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2016 Trophée de France

Paris, France

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany

French Grand Prix Returns to Paris

(11 November 2016)  The Trophée de France is the fourth of the six Grand Prix of this season.  For many years this competition had been held in the Palais Omnisport, a huge arena for multiple events (not only sports) in downtown Paris, in the part of the city called Bercy. But in the fall of 2014 and also 2015 the 30-year-old arena underwent a complete renovation and was closed.  Therefore the French federation decided to go to Bordeaux twice which is about 300 miles south of Paris.

Last year the competition had to be cancelled after the short programs because of the terror attacks in Paris on the evening of the short programs. The results of the short programs mainly counted as final results.

The French federation and the ISU would have liked to have  completed the event considering the attacks were 300 miles away, but the federal authorities in France cancelled almost all major sport events that weekend throughout France.  Since then, Bompard is no longer the title sponsor, and the competition has been renamed Trophée de France (Trophy of France).

One good development is that the Palais Omnisport is now newly remodeled, and the Trophy is back in Paris, which is certainly a more attractive city and easy to get to because of its international airport. The rink is now called AccorHotel Arena.

Another advantage of this venue is that the two official hotels are just next door and the rink is accessible in one or two minutes. So no skater, coach nor official has to use a lengthy bus transport to the rink.

Three of the four reigning world champions will compete in Paris

The ladies event will be very interesting because several top skaters will meet. The favorite certainly is the reigning world champion Evgenia Medvedeva from Russia who won Skate Canada two weeks ago easily and with a difference of 14 points to the other ladies. Up to now she has made very few mistakes and also excels by her style. A medal contender might be Californian Gracie Gold if she is in better shape than at Skate America three weeks ago. There she finished fifth and has only very small chances to reach the Grand Prix Final.

Another medal candidate certainly is former world champion Mao Asada although she also was not in top shape at Skate America and finished sixth there. The second Russian lady Maria Sotskova won the silver medal at the World Junior Championship seven months ago and was first at the Ondrej Nepela Memorial in early September. She competes at her first senior Grand Prix in Paris and also has chances to win a medal. The second Japanese lady Wakaba Higuchi was successful as well: She won the Lombardia Trophy in September. The third Japanese skater Yuka Nagai was a bit out of shape at Skate Canada (11th place), but may be better in Paris. Gabrielle Daleman from Toronto was fourth at Skate America three weeks ago and has high ambitions as well.

France sends two ladies: Laurine Lecavelier who recently won the Golden Bear in Zagreb and has a good and very feminine style, and Mae-Berenice Meite who trains in the Chicago area and won the Cup of Nice two weeks ago. So Yun Park from South Korea was eighth at Skate America, but can do better. The third Russian lady Alena Leonova, second in the world in 2012 but no longer in this good shape, finished fourth but was not very good at the Cup of Nice. Anastasia Galustyan from Armenia ended up ninth at the Cup of Russia last week. She was invited as an alternate for the injured Tyler Pierce and is more an outsider.

The men‘s field is very interesting as well. The reigning World Champion Javier Fernandez from Spain comes to France directly from Moscow where he won the Cup of Russia with an outstanding free program. He certainly is the clear favorite. The two Americans in Paris also have medal chances: Adam Rippon wants to get a ticket to the Final after being third at Skate America. Nathan Chen will give his senior Grand Prix Debut after winning the Finlandia Trophy where he even beat Patrick Chan (who does not compete in France this year).

Olympic Bronze medalist Denis Ten from Kazakhstan arrived, but it is not yet sure that he will compete because he had to withdraw from Skate America three weeks ago due to several injuries. If he is in good shape again, he certainly is a medal contender as well. Another men who might look to the podium is Chafik Besseghier from France who finished eighth in Russia last week. Misha Ge from Uzbekistan, who was sixth at Skate Canada where he got a standing ovation for his excellent free program, also cannot be excluded for a medal, nor Ivan Righini from Italy who competed in Plushenkos show in Estonia just before coming to Paris.

Jorik Hendricks from Belgium has no quad, but a good style. Artur Dmitriev Jr. from Russia did not perform well last week when he finished tenth at the Cup of Russia. The Australian Brendan Kerry, who was tenth at Skate America three weeks ago, comes as an alternate for Sota Yamamoto from Japan who is injured. The second French skaters Romain Ponsart was out of shape in Nice after a foot injury, therefore withdrew from the Grand Prix and was not replaced.

In the ice dance competition, the reigning World Champions Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron are the clear favorites. Their new programs will be a highlight of the Trophy. They compete internationally for the first time this season and only were at the national "Master‘s" competition in France four weeks ago. One of two hot  contenders for the other medals are Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue after being second at Skate America in October. The other ones are Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier from Canada won bronze at the Grand Prix in their country two weeks ago, and beat there for the first time the 2014 Italian world champions Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (who are not in Paris).

Elena Ilinykh, who skates with Ruslan Zhiganshin for Russia, collided with another skater in practice last week in Russia. She hurt her leg badly, but arrived in Paris in spite of her injury. Isabella Tobias & Ilia Tkachenko compete for Israel and would certainly like to have a better position at the French Trophy than at Skate America 2016 where they finished sixth. The second French couple Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac trains in the same school in Montreal as Papadakis/Cizeron and give their senior Grand Prix debut. The Ukrainian couple Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin was third at the Cup of Nice in October.

The third French couple Lorenza Alessandrini & Pierre Souquet are more or less outsiders, like the Czech couple Cortney Mansour & Michal Ceska. The Belorussians Viktoria Kavaliova & Yurii Bieliaiev came as alternates for the British team Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland who had to skip the whole first part of the season & Coomes broke her knee cap in June.

The pairs event is quite small because there are only six teams competing instead of the usual eight. Aliona Savchenko and her new French partner Bruno Massot from Germany are the favorites after winning the Cup of Russia last week with stylish programs which contained some small ice dance elements. Massot competes in France for the first time after being released for Germany. But they have to face the best healthy Russian pair Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov who were third at Skate America in October. The second Russian pair of Natalia Zabijako & Alexander Enbert are also medal contenders after winning silver at the Cup of Russia last week.

Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres from France also hope for a medal after being fourth at Skate America. Since this July, they have been training in Florida and flew back to Paris on Sunday night, but Cipres` suitcase with his skates arrived three days later. The U.S team of Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran was seventh at Skate America, but can be sure to get a better position this time. The Austrian pair Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer have some difficult elements, but are no medal contenders. The second French team Lola Esbrat & Andrei Novoselov withdrew because Novoselov has been injured for a long time. The third French pair Camille Mendoza & Pavel Kovalev was in bad shape at two competitions before and therefore does not compete in Paris. Both teams were not replaced.

Ladies Event - The ladies competition at the ISU Grand Prix Trophée de France in Paris had a good level in spite of two big names with bad performances. Reigning World Champion Evgenia Medvedeva from Russia confirmed her favorite role and won the competition with a difference of 21 points to the rest of the field, and 221.54 overall points. All of her seven elements in the short program were excellent.

Men's Event - The men’s competition was the greatest highlight of the ISU Grand Prix in Paris, which was called "Trophée de France“ (French Trophy) this year. Especially in the free program no less than nine of the eleven skaters gave a really good performance or even came near their best. This is not the case at every Grand Prix. Sometimes many men falter because the risks they take are mentally too big for them.

Pairs Event - The pairs competition was the weakest of the four categories at the Trophée de France in Paris, by quantity as well as by quality. Only six pairs competed because the second and third French couples had withdrawn and no alternates were nominated. The remaining six teams made relatively many mistakes, especially in the free program. On the other hand they took more risks, including triple throw Axels and quad elements.

Dance Event - The ice dance competition at the French Trophy in Paris had a good, but no outstanding level. Like at the two North American Grand Prix, there was much applause for all teams in the short dance because Blues, Swing, Disco and Hip Hop are attractive rhythms.  Outstanding were only the big favorites, two-time World Champions and winners Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron from France who opened their international season in Paris.