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2012 Eric Bompard Preview

by Alexandra Stevenson

German Pair Team Out for Eric Bompard.  Will not get Bye to Final.

Ingo Steuer, the famed German pairs coach, is not happy. He is still getting flack for being a teenaged spy for the notorious Stasi secret police in the 1980s before East and West Germany got back together. And, despite his now acknowledged genius in creating the German four-time world champions, Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy, who took the top spot on the podium in 2008, 2009, 2011 & 2012 but not 2010), he is getting no respect from the ISU.

Savchenko & Szolkowy won the Canadian Grand Prix recently in Windsor, Ontario, despite her bad cold and fever. Steuer says she has been off the ice since then and is not in top shape to compete in Paris. He would like a bye to the Grand Prix Final, but this is NOT being granted.

The Chemnitz based Steuer (a town which was formerly called Karl Max Stadt), is still not allowed access to government funding because of his connection with the Stasi, even though his assignment, back when Germany was split in two, concerned spying on Katarina Witt, and reporting on the beautiful face of communism's chocolate binges and romantic encounters en route to winning 1984 & 1988 Olympic gold.

Steuer also strongly criticized the recent high marks of his pupils' main rivals, Russians, Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov, who now lie at the top of the Grand Prix standings after winning in Skate America and again took gold last week in the Cup of Russia in Moscow. Steuer claims the judges' awards should not have been that high.

(15 November 2012) Paris, France

After pulling out following a disastrous Short Program, set to music by Lady Gaga, in last week’s Moscow Grand Prix, Johnny Weir, 28, has withdrawn from the Trophee Eric Bompard.  On Friday, this, the fifth of the six Grand Prix events, gets underway in the grass-covered pyramid which is the Palais OmniSport in the Bercy district in Paris.  It’s on the north bank of the Seine River close to the Gare de Lyon train station and Notre Dame. The Short Programs in all four disciplines take place on Friday, starting with the Men's contest. The free skating segments are all on Saturday with a televised Grand exhibition on Sunday afternoon.

Men

Johnny Weir drops out of his second Grand Prix

Weir was not replaced, leaving only nine entrants for the Men's division. A former world bronze medalist (2008) and three-time U.S. champion (2004-6), Weir returned to competition this season, taking fourth place in the Finlandia Trophy, his first eligible competition since the Vancouver Olympic Games. This contest would have been the 17th Grand Prix event of his career. He won gold at Trophee Bompard in 2004.

Weir explained, “About a month ago, I had a terrible fall in practice and re-injured an anterior cruciate ligament. This is a terrible setback and obviously I’m not happy to pull out but these things happen.” 

That puts pressure on Jeremy Abbott, 27, the U.S. Champion for three of the past four years, who finished only fifth in Skate Canada, to uphold American hopes. This is his 12th Grand Prix – he has competed in two every year since his debut in 2007 but he has never been entered in the French one. His routine, "Spy" by Nathan Lanier, is extremely entertaining.

Of course, it is always fascinating to see Brian Joubert operate in his home country, especially against his teammate, Florent Amodio. The now 26-year old Joubert, (birthday September 20), keeps plodding along, sometimes brilliant, sometimes bland, and always moodily sexy!

It’s been five-and-a half years since he became the first French Men's World Figure Skating Champion in 42 years.  In March, he earned fourth place in Worlds in Nice with by far his best performance for a long time. His original plans were to quit at that point, but he was persuaded to stay in the fray. But then, in the recent Cup of China, he withdrew after placing seventh in the Short Program due to stomach pains.

There has been some change in his training this season. He now travels to Paris and trains there with Annick Dumont. But every weekend, he takes the train back home to Poitiers because, he says, he misses his mother’s cooking so much.

Joubert made his Grand Prix debut in Skate America in 2001 finishing ninth but he won that title the following year. Although he did the Grand Prix circuit every year through 2010, and has won seven golds, he has only won once in his home country’s contest – that was in 2006.  This season’s Short Program is set to "Genesis" by Justice and "Aerodynamic" by Daft Punk.

Nan Song’s physical condition is not fully known. In Shanghai, in his country’s Grand Prix this season, Song was floored – or should we say iced – in a head on collision with American Adam Rippon. Both were going forward at speed. Song sustained a concussion and lost all memory of the incident. He spent the night in hospital, but has gamely turned up in Paris just ten days later.

Tomas Verner, from the Czech Republic, who was second in this event in 2009, started this season in poor form and placed only eighth in Skate America. Takahito Mura, from Japan, Jorik Hendrickx of Belgium and Chafik Besseghier from France are also in the field.

As Pj Kwong wrote in her blog about her Men's prediction for this event, “It’s kind of like looking in the fridge at leftovers and putting them all together for dinner. You just don’t know whether it’s going to be good or not. Fingers crossed that the men in this event will make it special.”

Ladies

Pressure builds on Wagner

With the new U.S. Champion, Ashley Wagner, doing so well by winning the recent Hilton HHonors Skate America in Kent, WA, pressure is building on her to repeat. This is her 12th Grand Prix. She won bronze here in Paris in 2007, and also gained third place in three other Grand Prix events (in Japan, Russia and Canada). But now, nothing but first will be good enough for the 21-year-old, who was fourth in the World Championship earlier this year in only her second time in that event. Her Short Program is set to music from "The Red Violin" by John Corrigliano.

Teammate Christine Gao, who earned silver in Kent, is an 18-year-old from Cinncinnati, who is now attending Harvard University. She has been the fifth ranked American for the past three years, and is hoping this is her breakout year not only intellectually but also in skating. She will be skating her Short Program to "Close Without Touching" by David Arkenstone.

There are three Russians intent on foiling that plan, Julia Lipnitskaia, who was second in the Cup of China, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Polina Korobyknikova. Also in the field are Joshi Helgesson of Sweden, the host country’s Mae Berenice Meite, and three replacements, Elena Gelbova from Estonia, Lena Marrocco from France, and Jenna McCorkell, who has won a record number of British championships.

Ice Dance

There will be a riot here if Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat don’t win. A freak fall in which he pulled her onto the ice during the 2011 World Championships in 2011 in Moscow resulted in their being edged out of the bronze by the U.S.’s Maia & Alex Shibutani.  But they earned the bronze in March in Nice and are hoping to consolidate this standing throughout this season.

Their main adversaries are Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte, of Italy, whose Carmen routine in Skate Canada was overshadowed by Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir’s version of this same music. The bronze medalists in Windsor, Ontario, Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko, are also competing here. Also in the mix are their Russian teammates, Ekaterina Pushkash & Jonathan Guerreiro.

Representing the U.S. are Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, who are ranked third nationally and were 10th in the World Championship in March in their first season together. They won bronze in this season’s Finlandia Trophy but though they presented a delightful Short Dance to music from the movie, "Titanic," they had a slight setback finishing fifth in the recent Skate Canada Grand Prix.

Also in the field are Canadians, Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier, who finished just above Hubbell & Donohue in Skate Canada. Also in the field are Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov, a Russian born couple who represent Azerbaijan and were sixth in Skate Canada; and the home country’s Pernelle Carron & Lloyd Jones, who had a disappointing showing in Skate Canada.

PAIRS

With the German World Champions out because of her illness, Meghan Duhamel, 26, & Eric Radford, 27, the current Canadian Champions, who have been 7th & 5th in the past two World Championships are favored.  Duhamel, who is 26, revealed on Wednesday, that they had already been in Paris for a couple of days getting acclimatized and practicing on the venue’s secondary “Sonja Henie rink”.

“There are a surprising number of competitors here,” she said, while the team’s physical therapist protectively standing closely by. Duhamel & Radford finished second to the now side-lined Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy in the recent Skate Canada Grand Prix. They will be performing their Short Program to music from the opera "La Boheme." They train with Richard Gauthier in Montreal.

Their main opposition is expected to emanate from the Russians, Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov and Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov, who were second and third behind the Chinese Qing Pang & Jian Tong in the recent Grand Prix in Shanghai.

Also in the field are Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek of Italy, who won bronze in Skate Canada, and the Chinese pair of Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang, who were fifth in Cup of China. There are two French pairs, Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres and Daria Popova & Bruno Massot. James & Cipres gave the best performance of their short career together in Skate America where they finished fourth.

They teamed up in September 2010.  Although she had substantial pairs experience, he was completely new to the discipline. “It was certainly a challenge for him to have to learn death spirals, lifts and pair spins! The man usually takes charge in a pair team, mainly because they are generally the older half. I’m four years older than Morgan so it’s been a very strange road and I have to now pull back, which also isn’t easy. It can be frustrating but we’re both enjoying the process.”

She recently turned 25, while Cipres is 21. She was born in Canada, but her father is from Bermuda and, after being raised in the United States, she was able to get a British passport and became that country’s Ladies Champion when Jenna McCorkell was unable to compete. However, she decided pair skating was what she wanted to do and went off to France to pursue her previous partner.

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