by Sonia Bianchetti Garbato
(19 Novemeber 2012)
The 5th Grand Prix event, the Trophée Bompard, was held in Paris on November 16-17 in the marvelous skating arena of Bercy.
I always come with great enthusiasm to Paris because I love this wonderful city and I enjoy its atmosphere. I really had a good time there. The list of competitors was really appealing and I was confident that the event would be interesting.
Pairs. In pairs, a great disappointment was the withdrawal of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy before the start of the competition. Because of this they will not be able to take part to the final. Really sad.
The gold medal went to Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, RUS. This was their second Grand Prix competition this season and it opened their way to the Grand Prix Final in Sochi. They placed first in the short program, performing a wonderful, flawless and very emotional program to “The Blue Danube”. In their free skating program, set to "February," they placed 2nd. They stumbled on the first triple toe-loop/triple toe-loop jump sequence, but then they executed all the other elements well. Their program is well constructed to the music, which they interpret with elegance and style. Their costumes are also very beautiful and classy.
The silver medal went to the Canadian pair Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. Skating to “Angel” by Philippe Rombi, they performed a beautiful program with difficult and well executed elements. Although she fell on the throw triple loop, they placed first in free skating. With this result they have earned the right to take part in the final.
The bronze medal went to Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek, ITA. It is the second time that they placed third this year. It was a happy surprise for them, having placed 4th in short and 5th in free. Skating to “Posta en el viento flamenco” by Vincente Arrigo, they executed a triple toe-double toe-double toe combination, a triple twist, a throw triple loop and Salchow which she doubled, as well as two level-four lifts. Their program was well performed and pleasant to watch.
Ladies. U.S. National Champion Ashley Wagner dominated this event, winning her second Grand Prix event this year and qualifying for the final. Ashley, who had placed 2nd in short, won the free skating. She was the only skater who performed two flawless programs. Skating to Saint-Saens’ dramatic music, “Samson and Delilah,” she executed a marvelous program filled with difficult jumps and beautiful spins, very pleasant to watch, appealing and emotional. Aside from excellent technique in her jumps, she also skates, gliding on the ice with natural elegance, which has become an unusual feature in figure skating nowadays!
The winner of the silver medal was Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, 16 years old, from Russia. Wearing an elegant black costume, Elizaveta executed the second flawless program of the event. Besides having excellent jumps and beautiful spins, Elizaveta’s program is well choreographed and she interprets the chosen music. Her look is dark-eyed in an elegant, touching way. A real young marvel.
The bronze medal went to another young very promising skater from Russia, Julia Lipnitskaia, 14 years old. Julia, who had placed 1st in the short with a flawless, marvelous program skated to the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovski, performed a beautiful free program with a few errors. She put her hand down on the triple Lutz, which was also started from the wrong edge, stepped out of the triple flip, and doubled the triple Salchow. But her spins are just fantastic and she is unbelievable with her flexibility. She is very fresh and captivating on the ice. Another with great promise.
In the Ladies I was also impressed by Christine Gao, USA, who is now studying at Harvard. Christine, who placed 4th, has a long and thin physique and a superb lightness to her jumps. Skating to the famous “Libertango” by Astor Piazzola, dressed in black, she performed the third flawless program with grace and elegance. Another very promising young lady.
Men. In the men’s event, there was great anticipation for Johnny Weir's return to major international competition after two sabbatical years. Johnny was announced at the Rostelecom Cup last week in Moscow, but after a total disaster in the short program where he finished a distant last, he had to withdraw. Things do not seem to be working well for him because, a few days before the Trophée Bompard, he announced he would not participate. Really sad.
Apart from this, the men’s event was the most disappointing one in both the short and the free programs. In the short, only Jeremy Abbot executed a clean program. All the others were filled with errors and falls. The same applies to free skating, where only Florent Amodio executed a flawless program.
The winner, Takahito Mura from Japan, placed 2nd both in short and free. In his free program to Shogun, he executed excellent high jumps at great speed. His only mistake was that he singled the planned triple flip. The whole program was well performed and exciting.
The silver medal was won by Jeremy Abbott, USA. While in the short program he was perfect, in the free he had a few errors and he was placed only 3rd. His quadruple toe-loop was downgraded and he singled the second Axel. Still, the way he moves on the ice is so elegant and fascinating. Each movement makes sense, is exactly what the music calls for. From the artistic point of view, he is one of the best skaters at the moment. He only needs to be more consistent.
The bronze medal went to Florent Amodio, FRA. Florent moved from 7th in short to third place thanks to an amazing and perfect free program in which he was placed 1st. Skating to “Jumpin’ Jack” and “Broken Sorrow”, he executed correctly all the jumps, including a quadruple Salchow. His skating is flamboyant but excessive in the use of the arms. In my opinion, he was over-marked in the Program Components.
In Ice Dancing, Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, the European champions and World bronze medalists, won their second gold medal this year. They were first at the Cup of China and they repeated their success at home. The short dance is set to "French Waltz" and "Can Can" while their free dance is set to a Rolling Stones medley. I cannot express an opinion on the technical quality of their free dance because, as is well known, I am not an expert in ice dancing. But I am sorry to say that their program this year does not convince me. In the past I enjoyed watching them; I found them fascinating and captivating, while in Paris I did not feel any emotion nor transport. My feeling is that the choice of this kind of music was not the best for them.
The silver medal went to Anna Capellini and Luca La Notte (ITA).Skating to Carmen by Bizet, Luca had to overcome his fall on the twizzles right at the beginning of their free dance, but then they continued without any further mistakes. They performed a passionate, sensuous and captivating program. Anna and Luca really interpreted Carmen and Don José with passion and emotion and reached the heart of the public, which expressed their appreciation with great enthusiasm. This was their second Grand Prix silver medal this season.
The bronze medal went to Ekaterina Riazanova and Elia Tkachenko from Russia. Dressed in very elegant light grey costumes, they skated a beautiful program to The Godfather by Nino Rota, which included some original elements. I enjoyed their way of skating and their appeal on the ice.
And now let’s take a few moments to consider the sad side of this Grand Prix, the poor performances by the majority of the skaters present in Paris. Once again, I experienced two opposing feelings: on one side, my distress in seeing many talented top world skaters virtually falling apart both in short and free skating (only four free programs out of 25 in singles and pairs were clean, and many were marred with big falls!), and on the other, my joy in seeing some really outstanding programs which made my trip to Paris worthwhile. Still, it is hard to accept that in all the five Grand Prix events held so far, except for the top three finishers in men, ladies and pairs, which were really outstanding, the rest of the skating was simply depressing, in both the short and free programs. And this cannot be explained away just as being early in the season! But what was even more depressing and worrisome was the poor quality of skating and the total lack of choreography and musicality. Why, then, such a disaster? What prevents the skaters from standing up and skating?
The answer you get from the coaches is always the same. The programs are too demanding; the spins and the step sequences, with all the “features” required to get high levels, are especially exhausting. In order to gain points, the artistry has completely vanished. No time for the choreography.
We have heard this hundreds of times. It is useless to discuss it at length again.
What we cannot ignore, though, is that we are no longer seeing the skaters’ passion, the skaters’ joy during their performances; we are only seeing skaters suffering and struggling to get to the end of overly demanding programs. What a relief when the music stops!
Is this figure skating? In a program I want to see passion, I want to see the joy of the skater, his feeling for the music, his personality. A skater must be fascinating, captivating and appealing for his art. A real champion is beautiful to look at because he is elegant, because he is harmonious and expressive, intense and communicative.
If a program does not reach the heart of the spectators, in my opinion, it is not a good program. It may be technically well executed, and perhaps the fact that figure skating has been turned from a beautiful and artistic sport into mathematics is considered satisfactory by some people, but if the emotion it gives you is as intense as that provided by a robot, I am afraid something is wrong. Is this what the world is looking for?
I do not think so.