Thrills and Spills in Paris

Susan D. Russell
Pairs Medal Ceremony

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres kicked off this afternoon’s pairs event with a blast, much to the pleasure of the supporting fans who managed to at least fill some parts of this huge arena.

We had two “Poetas” back to back today, a piece by Vincente Amigo which, to me, will always be a little bit like Ravel’s “Bolero”, in that it is so strongly associated with one particular masterpiece it’s hard to detach the music from that skater, i.e., Stéphane Lambiel.

I would not have wanted to be in Meagan Duhamel’s skating boots today, as the pressure she put on herself during yesterday’s press conference was immense. “I’m so pissed off with myself today that it’s going to help me tomorrow to perform my best,” she said after the short. So all eyes were on Duhamel as the pair prepared to execute side-by-side triple Lutz jumps – which were indeed landed cleanly by both.

The Canadians’ program stood out with its many intricate transitions and featured a three-jump combo in the second half. It had great flow, which was not even interrupted by Duhamel’s fall on the throw triple Lutz.

They deservedly won the free skate, finished second overall, and have already set steep goals for the next Grand Prix season. “Last year we finished third and third, this year we finished second and second, so next year we want to finish first and first,” said Radford, which brought laughs all round at the press conference.

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov laid down a captivating free skate and while their elements weren’t flawless, the program worked much better for me than the short. Their mission to reach the Grand Prix final was accomplished, which Kavaguti pointed out at the press conference.

The first thing that caught my attention during the men’s event was Chafik Besseghier’s costume, which later proved to go perfectly with his urban-inspired program.

And it looked like the men put yesterday’s setbacks well and truly behind them, as we had a few great performances back to back.

Florent Amodio was visibly nervous as he got ready to take the ice - trademark headphones on to block out the noise in the arena.

His program went from strength to strength, rousing the crowd who showed amazing support.

At times, it was just as riveting to watch his coach Nikolai Morozov by the boards, as he was feeling each of his student’s moves. Amodio finished his skate with a fantastic step sequence and a fist pump. Boy, does he know how to sell a program! He climbed from 7th to claim the bronze medal, and deservedly so.

If anyone knows to pick an epic film score for his music, it’s Brian Joubert. He was itching to debut his free program in front of an international audience, but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough to keep him in third place. This did not stop the crowd from giving him a standing ovation, led by his mother as shown on the overhead screen in the arena.

Jeremy Abbott dropped to second following his free performance, making a sort of “Comme çi, comme ça” move with his hands. He later confirmed during the press conference that while there were errors, he was just happy to be in one piece. “A lot of pressure is put on us skaters to be perfect and consistent all the time, but we’re people and we can’t always be perfect,” he said. “People seem to want to write us off far too quickly. One competition doesn’t mean you’re done.”

It seems no one was more surprised by Takahito Mura’s winning free skate than the Japanese man himself. He bowed to the audience in disbelief as he skated away with the gold.

Today wasn’t the best day for the ladies. At this stage I was also getting distracted with several spectators searching for their seats mid-program. A much better example was set by none other than Gwendal Peizerat who had come to watch the event and patiently waited for one program to finish before he made his way to his seat.

After watching the ladies practice this morning and Ashley Wagner’s run-through, I had no doubt that the American would have a successful skate tonight.

Wagner looked very consistent and the choreography of her strong free really plays to her strengths. She performed a winning program and with two Grand Prix wins under her belt, secured her ticket to the final in Sochi. “A great accomplishment,” she later said during the press conference.

In the concluding event of Trophée Eric Bompard, the free dance, the placements remained unchanged. Luca LaNotte had a freak fall during the twizzles, but the Italians’ energetic interpretation of “Carmen” earned them enough points to keep them ahead of Russia’s Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilja Tkachenko.

Cappellini was very supportive of her partner, which is always nice to see. When asked during the press conference what she thought when her partner fell, she said: “I was concentrating on my own twizzles but then I heard a noise,” to which LaNotte replied: “That was my knee.” Of course, this sparked laughter among the journalists.

“I looked at Luca during the program to let him know that I wasn’t mad,” Cappellini added. Both said they are very excited to go to the Grand Prix Final and skate in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games venue.

Tonight’s grand finale came via Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat, who rocked the Bercy arena with their “Rolling Stones” program, a perfect ending to the fifth Grand Prix of this season.

I remember seeing a whole section of fans dressed as mummies at Worlds in Nice, in line with the French couple’s program. Well, here I spotted a whole row of fans in Rolling Stones t-shirts.

And on that note, I am signing off from Paris. Au revoir, and see you next time…Nadin