The results of the men's event at the French Grand Prix event were nothing less than surprising. And in the most positive way. All three medalists, outsiders at best, were deserving of their podium finishes.
Nobunari Oda set the arena on fire with his dynamic short program routine to “Totentanz.” He opened the routine with a soaring triple Axel followed by a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination and a triple flip. He earned a level four for two of his spins, but his combination spin was graded a level one. “I wasn’t as nervous as usual, because I felt that this ice was very good for me,” he said. Oda scored 79.20 points
He kept the momentum going in the free skate. His entertaining Charlie Chaplin routine was a perfect mix of artistry and technical ability. All of his jumping passes earned positive grades of execution from the judges. Oda scored 163.33 points for the free skate and his score of 242.53 points was good enough for gold. “It was a good performance tonight. I only didn’t do the quad (toeloop). This is the only thing that wasn’t good today,” Oda admitted. “I felt more nervous than yesterday, but I wanted to be relaxed.”
Tomáš Verner of the Czech Republic got a confidence boost when he skated into first place in the short program ahead of Oda and Adam Rippon from the U.S.
Verner executed a quadruple-triple toe loop combination and a solid triple Axel during his program to “Sirtaki” from “Zorba the Greek.” His two spins earned a level one but both his footwork sequences were graded a level three. Verner scored 81.00 points.
“This is my first competition of the season, and I never started my season with the Grand Prix before. I was a kind of nervous with all the stars on the list, but I focused on my own program,” Verner said.
Performing to “The Godfather” soundtrack, Verner nailed a spectacular quadruple-triple toeloop combination at the outset of his free skating performance and followed up with five more clean triples, including two Axels. The 2008 European Champion appeared to tire during the second half of his performance, doubling the Lutz and loop jumps. His flying combination spin was graded a level one. Verner scored 148.96 points for the free skate and his combined total of 229.96 points earned him the silver medal.
Skating to the music from “Jonathan Livingstone Seagull” for his short program, Rippon put himself into medal contention with a score of 75.82 points.
The 19-year-old experienced technical difficulties with both planned triple Axels in his free skate but went on to land a series of solid jumping passes. He earned level four’s for both spins in his program to “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra” by Samuel Barber. He scored 144.14 points for his free skate and claimed the bronze medal with a score of 219.96 points overall. It was his first podium finish at the senior level.
When Rippon’s marks were posted following his free skate the 19-year-old jumped up and down in the kiss and cry. His score for the free skate (144.14) was 11 points higher than that of Brian Joubert who earned 135.24 points for that portion of the event.
The two-time and reigning World Junior champion has started landing a triple Lutz with both arms held over his head. “It was just something that my coach Brian Orser and I came up with,” Rippon said. “It started out as a joke; if I could do a triple Lutz with one arm up, why couldn’t I do with two arms? I tried it with two arms and it was a disaster. I tried it one more time and it was a little bit better, and then I worked on it. It’s something I’m very proud of.”
Joubert, the 2008 World bronze medalist, sixth after the short, could do no better than fourth overall with 207.39 points. Yannick Ponsero from France finished fifth with 205.74 points.