73 + 50.30 -1.0) Skating to the soundtrack from Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Deslot received an "e" for a wrong edge on his opening jump, a triple Lutz, and then fell on his downgraded triple Axel attempt. He immediately tried that move again and singled it. He did accomplish a triple loop, triple flip to triple toe and a second triple flip but got a -1.0 on his triple Salchow. Although he received Level 4 for all three of his spins, the steps were only Level 2. Six of his moves received the base value. His best GoE was for his final flying sit spin but that was only +0.60. He dropped from tenth to twelfth.

        Men's Short Program

There were four replacements in the field of 12. Most notable was the absence of Stťphane Lambiel. On October 17, the popular Swiss 23-year-old, announced he was leaving the competitive arena. "Everyone understands that after winning gold at Worlds twice and silver at the Olympic Games, I aim for nothing less than gold medals. But, in the past few weeks Iíve never been able to train 100%. To be able to win a title, 90% is not enough. The new judging system demands the athletes be in amazing shape."

He had left his career-length coach, Peter GrŁtter who coached him in Geneva, and started training in the same New Jersey rink as Johnny Weir under the instruction of 1992 Olympic champion Viktor Petrenko and his coach and mother-in-law Galina Zmievskaya. But an injury to his left adductor muscle, incurred at Worlds in Gothenburg where he finished fifth, put him in constant pain.

Treatment by the official doctor of the German soccer team, Dr. Hans-Wilhelm MŁller-Wohlfahrt, eased but did not eradicate the pain. Lambiel will now perform as a professional. He said, "Iím looking forward to having more time to create and work on gala programs and develop myself as an artist." He will next perform in Art on Ice which will start a tour at the end of January in ZŁrich and continue to Lausanne, Davos and St. Moritz.

1. 81.39 (44.24+37.15) A couple of weeks ago Patrick Chan won Skate Canada though flawed showings in Kanata put him in second in the SP and third in the FS. This time he scored a career best for the SP, by giving a tremendous performance soaring through his first move, a +1.0 triple Axel, and leads by 4.39. The triple Axel was a significant factor in Chan winning this event last year in the absence of home country favorite Brian Joubert due to a virus.

Chan, who will turn 18 on New Yearís Eve, made no major error in his Tango routine but was issued with a warning edge exclamation mark for his triple flip to triple toe. His triple Lutz was rewarded with +1.60 GoE. His spins were all awarded the maximum level, 4, by the Technical Specialist Zsofia Kulczar and her assistant, Olga Markova, who were overseen by the Canadian Technical Controller Sally Rehorick. However, two of the panel of nine judges gave his flying sit spin a -1 GoE. Both step sequences were Level 3.

"It was pretty good," Chan conceded. "I didnít make any mistakes but next time, it will be better, quicker and more sharp. Competing at home was more pressure but there are still expectations on me. Even though I began landing the triple Axel last year, it is still a big deal for me and itís been giving me some troubles and annoyance since Skate Canada. I havenít been consistent with it in training so I was pleased that I did it here."

He said he was not in awe of Joubert. "I just look at him as another competitor. I have to be careful. Crazy things happen in the long [program]. But Iím going into it thinking that Iíve trained for this and Iím ready."

2. 77.00 (42.70+36.30) Tahahiko Kozuka, the relatively unknown Japanese 19 year old who surprised everyone by winning Skate America, took second place in this section despite getting no marks and a deduction of 1.0 for a fall on his third element, the flying sit spin. Kozuka, who was eighth in his first world senior world championship last March, said he had never fallen in competition on this move. He began his routine, set to the laid-back sound of Dave Brubeckís Take Five, with a +1.80 triple Lutz to triple toe and received +1.40 for his triple Axel. His two other spins received Level 4 and the steps sequences were both Level 3. He said because of his win in Skate America, there is now more expectation for him.

3. 73.75 (36.20+37.55) Brian Joubert was the clear favorite coming in despite his warning beforehand. The 24 year old said, "I had a lot of problems and October was very tough for me. Iíve been feeling better for the last few days and have managed to put some good work in. I am here to win this competition and really throw myself into the international season. Iím really eager to try out my programs, to see how they will be received by the international judges. Itís hard for me because I canít do better than the 2007 season, when I won everything. Last season (í08) was hard for me because of health problems (beginning with the unexplained and debilitating virus which began at Skate Canada and kept him out of this event). But it wasnít catastrophic. I won a bronze medal at the European Championships and was world runner-up."

But then, shockingly, as he began his 2 minute 50 second routine set to Rise by Safri Duo, on his first element, Joubert executed a single toe loop instead of the planned quad toe to triple toe. (There was no point in even adding a double toe to that because a single can not be classed as a combination.) He immediately pulled himself together and executed a +1.80 triple Axel. The other six elements received positive GoEs. Two of his spins received Level 4 and the other elements which get a Level were awarded 3.

"Iím very disappointed," Joubert said. "I donít know what happened. I was ready. I was feeling very confident. My warm-up was great. Iím amazed I couldnít even do a triple toe. My left foot was, like blocked. But Iím happy with the rest of my program. I lost about 14 points so I think I could great a very good score with this program."

His technical score was low but he was given the top component marks and is very capable of making up his 7.64 point deficit below Chan. His image is a little different. His hair is slightly longer. His black outfit had elbow length sleeves with cuffs.

4. 73.24 (39.64+33.60) Alban Preaubert, who performed to Exil Music by Brad Melhdau, made no major errors and another half point would have put him ahead of his more famous teammate. The 23 year old beat Joubert this season in the Masters competition in France, mainly because Joubert was having blade sharpening problems. Preaubert was second to Chan in this event last year. He was forced to miss the last world championship because of a back injury. He finished 11th and 8th in the previous two worlds.

5. 69.35 (35.04+30.40) Ryan Bradley, who finished fifth in this event last year, was the only competitor in the event to bring off a quad toe which he combined with a shaky double toe which saddled him with a -1.60 GoE. That still earned him 9.50 points. His triple Axel was given +0.40 but his triple Lutz had -0.20 deducted from the base value. His three spins were Level 4 but both footwork sequences were Level 2. He performed to an Elvis Presley Medley performed by Christopher West. Bradley, who turns 25 on November 17, was a surprise second in Skate Canada two weeks ago pulling up from third after the SP.

6. 65.44 (35.04+30.40) Brandon Mroz, who, like Bradley, trains in Colorado Springs with Tom Zakrajsek, was also sixth in the SP in Skate Canada. His triple Axel was given a -1.40 GoE, the triple Lutz to triple toe was saddled with -0.60 and the triple flip got a -0.80 with an exclamation mark. The exclamation mark means there is no deduction but a warning is being issued for a "slightly" wrong edge. All his spins were Level 4 but both step sequences were Level 2. He skated to Richard Straussí Till Eulenspiegel.

7. 62.74 (36.94+25.80) Jinlin Guan, is Chinaís national champion. He flew straight to Paris from the Cup of China where he finished sixth. The 23 year old from Harbin skated to Joe Satrianiís All Alone. He also received all Level 4s for his spins and Level 2s for his footwork. He was awarded +0.60 for both his triple Lutz to triple toe and his triple Axel but his triple loop was given -1.60.

8. 61.59 (35.24+26.35) Peter Liebers is part of a skating family. The 20 year old is the son of Mario Liebers, who competed for East Germany in the world championships 1976-80. Peterís elder brother, Martin, also competes in skating. That Peter is still skating is a testament to his love of the sport. He fell and broke his leg and missed the 2007 season. He is currently ranked second in Germany and in his first European championship early this year he finished 13th. He performed to the Lakes of Connemara by Michel Sardou.

9. 61.58 (35.78+25.80) Igor Macypura, the three-time Slovakian champion, was born in Kiev in the Ukraine but now lives in California training in the Kwans' rink in Artesia. He performed to Street Passiona by Didulja. The 23 year old, who was ninth in Skate America, was the replacement for Lambiel.

10. 55.65 (30.30+26.35) Yoann Deslot was the French replacement for Kim Lucine, who was injured. Paris is Deslotís hometown. He is ranked only seventh nationally so the 24 year old was delighted to be ďthe opening actĒ in this event, and even more delighted not to by lying last, especially since he fell on his downgraded triple Axel. He skated to music from the soundtrack to the movie Dien Bien Phu by G. Delerue.

11. 55.01 (30.16+24.85) Gregor Urbas is a very experienced competitor from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, who was approaching his 26th birthday. (His sixth place in the 2002 World Junior Championships is the highest for a Slovenian in any ISU championship. Urbas has competed in seven European and World championships with a best of 17th in worlds this year and ninth in Europeans last year. He needs more difficulty. His combination was triple Lutz to double toe and got -0.40. He did a base value double Axel and triple loop. His three spins were Level 3 but the circular steps were Level 2 and the straight line steps Level 1. He performed to music from the movie Ghost of Love.

12. 53.33 (27.18+27.15) Andrei Lutai of Russia, who was the reserve for the original Russian entry Andrei Griazev, was not expected to be in last place. The 22 year old, who trains in St. Petersburg with Alexei Mishin, has been runner-up for the Russian title for the past two seasons and was fifth in the 2007 European championship. But he completely messed up his first three elements, a triple Axel (although he got credit for the rotation), a triple Lutz (meant to be his combination but he fell) and his triple flip which also received an exclamation mark. He still hung together to get all Level 4s for his spins. His circular steps were Level 3 and the straight line Level 2. It will be interesting to see how far up he can climb in the Free Skate.

PAIRS

        Pairs Free Skate

1. 188.50 (1SP.1FS) FS 120.32 (60.20+61.12-1.0) Savchenko/Szolkowy executed an extremely difficult routine. The first four minutes were set to music from the heart-breaking award-winning movie, Schindlerís List, with the remaining 30 seconds choreographed to the flowingly restful and less poignantly emotional Adagio by Tomaso Albinoni. Szolkowy explained, "It is beautiful music but the story it accompanies is so bleak and sad. We didnít want to finish with the audience in tears so the last part is more upbeat. We particularly donít want the judges to be down.

"We are not trying to tell the exact story from the movie, the story is about us, of a white Ukrainian and a black German who have gone through trials and tribulations. The movie is all black and white, only the little girl is in red. But at the end of the movie, the survivors go on to a happier part of their lives. Hopefully, our lives will be successful."

They began with a base level sequence of two triple toes banking 6.40 points. That was followed by a +0.42 Level 2 triple Lutz twist earning 5.92. Their triple Salchows were very well done and the panel of nine judges showered them with +1.20 over the 4.50 base value. The Level 3 flying change foot combination spin received 3.50, which was +0.50 over base. Their Level 3 back outside death spiral earned +0.70 in addition to its base value of 4.0. Their circular steps were Level 3 and received +0.60 for a total of 3.90.

Then came the point where the 10% bonus for throws, jumps and lifts activates. Savchenko fell on their throw triple flip but she had completed the three revolutions when her blade touched the ice and so they still earned 4.05. They sprang back with a super strong +1.20 Group 5 Level 4 Axel take-off lasso lift which put 8.35 in their point bank. That was quickly followed by another Group 5 lift this time with her using the slightly easier toe take-off which also earned a Level 4. This one was awarded a +0.50 GoE.

Unfortunately Savchenko then singled their throw triple Salchow. Base value plus the 10% for this completed move is 4.95. They were still awarded 1.32. Only if they hadnít attempted the move at all would they have got zero. Their next move was a Group 3 Lift which earned +0.40 over the Level 4 base value of 4.40. The last of their 12 elements was a Level 4 pair combination spins which earned +0.20 over the base of 4.50.

Their component marks ranged from a solitary 6.75 for transition and linking footwork (0.50 below any of his/her colleagues) to a high of 8.25 which one judge (the German?) gave for three of the five categories, Performance/Execution; Choreography; and Interpretation.

Neither partner was pleased with their performance. He said, "A couple of people came to us and told us that it wasnít so bad as we felt it was. It canít have been that bad because otherwise we wouldnít have received more points than at Skate America. But again we missed the throw Salchow and we made a mistake on the throw flip. We did the other elements, though. There is a lot of room left for improvement and luckily this isnít yet the end of the season."

2. 170.87 (2SP.3FS) FS 106.03 (53.03+54.00-1.0) Mukhortova/Trankovís free was better than at Skate America, but it still didnít look "finished". They began with a Level 1 triple twist which received only the base level. Then she fell and he touched a hand down on the landing of their downgraded triple Salchows. They executed a good +1.0 Level 4 Axel Lasso lift but she nearly fell again on their throw triple loop.

Their back outside death spiral received the base value for Level 3, They had -0.60 taken off their jump combination, triple toe-double toe. But their throw triple Salchow gained +0.84 GoE. A toe Lasso lift received Level 4 and a small 0.20 positive GoE. Their third lift and the flying change foot combination spin earned Level 4. Their straight line steps and pair combination spin got Level 3.

They tried hard to interpret their playful music with Mukhortova mugging it up sexily and Trankov miming a boxing fight. It is a piece which has been used by many Russian skaters, The Lady and the Hooligan by Dmitri Shostakovitch.

3. 166.63 (3SP.2FS) FS 107.97 (58.37+51.60 -2.0 penalty for the interruption) Duhamel/Buntin will not forget this competition easily. Pair skating is a dangerous sport. Duhamel/Buntin have already had to cope with Buntinís right shoulder injury for which he had surgery in the summer. What happened on Saturday was freaky. They opened their routine, set to music from Puciniís Opera, Tosca, with a sequence of two triple toe loop jumps. That eased into a Level 4 +0.60 Axel Lasso lift from an outside spread.

But the planned triple Salchows did not work out. She doubled hers and he stepped out of his triple, so he was not in the normal place as Duhamel skated backwards on her right leg out of the jump. With both of them closer than they should have been, the toe picks of Duhamelís left blade kicked the back of Buntinís right hand. The blood was obvious.

Buntin went to the referee, Junko Hiramatsu, who signaled for him to go to the rink exit for the permitted two-minute medical break. An announcement was made and a woman medic came running. She cleaned the wound and bandaged his hand but left his fingers free. All this time, Duhamel had her face in her hands, not believing this was happening.

Duhamel said, "I was scared because it was my fault. I kicked him. Iím not much of a blood person." However, their coach, Manon Perron, calmed Duhamel down and they skated back to center ice, where it seems to take the music steward ages to find the right spot in the tape so they could begin where they stopped, one minute and twenty eight seconds into the four and a half minute program. (A 2.0 penalty was given for this "stoppage". This penalty is new. It is only given if the stoppage is caused by the skaters and not by rink personnel or by electricity problems.)

Despite this handicap, Duhamel/Buntin skated superbly, although as the routine progressed the blood began to spill through the bandage. Later Duhamel described it with a grimace on her face, "Oooh, it was all gooey. I hated touching it. Eeeh!" Nevertheless, they continued on. Seven or their eight Level moves earned the maximum of 4. (The straight line steps were only 2.) No other pair came near that achievement.

And the crowd went wild. Duhamel said, "I think the crowd was amazing. They were right behind us. I think Craig is the toughest, most determined person I know, so I knew once he said, ĎIím fine. Iím fine.í I knew we would be okay." He almost seemed to enjoy Duhamelís squeemishness.

After the performance, Buntin mouthed, "Sorry, mom," into the television cameras. Blood had splattered onto the back of Duhamelís costume. Afterwards, he said, "They gave me some stitches but they were afraid maybe the tendon was cut. I donít think thatís the case because I can move my fingers." The bandage was cut off and a more substantial dressing applied. All this time Buntin appeared to be living on adrenalin. He joked, "We coated the ice red. It was great."

They were second only to the winners in this section but the marks were not high enough to advance them from third.

4. 140.58 (4SP.5FS) FS 89.46 (48.78+41.68-1.0) Dong/Wu were fifth in the Free Skate but held onto fourth place. Skating to Chinese music for The Myth, they opened with good triple toe to double toe jumps which earned a +0.80 GoE. But he fell on their triple Salchows and their double twist was only a Level 1. They earned only one Level 4, which was for their toe lasso lift. Their other two lifts were Level 3, as was their back outside death spiral. Their last four moves all received negative GoEs. They finished with their pair combination spin which was only Level 1.

5. 140.00 (6SP.4FS) FS 93.52 (52.00+41.52) Vise/Trent were fourth in the Free Skate which they performed to the dramatic Heroes, Return with Honor composed by W. Joseph. If they had earned only 0.60 more they would have finished fourth overall, ahead of the Chinese. All but two of their 12 moves received the base value or better. However Trent doubled his triple toe and their double Lutz to double toe got an exclamation warning mark and -0.30 GoE.

Both throws, triple loop and triple Salchow, received +0.56 GoE. Two of their spins and two of their lifts earned Level 4

6. 135.64 (5SP.6FS) FS 88.10 (47.34+41.76 -1.0) Canac/Coia received negative GoEs for only three of their 12 elements, which included a bad landing on their throw triple loop and a fall on the throw triple Salchow. They earned only two Level 4s which were for lifts. They began their routine, set to The Cotton Club, with a +0.30 Level 2 double Lutz Twist followed by base level triple Salchows.

7. 121.15 (7SP.8FS) FS 76.81 (41.77+37.04 -2.0) James/Bonheur already have scars from their short time together. His is on his right arm; hers was incurred at the beginning of this week and is in her neck! But they react well to each other and seem to be enjoying what they are doing. She was smiling even though she fell on her solo triple toe loop and on the throw triple flip. They performed in blue and white, to Romeo and Juliet.

Their first move, a triple Salchow to double Salchow, earned the base value. They substituted a double twist for the triple they tried in the SP. Most of their Levels were 1 but they earned Level 3s for two of their three lifts, and their straight line step sequence was a 2.

8. 120.06 (8SP.7FS) FS 78.28 (44.36+33.92) Performing to Delerueís LíAdieu Concerto, Chataigner/Bouzzine opened with a base level throw triple flip. All three lifts got Level 4. They, and Vise/Trent, were the only pairs who did not fall in the FS. However, although they beat their teammates, James/Bonheur in the Free, they were unable to climb out of last place.

        Pairs Short Program

1. 68.18 (37.98+30.20) For the third time this season, the world champions, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy from Germany, are competing against one of their main rivals. They had a clear victory over Mukhortova/Trankov when they won the Nebelhorn Trophy but had a bit of a scare when they were beaten in the Short Program in Skate America. Szolkowy had opened the gate for their rivals to step up when he fell on his triple toe. However, the Russians, who termed their SP performance "magical", almost took themselves off the podium in Everett, WA, with a Free Skate marred with many errors. Now, they are battling again the Germans once more.

Savchenko was dressed in shocking pink hot pants with knee length boot cover of the same material which let the tips of her tan colored boots peak through. Szolkowy was in body-hugging shiny but muted purple. Both obviously enjoy skating to the soundtrack from Lost in Space. "It is very fast," explained their coach Ingo Steuer. "At first they said it was too fast. They are no rest moments. But now they enjoy it."

Savchenko, a 24 year old from Kiev in Ukraine, who persuaded Szolkowy, 29, to come out of retirement after she and her former partner Stanislav Morozov, with whom she won the World Junior championship, split up in 2002, soared through the two minute fifty second routine with impressive triple toes in unison and a very solid throw trip flip. Their triple twist was a Level 2.

In Oberstdorf they had received the minimum Level 1 for their death spiral but they had corrected that fault Ė her head had bobbed up too far when he changed hands Ė and received Level 4 in Paris. But their final element, the pair combination spin, which was Level 1 in the Nebelhorn Trophy because her foot wasnít high enough in the sit position, was only Level 2. "There is still much to work on," said Steuer. "With this system you must be very vigilant."

Szolkowy said, "We are pleased. It was a good performance today - better than at Skate America. We did all the elements. We felt a little tired, but at the end it was nice. After each performance there are always questions about the levels. We have to work on getting them higher but first we have to find out what was wrong."

2. 64.84 (37.60+27.24) Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov performed to Nobody Home by Pink Floyd. The European silver medalistís triple twist was only Level 1 but four of their other five moves which receive Levels gained the maximum of 4 whereas the Germans earned only three Level 4s. Mukhortova, who will be 23 on November 20, said, "Last year we received the bronze medals here so we would be disappointed if we do not get on the podium this time."

Only the top two pairs, and the new French team, Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur, tried triple twists. The others were content to present doubles.

3. 58.66 (34.18+24.48) Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin teamed up in the spring of 2007 after his partnership with Valerie Marcoux was dissolved. Marcoux and Buntin had claimed the Canadian title three times and made the Olympic team where they were 11th. Immediately following the Games, they were fifth in worlds but dropped to sixth in 2007 and decided to split.

After skating together for less than a year, Duhamel, who will be 23 on December 8, and Buntin, 28, gained bronze in the Canadian championships and sixth place at worlds. In the recent Skate America, they finished fourth in the SP and stayed there although they were third in the FS. Buntin said they were happy with their performance in Paris, set to Four Lamentations, despite the relatively major error of his free foot touching down on the landing of his triple toe loop. "We were a little disappointed with Skate America (where they had unison problems on their spin) but I think we gelled some over the past couple of weeks. We are definitely more satisfied with our marks here."

4. 51.12 (30.60+20.52) Huibo Dong, 19, and Yiming Wu, 21, from China, who won bronze in the last world junior championships in Sofia, performed to music from the Puccini opera, Tosca, gaining Level 4 for their pair combination spin and 3s for four other Level moves. Their double twist was deemed only Level 1.

5. 47.54 (27.34+21.20 -1.0) Adeline Canac and Maximin Coia, the French champions who finished seventh out of the maximum of eight pairs entries in Skate America, and were 14th in their first Worlds in Gothenburg, skated to the soundtrack to Goodbye Lenin. Canac, who is 18, put her hand down on their solo triple Salchows and fell on the throw triple loop.

6. 46.48 (25.48+22.00 -1.0) Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent, the fourth ranked American pair, made a memorable showing last year in this event Although they finished only fourth, they were recognized by the ISU as the first pair ever to land a quad throw Salchow in an ISU event. This season, however, after Vise opened out after three and a half instead of four rotations in what she said was "a freak situation", in Skate Canada where they finished fifth, they decided to concentrate on the component scores and will not try "their" move here in the Free Skate.

In their Short Program, set to Sweet Remembrance of You by William Joseph, the 28-year-old Trentís triple toe was not clean and the 22-year-old Vise fell on the throw triple loop.

7. 44.34 (26.06+18.28) Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur, who teamed up in December 2007, made an excellent debut skating to Shine on You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd. Bonheur, who is 26, is the reigning three-time French champion with his former partner Marylin Pla. James, 21, who was born in Ontario in Canada, is an American resident. She was able to get British citizenship because her family comes from Bermuda, which is British controlled. However, after winning the British singles title, James decided she wished to pair skate. After trying some British possibilities, she settled on Bonheur and their future looks promising. Vanessaís twin, Melissa, is still competing competing in Britain.

8. 41.78 (25.50+16.28) Melodie Chataigner, 20, and Medhi Bouzzine, 24, are the second ranked pair in France. They took part in this GP in 2006 when they finished eighth. They were also eighth in the last European championships. They skated to music by Erwan Kermovant for a French movie, named after a place, 36 Quai des OrfŤvres.

DANCE

        Free Dance

1. 184.81 (1.CD; 3.OD; 1.FD 91.60 43.50+48.10) Delobel/Schoenfelder, as was the case in the OD, did not get the best element score. Technically, they awarded only the fourth best score in the FS, just 0.30 ahead of the Russians. But they were given the highest FD components by 3.07 points. That meant they placed first in the FD by 2.27 points and got the gold by a massive 5.23.

Schoenfelder admitted, "It was hard to skate today after yesterday (when they made mistakes in the OD). We wanted to save the competition and wanted to show that we are ready to fight again for the World title. The step sequences are not ready yet." (Both step sequences got only Level 2, although the circular was awarded +1.2 GoE and the midline +0.60. In Everett they got exactly the same total, 7.60 for the circular, but their midline earned Level 3 with +0.80 which gave them a total of 7.00 compared to 6.00 in Paris.) Schoenfelder elaborated further, "Maybe we have to change something and we have to skate cleaner. The way we built the program is ok. We just have to work and improve for the Grand Prix Final." That event, just outside Seoul in December, does not include their forte, the compulsory dance.

Their FD was set to Pink Floydís The Great Gig in the Sky which is about death. "It is the story about us agonizing over whether we should continue," said Schoenfelder. (Their gold at worlds was their first medal in that event and, because they had competed for many years, some advised them to take it and retire.) Delobel said, "We were going back and forth, yes, no, but then, at the end of the routine, it reflects how we have an explosive YES!"

Their opening move was a Level 2 combination spin which earned +0.60 GoE. They received Level 4s only for three of their four lifts, which gained +0.90 (straight), curve (+1.10) and curve to rotational (+0.90). Their rotation lift was only Level 3 (+0.70). Their twizzles also received Level 3 with +0.30.

2. 179.58 (2.CD; 1.OD; 2.FD 89.33 44.30+45.03) Faiella/Scaliís routine was somewhat controversial. Set to Beethovenís immortal Moonlight Sonata, he plays a mime, Pierrot, in a clown outfit, who is in love with the moon. She is his Columbine. "It portrays sadness and longing, pathos," said Scali. "The hardest thing is to portray these strong emotions. We are really happy we found this connection with the audience. We did a much better performance than yesterday. "

They earned the third highest score for their elements and second highest for their components which put them second in the FD by a minute 0.21 over the Kerrs. However, in overall standings, they gained silver by 2.62. They earned the maximum Level 4 for their spin (+0.50), twizzles (+0.40) and three lifts of their four lifts (curve +0.80; straight line +0.50; rotational +0.50). Their serpentine lift was only Level 2 & +0.40.

3. 176.96 (3.CD; 2.OD; 3.FD 89.12 44.60+44.52) Sinead/John Kerr, dressed in muddy rags, portray the apocalypse. The time is the present but something has happened like a devastating plague or an atomic bomb. Their story is of a brother and sister struggling to survive. She starts out near death but recovers and then tends to his injuries. Their music is "Ruled by Secrecy" by the British band, Muse. Sinead Kerr said, "Our coach (Evgeny Platov) told us he wanted the greatest intensity we could portray. He wanted us to grab the audience, to entrance them so that they would forget all about the popcorn in their hands and get so involved in the scene before them, that the four minutes would flash by."

They received Level 4s for their last four elements; twizzles (+0.30), rotational lift (+0.40); straight line to curve lift (+0.50); and straight line lift (+0.90). However, their opening move, the +0.70 spin and the two sets of footwork (+1.00 circular, +0.80 midline) were Level 3. Their first lift, a curve, was only Level 2 (+0.50).

4. 171.49 (5.CD; 4.OD; 4.FD 87.03 45.20+41.83) Crone/Poirier received the highest technical score although their components were only fourth best. It seems they are following their countrymatesí footsteps. Virtue/Moir won a silver in Canada and then were fourth in their first Grand Prix season in this event in Paris in 2006. In the tabulation for the list of who qualifies for the top six who progress to the Grand Prix Final, which sometimes involves reserves, Crone and Poirierís silver and fourth place outranks the Kerrsí two bronze medals.

Crone/Poirier and their coach, Carol Lane, are making quite a name for themselves by inventing moves. The ISU had to name a new category when they came up with their first original "stationary" lift last season while competing on the international circuit at junior level.

Now they have another one. It was the first element in their FD. They go into the move as if they will do a sit spin but she "magically" just seems to levitate. "It comes from where the hands are placed," Poirier explained. Even their music is unique. Doco de Coco means Coconut Candy and it is played by Jacob do Bandolim, a very famous Brazilian who died in 1969. He changed his name to Bandolim, which is Portugese for the instrument he played, Mandolin.

The story is very low key. They are a couple of friends who are enjoying some relaxation time in a park. She is dressed in pink. He has on a sweater. They received Level 4 and +0.80 for their opening unique lift. That was followed by Level 4 +0.60 twizzles. Their circular steps (+0.60), the combination spin (+0.50) and, later, the diagonal steps (+0.60) were "only" Level 3. However, their other three moves earned Level 4. The serpentine lift was awarded +0.50; the rotational lift +0.80; and the final straight line lift (+0.30).

In their exhibition on Sunday, they surprised the audience by incorporating mirror Axels. (Both partners are also singles competitors. At one point they also did pairs. "But that was really too much," Poirier explained.)

5. 166.84 (4.CD; 5.OD; 5.FD 82.85 42.60+40.25) Carron/Jost were awarded the exact same elements score, 42.60, for their FD in Paris as they had in Skate America although their levels varied. (Their circular and midline steps were only Level 2 with both moves earning an additional +0.40 in Paris but were Level 3 with both getting +0.20 in Skate America.) However, the component score was slightly higher in Paris, 40.25, compared to 39.32 in Everett. They finished fifth in both places although, of course, of those who finished above them, only one other couple, Delobel/Schoenfelder, were in both events. Their music was Butterflies and Hurricanes played by Muse.

6. 158.53 (6.CD; 6.OD; 7.FD 78.54 42.00+36.54) Fraser/Lukanin held on to their sixth place by 1.69, but the Russians beat them by 1.46 in the FD. Skating in violet with his jacket having an old-fashioned skirted effect, they used a version of Khatcharurianís Spartacus called Ocean Heart played by Amici Forever. Six of their elements gained Level 4 with only the midline steps receiving Level 2, and the straight line lift a Level 3. Both these elements earned the base value. Their GoEs for the Level 4 moves ranged from a -0.02 for the opening combination spin up to a +0.60 for their long straight line to rotation lift.

7. 156.84 (7.CD; 7.OD; 6.FD 80.00 43.20+36.80) The FD was Rubleva/Sheferís strongest section. They performed in black and red to Nyah from the Mission Impossible soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, followed by Solo Tu from Frida soundtrack by Elliot Goldenthal and finished up with a Flamenco. Five of their elements received Level 4. The curve lift and the circular steps were Level 2 and the diagonal steps, for which they received their highest GoE, +1.0), was Level 3.

8. 142.95 (8.CD; 8.OD; 8.FD 69.15 36.70+32.45) Wester/Barantsev, appropriately dress in black since they were interpreting Requiem for a Tower and Mythodea by Vangelis, received Level 4s only for two moves, their opening rotational lift which earned +0.50, and their straight line lift, which got +0.60. They had two negative GoEs, -1.0 after he messed up their Level 3 twizzles, and -0.40 for their Level 2 circular steps. However, they were saddled with a Level 1 (+0.20) for their combination spin.

They had received three Level 4s for their FD in Skate Canada yet their FD score in Paris was higher by half a point than in Ottawa where she had performed with pneumonia. Their full competition score in Paris was 1.89 better than in Canada.

9. 134.46 (9.CD; 9.OD; 9.FD 66.25 37.80+28.45) Blanc/Bouquet skated in white to Search for Gold by Grand Corp Malade (which, translated from the French, means "Big, sick body"). I thought it must be a grunge group but apparently itís a 31 year-old called Fabien who is supposed to be on his way to making it big. He writes "urban poetry" and recites it to music. Well, thatís certainly different! Despite this sort of French slow rap, which, Iím told is called "slam", they earned four Level 4s. But they also had three Level 2s and three negative GoEs. Two of those were minor, a -0.20 on the serpentine lift and -0.10 on the straight line lift. However, they were saddled with a substantial -1.20 for their Level 2 circular steps.

10. 124.80 (10.CD; 10.OD; 10.FD 62.98 36.60+26.38) Budner/Moscicki skated to Golden Eye sung by Tina Turner. The vocal was sandwiched between the James Bond theme. They received four Level 4s but also three Level 2s. Their combination spin was Level 3. Four of their eight elements had negative GoEs including a large -1.0 for the midline steps.

        Original Dance

1. (1.CD; 3.OD) Times have certainly changed in ice dance. In the past, World champions, competing in their own country, would never have been marked down but Delobel/Schoenfelder were not spared. Their technical score was only seventh best in the original although they received the best components score, 1.84 more than Faiella/Scali. That held them up and though the French were third in the OD, behind the Italians and the Kerrs, only 0.56 separated the top three in this section. Delobel/Schoenfelderís lead from the CD kept them in first, still 2.96 ahead of the Italians going into the Free Dance.

Shaking his head, Schoenfelder admitted, "We are obviously disappointed with the way we skated. Maybe we were too excited skating in France. The twizzle and the spin were the worst today." They performed the same Boogie Woogie and Slow Swing routine when they won Skate America. It uses four pieces of well known music including the Andrew Sisters singing the evocative Apple Blossom Time. Delobel plays a saucy American nurse at the end of World War II and he is a wounded older soldier whom she gives back his love of life.

Since Everett (Skate America), Delobel/Schoenfelder have added a permitted sixth move (optional lift). This is not given a base value and earns no GoE so why put it in? The reasoning is that it will make the routine more interesting and will earn the skaters a better score in the Linking Footwork/Movement category. Does it? There is no way of telling. All but Fraser/Lukanin & Blanc/Bouquet choose to include this option in Paris . But there is the risk of messing up. That extra move may have affected Delobel/Schoenfelderís timing and they were a bit rushed.

 

Their spin, which was given Level 4 with +0.60 GoE in Everett , got only Level 1 with -0.30 GoE in Paris . In both events, their twizzles after the spin, which was their last element (except for the optional lift) was saddled with only Level 1 although in France they earned a smidgen more in the GoE. (In Everett , they received -0.70; in Paris -0.60.) The component marks were also very similar: 29.73 in Paris , 29.66 in Everett . Only their second element, the lift, got Level 4, in Paris and in the United States . They began with the non-touching midline steps. That and the circular steps received Level 3 in both contests.

 

2. (2.CD; 1.OD) Faiella/Scali won this section but by less than a point, performing to music from the 1936 smash hit Follow the Fleet. He is Fred Astaire in a sailor outfit. She was Ginger Rodgers in pants. They did a Tap Dance and a Slow Foxtrot. Their music included Itís Too Darn Hot, Letís Face the Music and Dance (which T&D used for the FD in their return to the Olympics in í94), and Let Yourself Go. They began with a Level 4 spin. Their non-touching steps, which came next, got Level 3. They then presented a Level 4 lift. Their twizzles and diagonal steps were Level 3. Their GoEs ranged from 0.10 for the twizzles up to 0.80 for the diagonal steps.

Scali said, "Itís been a long time since the world championships. We couldnít wait to start our season. We wanted to be as strong as we can and I think this is what we did today. We enjoy this rhythm very much."

3. (3.CD; 2.OD) Sinead/John Kerr performed the Lindy Hop with a West Coast Swing in the middle. Their pace was definitely fast forward. Sinead Kerr explained, "Evgeny showed us swing movies from that era and itís amazing how fast they move. They had such a lot of energy. He keeps whipping us to go faster, faster. Itís amazing what these people do on the floor." They also work with a former world swing champion and he has made sure what they do on the ice is as close as possible to what they do in ballroom. However, that speed comes at a cost and they were not as polished in some aspects as those skaters who were going far slower.

They received Level 4 for their spin but the other four elements were all Level 3. They received positive GoEs for four of their elements from two +0.40ís up to a +1.20 for their midline non-touching steps. But they had a problem on the twizzles and, although it was classed as Level 3, they had -0.50 GoE. She was wearing a red and silver dress, quite suitable for a ballroom.

In Everett, they received three Level 4s and earned the highest technical score of all the competitors. But, while their curve lift, in which he is in a spread and she upside down doing a handstand with her hands on his upper legs, earned a +1.0 GoE in the United States, in Paris it was deemed only +0.40. One very knowledgeable fan wrote that what they do is the essence of swing which, she said, "is quick, messy and incoherent. Itís not meant to be smooth."

4. (5.CD; 4.OD) Crone/Poirier, who had been only 0.02 behind the Carron/Jost after the Paso, overtook the French couple but led going into the FD by only 0.47! The youngsters presented a lovely picture of a more innocent time, long gone, complete to her period cloche hat. The piece was inspired by music from the movie The Sting, Scott Joplinís Solace and The Entertainer. Their score of 52.71 included 27.90 for elements, which was tied first with Faiella/Scali but their component score was fifth best 0.81 behind Carron/Jost.

Their score for the OD of 52.71 was 3.58 more than they scored when winning the silver in Skate Canada two weeks previously. Their spin and curve lift were Level 4 and the non-touching steps Level 2 in both events. However, their diagonal steps gained 3, one Level up from Canada, while the twizzles, which had only been 2 with a -0.06 in Ottawa, were much better and earned Level 4 and +0.30.

5. (4.CD; 5.OD) Carron/Jost, who train alongside Delobel/Schoenfelder in Lyon, performed both a slow and fast swing with him in a white suit and she in a Charleston-y black fringe dress. Their music was Basin Street Blues sung by the incomparable Louis Armstrong. They earned Level 4 for their curve lift (+0.60 GoE) and spin (+0.40), Level 3 for their twizzles (+0.20) and Level 2 for the diagonal (+0.80) and non-touching midline steps (0.00).

6. (6.CD; 6.OD) Fraser/Lukanin came on for their warm-up with him carrying a cane and grey in his hair. She was in a blond wig with a blue head band and frump-y, old-fashioned spectacles. Obviously, they have decided they are going to have fun in this sport and they did. When they returned to the ice after the warm-up, the cane seemed to be missing and there was speculation that it was a prop and therefore not allowed. They obviously were portraying aging hoofers from a very old movie (a music hall dancing couple).

Once they got going, the cane reappeared. Then, as the music changed from Blues to Swing, her dress completely changed shape and went from royal blue to yellow ochre. They earned the base value for their Level 4 twizzles and +0.30 rotational lift. The other three elements were Level 3. Two got the base value but the first move, their spin, was given -0.20.

7. (7.CD; 7.OD) Rubleva/Shefer performed to St. Louis Blues and Swing, Swing, Swing. He was dressed in a blue shiny lounge lizard outfit and she in a flapper outfit including hat and black feathers. Their twizzles (+0.20) and spin (base) got Level 4. The straight line (+0.20) and circular (base) steps were Level 3 and the non-touching steps Level 2 with +0.40.

8. (8.CD; 8.OD) Wester/Barantsev did a Blues to Cole Porterís Too Darn Hot and a Lindy Hop. Her hair, which was done up in a lovely French twist for the CD, was now down, loosely tied back. She was in a blood red outfit with his tie matching. They had a slight problem on their first element, the twizzles which were Level 3 but (-0.30 GoE). And then she had a trip but kept herself from falling. They recovered with Level 4 straight line steps (+0.30). The diagonal steps were Level 3 and +0.60 but the Level 3 spin received (-0.30). Their midline non-touching steps were only Level 2 but earned +0.40.

9. (9.CD; 9.OD) Blanc/Bouquet wore dusky pink to skate to Louis Armstrongís Black & Blues. Their spin and twizzles earned Level 4 (+0.10) & (-0.20) respectively but the three other moves were Level 2. The circular steps got the base value. The midline non-touching was awarded (+0.40) and their curve lift got +0.10.

10. (10.CD; 10.OD) Budner/Moscicki skated the Blues to Minnie, the Moocher, from the Blues Brothers soundtrack and a Quickstep to James Hornerís Shout and Feel It. They made a mess of their first move, Level 3 twizzles (-1.0). They also got a negative (-0.60) on their second element, the Level 2 non-touching midline steps, and a (-0.50) on their Level 4 spin. From that move, they went into their rotational spin almost immediately but received only the base value for a Level 1. They finished with Level 2 diagonal steps which incurred a -0.40 GoE.

        Compulsory Dance

The 28 steps of the Paso Doble were devised by Reg Wilkie and Daphne Wallis at the Westminster rink in London in 1938. The three sequences are completed in 51 seconds. In previous years, the arena was closed to the public for the compulsory because the management was unwilling to supplement the workersí day with overtime. This Friday, however, although the printed tickets had the entrance time for after the finish of the compulsory, bus loads of school children had been allowed in to watch the morning practices and no one was barred from entering so there was a fleet of wonderfully noisy, somewhat nationalistic if not particularly knowledgeable spectators present.

1. 37.98 (18.84 & 19.14 ) Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, as befitting their status as world champions, were last of the now maximum of 10 couples to skate. (12 entries were allowed at one time.) They won their first two events of the season, the Masters, an internal event in France, and Skate America. In Everett, WA, this very experienced duo added a touch of playful, light heartedness to their Viennese Waltz.

Here, in Paris, their Paso Doble also had a novel approach. Their long-time coach Muriel Boucher Zazoui, who represented France many times as an ice dancer and performed this compulsory several times in her career, explained, "Isabelle is a Spanish girl and Olivier is a Pirate so there is a sexual tone to it. When you are world champions, you can not stand still. You must lead with something new. Yes, I was pleased with their performance." Of the 54 GOE scores inputted by the panel of nine judges, eight were +2 GOEs. Four of those +2 were from the same judge. Is it cynical to presume that judge was French? All but five of the other scores were +1 and the remaining awards were the basic 0 given for an okay element that was "satisfactory in all aspects". The panel included Kathleen Harmon of the United States.

The 30 year old Delobel said, "Thatís the way we want to skate this year. We want to have fun on the ice. We are not thinking about the pressure of being the champions. We just want to enjoy our title. This is what we have worked for for so many years. We want to show the product of all that work and how much we enjoy what we do. We do not have stressed glum faces."

Maybe they are more relaxed because they have lived through many reversals up and down. They won the 2007 European championship in Warsaw but were dethroned in Zagreb earlier this year. A little less than two months later, they won the world title. That was a surprise since they had never medaled in this annual climax to the season. That, however, was in the absence of the European and Grand Prix Final Russian gold medalists Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin because of his knee problem.

Schoenfelder, who will turn 31 on November 30, said after various exhibition commitments after the world championships, they took a month off and did not skate at all. They pursued their separate lives before committing to the decision to continue. He said his wife Ė he married the former ice dancer Isabelle Pecheur in May 2005 - told him it was his decision, even though they now have a family. A son, Gabriel, was born in October 2006.

Initially, both Delobel and Schoenfelder had believed they would quit but they found they enjoyed all the new recognition they were afforded. Schoenfelder said, "There is a possibility of an Olympic medal in 2010. If we gave up now, we would always wonder, ĎWhat if?í"

2. 34.46 (17.12 & 17.34) Federica "Fede" Faiella and Massimo "Massi" Scali of Italy, have trained in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, at the Detroit SC, with Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova since 2006. Although they were a huge 3.52 behind Delobel and Schoenfelder, they earned a comfortable 2.14 marks more than the Kerrs. "We felt we skated very passionately and were very fluid and very fast."

Faiella, born Feb 1, 1981, and Scali, December 11, 1979, (both in Rome, not a city known for ice skating), teamed up in 2001. They had known each other for years. However, although they were training under the same coach in Rome, they had different partners. When they got together they moved to Milan to train, a course of action Scali said was pretty traumatic. "In the United States people move all the time, but in Italy that is not how it is. So this was an enormous strain. Later, when we went to America it was not so bad because we were much older, more committed to each other and aware of what we were doing. But it still was a major upheaval. But now we are fine. It is a great place to practice. We speak English all the time. My roommate is American and we have made many friends."

3. 32.32 (16.04 & 16.28) Sinead and John Kerr, the Scottish siblings who train in Princeton, NJ, skated immediately before the champions but after the Italians who had placed ahead of them, fifth to their eighth place at Worlds. (The ISU rankings, which determine order of skating in the initial round of Grand Prix events, are made not just on the world championship results. They had included the Kerrsí bronze medal in Skate America whereas this was Faiella and Scaliís first GP of the season.)

Twice Olympic champion, Evgeny Platov, who coaches the Kerrs said, "This was the first season they had done the Viennese and the Paso. I thought they skated more strongly than in Skate America. The Paso suits them more than the Waltz. I was surprised and disappointed about the difference of more than 2 points between them (the Italians and the Kerrs). They did not skate absolutely perfectly but I did think they deserved to be much closer."

4. 31.77 (16.20 & 15.57) Pernelle Carron, 21, and Mathieu Jost, 27, of France, who were ninth in the past two European championships, have skated together only since 2005 when their previous partnerships were dissolved. In their first nationals together, despite losing a couple of months training when she broke her ankle, they won bronze. The French Association thought the pairing was so promising they entered them the 2006 Trophťe Eric Bompard where they finished 11th. (The host country is allowed three entries. All other entries are decided by ISU rankings.) Last year they finished fifth. They also placed fifth in this seasonís Skate America.

Carron had competed in the world juniors finishing 13th. Jost had competed in Europeans (placing 12th in 2004) and worlds in 2003 (23rd) but dissolved the partnership because his former partner was injured.

5. 31.75 (16.06 & 15.69) Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier, who were runners-up for the world junior championship earlier this year, made a stunning debut in their first Senior Grand Prix, Skate Canada, grabbing second place after placing fifth in the Paso Doble. Two weeks later, here in Paris, they made an excellent start continuing to show improvement.

They received very slightly higher scores (+0.12) than Carron and Jost for the four component marks -yes, only four because there is not a component mark for choreography for a compulsory. But they were -0.14 behind on the Element score. Poirier said, "It felt a lot better than Skate Canada. And we got better marks than we did there. We were very nervous there because the audience was expecting a lot from us." Crone, who turned 18 on October 29, and Poirier, who was 17 on November 6, are the 2007 Canadian Junior champions who gained an impressive fourth place at national senior level earlier this year.

6. 30.05 (15.58 & 14.47) Kristin Fraser and Igor Lukanin were forced to withdrew from Skate America because, Fraser explained, "I had a really bad accident just before. A door slammed closed at our rink and tore a muscle in my left leg. The lower leg was outside and the rest of me inside. It was fortunate the leg wasnít broken. Of course, it was impossible to go to Everett and the doctor wanted me not to come here (to Paris). He relented eventually because no way was I going to miss this competition, too."

They wore very striking outfits. Fraser said, "We saw something very similar in "Dancing with Stars". Lukanin wore a creation which was based on the coat the hero in the Matrix movies wears except this has tight black chiffon sleeves. It also has what can be described as four black wide tails lined with pink. While her outfit is also interesting, his definitely grabbed the limelight. Kristin laughingly said, "When youíve been around as long as we have, you have to do something different to get attention."

Theirs may seem an unlikely partnership to those outside the skating world, but it has been very successful. The 5í5" Californian from Palo Alto, who was born on February 29, 1980 and therefore has seen only eight "birth" days, met, in 2001, a boy from Ekaterinburg in Russia, who began skating only after doctors said his heart problem could benefit from taking part in a winter sport.

Incredibly, the following year, they had the honor, which many would sell their souls to have, of competing in the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City representing the country in which he had been a student but which, at that point Fraser had never visited. Four years later, the 5í9" Lukanin, who was born on February 3, 1976, was the flag bearer for Azerbaijan in the 2006 Olympic Games. They are trained by Nicolai Morosov in Hackensack, NJ.

7. 28.44 (14.94 & 13.48) Ekaterina Rubleva, 23, and Ivan Shefer, 25, who have skated together since 1994, are the Russian national silver medalists, although that position was earned in the absence of Domnina/Shabalin due to his injury. They finished sixth in the recent Skate America, having previously placed eighth in this event in Reading in 2007 and ninth in 2005 in Atlantic City. They are trained by Alexander Svinin.

8. 28.02 (15.22 & 12.80) Jennifer Wester and Daniil Barantsev are another of the unlikely but successful American-Russian teams. She was born in Dallas, Texas, on February 27, 1985. He was born in Ekaterinburg, Russia, on March 10, 1982. Barantsev, whose mother had been a skater, came to the United States and began skating with Wester in 2003 but there were problems at the beginning because Barantsev had been twice world junior champion with Natalia Romaniuta. The Russian Federation did not want to lose a very promising boy (just as USFS did not want to lose the very promising Morgan Matthews and Max Zavozin).

Four months after they placed seventh in the 2006 nationals, they were married. The following year they advanced to sixth and this past season they were fifth and represented the U.S. in the Four Continents championship, where they finished fourth. In the summer of 2007, they racked up their first international gold, winning the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany. Two weeks before this event, they finished seventh in Skate Canada.

9. 25.19 (13.56 & 11.63) Zoe Blanc, 20, and Pierre-Loup Bouquet, 21, are a relatively inexperienced duo who were 10th in this event in 2007 and were third in the last French championships.

10. 24.73 (13.48 & 11.25) Late in September the Polish champions, Joanna Budner and Jan Moscicki, received word they would replace Russians Maria Monko and Ilia Tkachenko in this event. Budner, who turns 19 on December 27, and Moscicki, 20, competed in the Junior Grand Prix series last season and finished 19th in the European championship and 26th in worlds in Gothenburg Worlds, after falling in the original and failing to make the cut for the free skate.

This is their first Senior Grand Prix. They are coached by Bozena Bernadowska in Lodz and by Alexei Gorshkov in the famed Odintsova facility just outside of Moscow.

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