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Patrick Chan Mines Parisian Gold

The fourth event of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series, Trophée Eric Bompard, produced more exciting surprises on the heels of the first two Grand Prix competitions, Skate America and Skate Canada.

Canada's Patrick Chan and rising U.S. stars Ashley Wagner, Merryl Davis and Charlie White continued the trend of upsetting the veterans in their respective fields to claim a podium finish.

Chan pulled off the biggest upset of the competition, skating to gold in the men's event. Wagner skated into an unexpected third place in the ladies competition and came within .08 of out-skating her teammate Kimmie Meissner for the silver medal. Davis and White claimed bronze in the ice dance event.

Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang narrowly defeated countrymen Qing Pang and Jian Tong in the pairs event and Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France danced to their first Grand Prix title before a hometown crowd.

THE MEN

With Brian Joubert out of the competition suffering from the flu, many expected Tomáš Verner from the Czech Republic to skate to gold. But in yet another exciting turn of events, it was the young Canadian, Chan, who skated into the limelight.

Chan’s short program to Skating to “Exile to Snowy West” and “In the Bamboo Forest” earned a new seasonal best score of 70.89 points but left him in third place behind France’s Alban Préaubert and Kevin van der Perren from Belgium.

But in the long program Chan, 16, turned the tables on his seasoned senior competitors, claiming gold and leaving Préaubert and van der Perren in his wake.

“Coming to Trophée Bompard, I wasn’t really expecting to make the Final or even win the competition,” Chan said. “I was really grateful to be second in the short. Coming into the long, I was pushing the envelope and trying to win. I just didn’t want go any lower than second."

The Toronto native who trains with legendary coaches Don Laws in Florida and Ellen Burka at the Granite Club in Toronto, opened his “Four Seasons” routine with a solid triple Axel and went on to land a series of jumping passes. But he lost his footing as he entered his final spin and went toppling to the ice. Still, Chan earned 144.05 points and moved into first with 214.94 points overall.

When asked what caused the spill on the final spin Chan said he was mystified by the fall. “I really can’t explain what happened, technically. I just know that going into it I was fighting to stay upright,” he said. “I was hoping not to fall, but unfortunately it happened. I landed the last triple flip at the end of the program, so that maybe overjoyed me a little, because it was the closest thing [I have done] to a clean program this season.”

Chan claimed the bronze at Skate America and his win in Paris guaranteed him a spot at the Grand Prix Final in December.

Sergei Voronov from Russia was lying in fourth place after the short. But he too came alive in the long, delivering a strong performance to Tango selections from the music of Astor Piazzolla. Voronov earned second place marks across the board. The young Russian’s victory in Paris was even more surprising given that he is suffering from an ankle injury and is currently unable to practice the Lutz or flip jumps. The 2007 World Junior bronze medalist earned 140.21 points, more than 20 points over his previous personal best and a total score of 208.91 points.

Préaubert had to settle for bronze with a score of 207.10 and van der Perren fell to fourth.

THE WOMEN

It was not a good day for Meissner, the 2006 World champion. Asada continued her winning ways, out-skating the American champion by 21 points overall. Wagner slid into second place in the free program behind Asada and ahead of Meissner.

Asada attempted a triple Axel as the first element in her program but fell and the jump was downgraded. The World silver medalist earned a 122.90 points for the free skate and 179.80 points overall.

Meissner opened her routine to “Nessun Dorma” with a triple flip-triple toe combination, but the second jump was cheated and downgraded. Likewise, her triple Salchow was downgraded, she fell on a loop attempt and popped her second Lutz. Meissner received 102.76 points and was ranked third in the free skating portion. She held on to second place with 158.74 points. Meissner was visibly upset in the kiss and cry as she waited for her marks. Relief flooded the 18-year-old’s face when her score was announced.

Wagner, 16, moved up from fifth place after the short to claim the bronze, her first medal on the senior Grand Prix circuit. At the end of her performance, Wagner was in disbelief, overwhelmed by the performance she had just given. The reigning Junior World bronze medalist scored 108.15 points, a new personal best. She earned a total score of 158.63 points.

Swiss miss Sarah Meier skated into fourth with 147.15 points.

PAIRS EVENT

The pairs event turned into a competition for gold between the two Chinese teams, Zhang and Zhang and Pang and Tong. Zhang and Zhang skated into the lead in the short program with their teammates hot on their heels and Russia’s Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov in third.

The free skate showcased high level pairs competition but Zhang and Zhang held on to the lead and captured the gold medal. The 2006 Olympic silver medalists were awarded 125.36 points, slightly improving on their previous personal best and an accumulated total of 196.96 points. “We are quite pleased with this performance, but we didn’t have enough time for our spin and the death spiral, so we didn’t achieve a high level on these elements,” Hao Zhang said. “But it was better than last year.”

Pang and Tong put down a beautiful performance but lost points when their footwork and death spiral were graded a level one. The team scored 122.61 points, a new seasonal best and claimed the silver with 186.93 points.

Mukhortova and Trankov remained in third earning their first medal on the Grand Prix series.

U.S. competitors Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent executed a rare quadruple throw Salchow in their program and skated into fourth place with 165.76 points.

ICE DANCE

French champions Delobel and Schoenfelder captured the lead in the compulsory and original dance segments and claimed gold for the first time at a Grand Prix event. Russia’s Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski earned the silver medal, with Davis and White in third.

Delobel and Schoenfelder ranked second in the free dance behind their Russian rivals but held on to first place with a total of 194.41 points “This is our very first victory in the Grand Prix, and we’ve waited a long time for it,” Schoenfelder said. “We are disappointed with our performance today. It wasn’t perfect technically. I missed a twizzle, and the program lacked flow."

Khokhlova and Novitski scored 97.97 points for their free dance, improving on their previous personal best by six points. They won the Free Dance portion and racked up a total score of 191.01 points.

Davis and White, the 2006 World Junior bronze medalists earned 89.22 points for their romantic free program, a new seasonal best, and an overall score of 176.21 points to take the bronze.

The young Italian team of Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte placed fourth with 168.75 points.


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