Trophee Eric Bompard

Will there be an end to figure skating’s decline?

by Sonia Bianchetti Garbato

The ISU Grand Prix Trophee Eric Bompard, held in Paris on the 14th and 15th of November, was one of the worst figure skating events I can remember.

Except for the top three finishers in men and ladies, and not even those in pairs, the skating was just depressing, unwatchable according to some friends, in both the short and free programs. Very few programs were clean and a lot were marred with big falls.

No surprise, however. Only more and more depressing.  Flawless, or even relatively clean, is impossible nowadays.  The sport has turned into a combination of acrobatic movements more suitable to a circus than a skating arena.  The poor skaters are just rushing from one place to another, their main objective being to stay upright, while repeating the same few contortions required by the new judging system.

In all this mess, luckily, there were some bright spots that made my trip to Paris worthwhile.

Joannie Rochette, Canada, who placed first, skated a beautiful and well choreographed program, with elegance and flow.  All her body and arms movements are moderate to perfectly suit the music chosen, the Concierto de Aranjuez by J.Rodrigo, which she expresses with feeling and heart. This is a rare quality nowadays when most of the skaters, in all disciplines, just throw their arms up and down like windmills to get more points. It is a real joy watch her skate.

Mao Asada,Japan, did not skate at her best. She touched down in the triple Axel, doubled a planned triple Loop and fell down in the trlple Salchow. She has a marvelous straight line step sequence and excellent spins. Her program is beautiful and well choreographed to her music, the Masquerade Waltz by Khatchaturian, with the magic touch of Tatiana Tarasova.  She really is a great and talented skater.

Caroline Zhang, USA, skated very well, but not flawlessly.  Some of her jumps were considered not clean by the technical panel. Her spins are wonderful and the flexibility of her spine is just amazing.

Patrick Chan, Canada, won the men's event.  Although he made a few errors, he was just marvelous.  The way he moves his body and his arms is outstanding.  He has beautiful deep running edges in and out of all his jumps, which are technically of high quality. He really lives the music. Each movement has an exact meaning and perfectly expresses the character of the beautiful selection of music by Sergei Rachmaninov he has chosen. In my opinion Patrick Chan is a real natural talent with a bright future in front of him.

The silver medal went to Takahiko Kozuka, Japan.  Except for a fall in his opening quad toe-loop, he skated an excellent program filled with triple jumps and jump combinations, good spins and step sequences, with excellent technique and great speed.  He is a very young talented and promising skater, with consistency as well.

The third place went to Alban Preaubert, France.  He was the only skater to execute a quad toe-loop.  In my opinion, his skating in general and especially his choreography have much improved since last year.

Brian Joubert, France, placed only fourth. His skating was most disappointing, both in short and free , with many errors and a fall in a triple/triple jump combination. Definitely the Bompard Trophy is not a lucky event for him!

In the pairs, unfortunately, the skating was rather disappointing even among the top three.

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, Germany, did not skate as they can and usually do. She badly fell on the throw triple Flip and singled the throw triple Salchow.  They both looked rather nervous.

The second place went to Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov, Russia. They had many failures and she fell in the triple Salchow.  Their program, in my opinion, has nothing to do with the music chosen and it is difficult to understand what they want to express.  Not to speak of her costume which I would define as grotesque, to say the least.  Perhaps somebody should remind their coach, Oleg Vassiliev, who is also the appointed coach to the ISU Figure Skating Committee, of Rule 500 of the ISU Special Regulations which reads that "the clothing of the competitors, must be modest, dignified and appropriate for athletic competition - not garish or theatrical in design."

The third place went to the Canadian couple Megan Duhamel and Craig Buntin, who, in spite of a very bad accident, were brave enough to complete their free program, and skated well.  Their courage and determination deserves great respect and appreciation.

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