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2021 Internationaux de France: Men

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany





(26 November 2021)  From week to week, the level of the men’s competitions at the Grand Prix has gotten a bit better. In Grenoble it was relatively good.

After winning in Turin, Yuma Kagiyama from Japan, world silver medalist in 2021, also took the gold medal in Grenoble, this time with 286.41 points. Coached by his father who had been an Olympic single skater in 1992 and 1994, the son began the short program to “When You Are Smiling“ by Michael Buble with a very good combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop, followed by an outstanding quad toe loop and a step-out on the triple Axel. The three spins and the step sequence were stellar and the components around 9.0. Therefore he had 100.64 points in the short. “My short program hasn’t been going so well in my previous competitions,” he commented. “After my practice and six-minute warm-up I gained confidence that I might do well today. There are some things I regret, but even with mistakes I got 100 points and I think that shows my growth.”

In the free to music from the soundtrack of “Gladiator”, Kagiyama performed an excellent quad Salchow, a really outstanding combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop and later a so-so second quad toe loop plus five more triple jumps, but he singled the second Axel. The components were around 9.0 again. He explained, “I am really happy to win the second gold in my first Grand Prix season. The Grand Prix Final was part of my goals for this season and since it takes place in Japan, I really wanted to take part there.”

Shun Sato, also from Japan, won the silver medal with 264.99 points. His planned quad Lutz in the short program to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons“ turned into a triple one with an edge warning. His combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop was very good, the triple Axel and the other elements as well. His components had an average of 7.9. Using the musical “The Phantom of the Opera,“ he opened his free program with an outstanding quad Lutz which got three GOEs of +4 and two quad toe loops which were not ideal, but landed on one foot. Two triple Axels were O.K. and helped him to move up from fourth to second place. The 17-year-old skater commented, “This is my first Grand Prix season. I am really happy to be on the podium for the first time but I need to catch up to Yuma so I will work hard.” At Skate America he had been fourth, therefore it is not probable that he will reach the Grand Prix Final.

U.S. skater Jason Brown, who trains in Toronto with Tracy Wilson and Brian Orser, took the bronze medal, winning 264.20 points. In his short program to “Sinnerman“ by Nina Simone, he performed an outstanding triple flip, followed by a touch-down on the triple Axel, but a very good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. His first spin was a bit wobbly, but the two others were excellent. He even got six GOEs of +5 for his stellar step sequence. He had the highest components of the field with around 9.3. He explained, “There were things I loved about this program, I loved the fight. There were a few little errors that I am not so pleased with, but tomorrow is another day.”

The first element in his emotional free program to the soundtrack of “Schindler’s List” was a quad Salchow, which is very rare for him. He did not fall, but landed it on two feet a bit. Later he produced six triples, four of them clean, but popped the Salchow iand doubled the loop. The spins were outstanding again, his Choreogrsphic step sequence was awarded with GOEs of +5 by all nine judges, which is extremely rare. He said, “This is my eighth or ninth Grand Prix season and I feel so lucky to still be up here. My second half (of my program) was a bit rough but I am proud of the first half.” With the second place in Canada and the third in Grenoble he has to wait until the result of the Cup of Russia next weekend to learn if he has qualified for the Final.

Deniss Vasiljevs from Latvia placed fourth with 253.56 points. The student of Swiss World Champion Stephane Lambiel even placed second in a clean short program without quads, but four excellent triple jumps, very good spins and an outstanding step sequence. He performed to “Sarakiz: II. Romanza” by Karl Jenkins and to “The Battle Drums” by Joe Hisaichi and had components with an average of 8.6. He said, “It is exciting to skate for an audience, Developing a character in skating is like a bottle of wine – it needs time to get that taste.” In the beginning of the free program to “Romeo and Juliet“ by Sergei Prokofiev, he tried a quad Salchow which was landed forward and downgraded. Seven triple jumps were at least good, but the second Axel under-rotated, spins and steps outstanding.

Dmitri Aliev, European Champion in 2020, ended in fifth position with 253.56 points. In his short program to the symbolic music “Pilgrims on a Long Journey“ by Canadian songwriter Coeur de Pirate, he performed a good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, an excellent triple Lutz, but only a double Axel. Spins, steps and style were very good. His free program to “And the Waltz Goes On“ performed by Andrej Rieu, had a good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop and six more triple jumps, but he stepped out of the second triple Axel.

Keegan Messing from Canada, a former U.S. skater who lives in Anchorage, Alaska, sits sixth with 253.06 points. In the short, he stepped out of the quad toe loop, but the triple Axel was excellent, the combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop so-so. In the free the first quad toe loop was landed on two feet, the second O.K. and he added four clean triples and two shaky ones. His spread eagle in the Choreographic steps was outstanding. In the Kiss and Cry corner he showed a cell phone photo of his baby boy into the TV camera.

Andrei Mozelev from Russia had only the ninth best short after falling twice, but the second best free program with three good quads and is seventh with 248.54 points. Adam Siao Him Fa from France sits eighth with 243.29 points after a very good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, but a fall on the triple Axel in the short program. His first element in the free was an outstanding quad toe loop, but later he made several mistakes.

Kevin Aymoz, normally the best French skater at the moment, finished only ninth with 228.08 points. After a bad short program to “A Question of You“ by Prince with a popped toe loop and a hard fall on the downgraded quad Salchow, his free program had a good quad toe loop and six triples. His style is outstanding. Artur Danielian from Russia is tenth with 221.50 points. He is still not in the shape of 2019. Romain Ponsart from France placed eleventh, earning 212.27 points. No jump in the short was correct, but in the free, the two quad toe loops and some triples were O.K. Gabriele Frangipani from Italy ended up twelth with 184.27 points after making many mistakes.