By Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(20 November 2017) The Men’s free program of the Grand Prix in Grenoble had a relatively low level, because the majority of the skaters made several serious mistakes. The spectators do not want to see many falls and more and more people discuss about either reducing the numbers of points for quads or reducing the allowed number of quads or sanctioning falls more severely.
Javier Fernandez from Spain won the overall event with 283.71 points but he was not good at all, and second in the free program. He began with a deeply and shakily landed quad toe-loop, followed by a combination of quad Salchow and only double toe-loop. Then he stepped out of the first triple Axel and fell on the second quad Salchow. He stepped out of the triple loop and fell again on the second triple Axel, which was under-rotated. In his last combination he stepped out of the triple Salchow after the triple flip and the half loop. A triple Lutz was his only really good jump. His spins and step sequences were as excellent as usual.
He skated to "Man of La Mancha“ and interpreted the music very well. Therefore he received components of 9.2. But at least his components for performance were much too high (8.93 on the average) because if you fall twice and step out three times the performance cannot be excellent.
He commented: "It was not quite the best free program, more than one big mistake. But I think it was still a better Grand Prix than my last one, which is an improvement. Still, there is a bigger improvement to do. We go back to training, work harder and try to do a better free program in the upcoming competitions. It was a long day for me. We trained early, then we had to wait many hours until the night. I started well into the program but I hurt my hip a little on the first Axel. When the program goes down, you start to get tired and when you get tired, you make more mistakes.”
Shoma Uno from Japan did not do much better and finished second with 273.32 points. He began his free program to "Nessun Dorma“ from Puccini‘s opera Turandot with a good quad loop and an excellent triple Axel. But then he overturned the triple Lutz, landed the quad flip on two feet and fell on the first quad toe-loop. The second quad toe loop was landed a bit shakily and he fell again on the triple flip in a sequence with triple Axel and half loop. His last jump element was a good combination of triple Salchow and only double toe-loop.
His steps and spins were excellent, but his components of 9.2 were too high, especially those for performance. "It was really tough for me, but compared to the short program I felt better,” he explained. “I guess I can motivate myself and practice more and more for the upcoming competitions. Since the Final is in my home town, a lot of people are expecting a lot from me, but my main goal is to do my own skating.”
Misha Ge from Uzbekistan, who trains sometimes in China and sometimes in the Los Angeles area, finished a surprising third place with 258.34 points. This was the first Grand Prix podium place in his last year of competing after many Grand Prix, although he has no quad in his arsenal, and the first Grand Prix podium for Uzbekistan since 2001 when Tatiana Malinina competed. He got the biggest applause of all skaters and would have merited to win because he performed a faultless and very devoted free program with the maximum allowed of eight triple jumps, but his programs are relatively slow and not very aggressive.
Originally he had planned to finish his career as a skater in April 2017. But many fans convinced him to compete one more season after he had won an Olympic spot for himself at the World Championship. He said that he had to cancel 58 shows after deciding to compete one more season. He is already very active as choreographer for other skaters, even for some in the Grand Prix. At Skate America during the week after the Grand Prix in France for example he will coach Sergei Voronov and Maxim Kovtun whose programs he had choreographed in the summer.
In his free program to the romantic music of "Meditation“ from the opera "Thais“ by Jules Massenet all triples including two Axels were good and his spins even excellent. His highlight was the choreographic step sequence at the end which got eight GOEs of +3. His components were around 8,7 and should have been higher, but maybe because of his lower speed the judges did not reward his style so much. He said, "Really, at my last Grand Prix to get a medal is unbelievable. The few weeks after the Cup of Russia were tough through training and documents. I guess most people know that I got my visa just a few hours before my flight, I am glad that through all those difficulties we were able to pull out two good skates and were able to get a personal best and improve in many small aspects.“
Alexander Samarin dropped from third to fourth place, earning overall 253.13 points. He skated with a bit more elegance than at Skate Canada and had quad Lutzes in both programs, but not perfectly clean. He fell on the quad toe-loop, but five triple jumps were good. Obviously he had pain in his right knee.
Alexander Bychenko from Israel finished fifth with 247.44 points. He landed two quad toe-loops, but later he doubled or singled three jumps because of lack of stamina. Moris Kvitelashvili from Georgia trains in Moscow, his jumps look effortless and he is sixth, winning 240.50 points. After a clean triple Axel he missed the quad Salchow, but could land afterwards a good combination of quad toe-loop and triple toe loop.
Max Aaron of Colorado Springs was not as strong as at the Cup of China two weeks before and landed on seventh position with 237.20 points. He began with a good combination of quad toe-loop and double toe-loop but doubled the Salchow afterwards which was planned quadruple. His second quad toe loop was under-rotated and shakily landed. The two triple Axels and three more triples were good. The second Colorado Springs skater Vincent Zhou ended up ninth with 222.21 points. His combination of quad Lutz and triple toe oop was great, but seconds later he fell on the quad flip. His quad Salchow was clean, but he popped the triple Lutz and the second toe loop and fell again on the second quad Lutz.
Olympic Bronze medalist Denis Ten from Kazakhstan was not in good shape, made many mistakes and finished eighth with 228.57 points. Kevin Aymoz from France had trained with John Zimmerman in Florida in September and October. He finished tenth with 220.43 points and made several smaller mistakes because he was very nervous at his first senior Grand Prix. The second French skater Romain Ponsart could not take profit from his training with Rafael Arutunian in California and still has weak nerves. He was 11th and last with 198.12 points.