by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(7 November 2022) The Men’s competition in the French city of Angers in Western France had a much better level than at Skate Canada. To the delight of the more than 3,000 French spectators, Adam Siao Him Fa from France, whose parents had immigrated from the Island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean before his birth, won the event with 268.98 points. He had been 14th at the Olympic Games earlier this year and 8th at Worlds. This summer he has changed coaches and now trains with Cedric Tour and Rodolphe Marechal in Nice on the Mediterranean Sea in South France, site of two World Championships. In the short program to the music “Rain, In Your Black Eyes” by Italian composer Ezio Bosso, his combination was only double toe loop and triple toe loop instead of a quad toe loop as first jump and the triple Axel had almost no flow. But then the quad Salchow and two of the three spins were excellent. His step sequence which was choreographed by French coach Benoit Richaud, was stellar and got four GOEs of +5 among the nine judges. He stated, “I am pretty happy about my performance. It was not perfect at the beginning, but I was able to focus for the next jumps and elements after the error on the toe loop. After the mistakes I knew that the program was not done yet I had to continue to skate.”
The 21-year-old athlete opened the free program to several music pieces of French composer “Woodkid” with a triple Lutz which is planned quadruple later in the season, followed by a combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop, a triple Axel, a quad Salchow and a combination of quad toe loop, Euler and triple Salchow, everything in very good quality. He landed three more triples, had excellent spins and outstanding step sequences and his components were around 8.6. The crowd celebrated him and many people stayed for the victory ceremony. It is the first men’s victory at a French Grand Prix since 2006 when Brian Joubert won. He commented, “I am very proud of myself today. I felt really calm and relaxed during the program. The audience helped me a lot, they were really supportive, and it was motivating. I can see with my team we did a good job and I think I have to continue in this way. I can see I have my place with the best skaters in the world.”
The two Japanese skaters gave very good performances as well and merited their medals. Sota Yamamoto (22) won the short program with an impressive combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, a shaky quad Salchow which got a q and a clean triple Axel. He said, “During my warmup I knew I felt great, but I could do better. For the performance I was able to do that fine-tuning and basically I was just doing it like in practice in Japan.” But in the free program to Rakhmaninov’s famous Second Piano Concerto, he fell on the quad Salchow and popped the triple Axel. These two mistakes cost him so many points that he dropped to second place with 257.90 points in spite of two very good quad toe loops and five triple jumps. He explained, “In my condition I am happy to be second today. I know there is a lot of room for improvement and I can go higher.”
Kazuki Tomono (24) won the bronze medal with 248.77 points. In an entertaining short program to “Happy Jazz”, he stepped out of the quad toe loop, but his combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop was good and the triple Axel even outstanding. He said, “Today I was in very good condition. I was actually over-rotating my quad toe a bit in the warmup - that is what happened in Short Program. I usually made a mistake on my Salchow after an error (on the toe), but I trained in Japan a lot to not let that happen.” In the free program to "Die Fledermaus“ (the bat) by Johann Strauss, his combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop was good, but his quad Salchow, another quad toe loop, a triple loop and two more triples all were a bit shaky. His step sequences, however, were outstanding and had mainly GOEs of +4. He admitted, “There are some regrets to my performance. Since last season, whenever there is a medal at stake it is difficult for me going into the Free Skating. I need to go back to training and overcome this. The audience was so warm and supportive, I am really grateful for this.”
Sihyeong Lee from South Korea finished on fourth place, earning 242.62 points. In the short to “Feeling Good” by Michael Buble, he under-rotated the 4T and fell, but his triple Axel and his combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop were impressive, all jumps with two arms above his head. With the second-best free program to the soundtrack of “Cyrano de Bergerac”, he moved up from seventh to fourth place. One quad toe loop and seven trip jumps were at least good, only the first triple Axel had a q. Spins and steps were impressive as well. Nika Egadze from Georgia came as an alternate for the Czech skater Georgii Reshtenko. He trains in Moscow and was coached by Sergei Dudakov from the Tutberidze team who still has a valid visa for the European Union. Egadze is fifth with 233.40 points. His combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop in the short was very good, his quad toe loop as well, but he landed the Axel on two feet and only double. Benjamin Clementine sings about smiling in Egadze’s short program music “I Won’t Complain”, but Egadze never smiles. He opened his free program with two quads, but later fell twice. He said he had heard his coach screaming “Stand”, but could not hold his balance.
Luc Economides from France placed sixth with 229.64 points in his very first senior Grand Prix. He trains in Florent Amodio’s school in the French Alps. This school has a new coach, Ivan Righini, a former skater with Russian and Italian parents, had worked in Russia and left this country quickly towards France after there was a risk that he might be drafted in the Russian army. Economides (23) had 22 more points than his personal best up to now was. He has no quad but delivered two good programs with all possible triple jumps, including two Axels and no big mistakes – a reason for his coaches to nonstop smiling in the kiss-and-cry corner. He said, “When I finished I heard my coach cheering, that was a great feeling. Of course I dream of going to competitions like Euros and Worlds.” Two years ago, when Covid 19 was heavy in France, only five men were allowed to perform at French Nationals. He was not, which made him really upset. After the championships he asked Amodio to film his free program and put it online. It came out that this program was much better than the program some of the five skaters who were allowed to compete.
Lukas Britschgi from Switzerland finished on seventh position with 222.86 points and performed his fourth competition in five weeks in Angers, this time as an alternate for Mikhail Shaidorov from Kazakhstan. During his journey to Skate Canada the week before, his plane landed in Montreal before continuing to Toronto and Mississauga. This time he came from his training site in Germany by train, but a train being late he missed a connection. He also missed the quad toe loop in his short program and his combination was only triple Lutz and double toe loop, but the triple Axel was excellent. In his free program, he had one good and one shaky quad toe loop, later four good triples and one faulty triple loop.
Ivan Shmuratko from Kiev in the Ukraine placed eighth, earning 220.08 points and had trained during the summer first in France, then in Germany, then in Italy and was now back in France where Laurent Depouilly coached him in Angers. His triple Axel and his triple flip in the short were good, but in the combination he stepped out of and touched down on the triple toe loop after the triple Lutz. In the free program, his quad Salchow was downgraded, but six triple jumps were good, including two triple Axels.
Mihhail Selevko from Estonia is ninth with 212.92 points. In his short he was fifth after performing a good combination of quad Axel and triple toe loop and an impressive quad Salchow, but then he popped the Axel and one spin was shaky. After a very good combination of triple flip and triple toe loop in the free program, his quad toe loop was a bit shaky, then he fell on the quad Salchow, doubled the second Salchow which was planned quadruple, singled another Salchow which was planned triple and doubled a loop. Wesley Chiu from Vancouver in Canada is tenth with 209.95 points. Skating to “Starry, Starry Night” in the short, he went down on the quad Lutz and popped the flip, but his triple Axel was relatively clean. In the free, he stepped out of the triple toe loop in the combination with the quad toe loop, fell on the second quad toe loop and had three clean and three soso triple jumps.
Landry le May from Grenoble in France was alternate for Kevin Aymoz who had injured himself at his knee during the Masters competition in early October and has not been fit again. In his very first Grand Prix at the age of 23, le May ended up 11th with 203.39 points. He fell on the quad Lutz, popped the flip, but had a good triple Axel in the short. In the free, he was less nervous, performed a good quad toe loop, two triple Axels and five more good triples, beat two other skaters, but could not move up from last place. Sena Miyake from Japan was invited instead of his countryman and World Silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama who has suffered from a stress fracture since the summer. Miyake performed a good quad Salchow in his short, but popped the Axel, had 69.27 points in the short and withdrew before the free program due to illness.