Alena Kostornaia

Alena Kostornaia

The third event of the 2019-2020 Grand Prix Series, Internationaux de France, starring 59 skaters and/or teams from 13 ISU member nations, opened in Grenoble on Friday with the short programs in all four disciplines.

In her senior Grand Prix debut, Russia’s Alena Kostornaia claimed top spot in the ladies competition, edging out her teammate Alina Zagitova by a 2.31-point margin. Mariah Bell of the U.S. sits in third.

Kostornaia, the 2018 Junior Grand Prix Final champion, opened her short program set to “Lullaby” and “November” by Max Richter with an under-rotated triple Axel (the only lady in the field to attempt one), followed by a triple Lutz and a triple flip-triple toe loop combination. She earned 76.55 points for her efforts. “I am pleased that I was able to show my maximum, but obviously there are things that can be fixed. Overall it was a good start for my senior competitions,” said the 16-year-old.




Zagitova, 17, put out a solid showing of her flamenco program (“Me Voy” by Yasmin Levy), with her only mistake being an under-rotation of the second jump in her triple Lutz-triple loop combination. Zagitova scored 74.24 points. “I went out on the ice with the thought that I wanted to enjoy my performance and I think this is what I did,” she said. “Obviously, there is still some work left to do, but overall I am pleased with myself today.”

Bell, 23, was also happy with her short program performance to “Radar” and ‘Work” by Britney Spears, for which she earned 70.25 points. “I had a lot of fun. I think there is obviously some room to improve, but I’m really proud of that skate for my opening Grand Prix of the season,” said Bell who is coached by Rafael Arutyunyan.

Her teammate, Starr Andrews, finished fourth with 66.59 points, ahead of 2018 World silver medalist Wakaba Higuchi (64.78) and Kaori Sakamoto who placed sixth with 64.08 points.

THE MEN

Nathan Chen of the U.S. claimed victory in the men’s short ahead of Russia’s Alexander Samarin and French champion Kévin Amyoz.

Chen landed two quads in his “La Boheme” program (a quad toe-triple toe loop combination and a quad flip), but stumbled out of the triple Axel, earning 102.48 points for the segment. The Yale sophomore was satisfied with his performance, but described it as being “a little shaky. The Axel, I obviously did a mistake, the (first) toe was a little forward on the landing,” Chen said. “But, beyond that I think it’s a good second run of the program. Obviously, work has to be done, but it’s exciting to be in this position.”




Samarin also executed two quads in his “Blues for Klook” program (a quad Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a quad flip) but received an edge call on the flip. He also scored minus GOEs for a step out of the triple Axel. However, Samarin scored a personal best of 98.48 points. “I really enjoyed performing here. There were some mistakes, but overall I am satisfied, as a lot worked out as planned,” the 2019 European silver medalist said. “The important thing for tomorrow is to keep the focus and show what I can do in training.”

Performing to “The Question of U” by Prince, Aymoz opened his program with a quad toe loop and a triple Axel. Midway through the routine he fell on a triple Lutz attempt. He earned 82.50 points and was happy to be in the top three. “That was my goal. Even with the mistake I made I am quite happy with what I did,” the 22-year-old said. 

Japan’s Shoma Uno, did not have a good day. Though he landed his opening quad flip, he fell on the next two jumping passes (quad toe and triple Axel). The 21-year-old, who is competing without a coach this season, landed in fourth with 79.05 points. 

Morisi Kvitelashvili of Georgia skated into fifth with 78.79 points. Romain Ponsart of France sits in sixth with 77.48 points.

ICE DANCE

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron left no doubt they are on top of their game once again this season. They won the rhythm dance over the American team of Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Italy’s Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri.

Papadakis and Cizeron took to the ice in pastel pink and green workout costumes for their entertaining aerobic-themed routine set to ‘Fame.’ Though they earned Level 4s for the twizzles and the stationary lift, the Finnstep pattern and the midline step sequence garnered a Level 3. They sit in first with 88.69 points.

“It was a fun performance. We were quite nervous because it was our first competition, but I think we were very lucky that it was in France,” said Papadakis. “The audience was very responsive and very supportive, so it helped during the performance. We made a couple of small mistakes, so we have some things to work on for the next competition.”

“It’s really fun for us that it is really different,” Cizeron added. “It’s different from what everyone else is doing and it’s different from what we’ve been doing. It was kind of a challenge to work on this program and make it fun.”




Chock and Bates laid down a solid performance to Cole Porter’s “Too Darn Hot.” The duo was awarded Level 4s for the lift and twizzles, but the Finnstep pattern earned a Level 1. They sit in second with 80.69 points. “We really had our best performance of the season. It’s our third time out and I felt like we’re really getting comfortable with the program and we had more energy throughout the program,” Bates explained. “It was really an amazing atmosphere in the arena today. I was delighted to see an almost full arena and the crowd went crazy.”

The performance of the Italian team of Guignard and Fabbri – a Blues and Quickstep combination set to music from Cirque du Soleil’s “Paramour” – was a highlight of the competition. They were the only team in the field to earn four YYYYs for the pattern dance. As well, they scored Level 4s for all the elements other than the twizzles. Guignard and Fabbri were rewarded with a season high score of 79.65, which has them currently in third.

Fabbri, whose right hand is in a cast due to injured tendons suffered in a practice accident in September said he was “super happy and super angry at the same time. The only element I didn’t use my hand I made a mistake. It was a really stupid mistake that cost us a lot of points. But I will not complain. We just decided to come (to the competition) two days before the departure. Until one week ago we didn’t think we could come to France as the doctors told us I would not be able to do a program. I couldn’t use my hand and I wasn’t even thinking that we could adapt everything.”

Spain’s Olivia Smart and Adrián Díaz finished fourth with 76.09 points. Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro of Russia sit in fifth (75.05).

Once again there were technical problems with the data input for the rhythm dance. This time it caused a change in the scores of Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac of France and Lithuania’s Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevičius. This had no impact on the overall results.

THE PAIRS

Russia’s Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin, second at 2019 Skate America, are continuing their upward swing this season. The duo claimed the lead in the short program over their teammates Anastasia Mishina and Alexander Galliamov. Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier of the U.S., who behind Pavliuchenko and Khodykin at the U.S. Grand Prix, finished third in the segment.

Performing to “The Storm” by Havasi, Pavliuchenko and Khodykin laid down a winning performance, with all technical elements earning positive GOEs, and the combination spin and Axel Lasso lift garnering Level 4s. Their closed out the competition with a personal best score of 76.59. “We are happy to have skated a clean program, but that it already behind us and we focus on the next event tomorrow,” said Khodykin.

“Our short program “has something exciting, even alarming which we are trying to bring across,” Pavliuchenko explained. “I am Denis’ muse and at first he does not see me, but in the end I inspire him.”




Mishina and Galliamov, the reigning World Junior pairs champions, also laid down a solid performance in their routine set to “Je suis malade,” for which they earned 73.77 points. “We had some mistakes today, but we are still happy, because it is our first senior Grand Prix. We hope it will be better tomorrow,” Mishina said.

Denney and Frazier continued their momentum from Skate America, laying down another solid performance of their short program to “Quidam” from Cirque du Soleil. The American duo earned a personal best score of 68.65. “We’re happy with how our short went today. We still lost a few levels and points that we need to improve on, but all in all it was a good stride in the right direction for our short and we move on to the free. It’s a new day tomorrow,” said Frazier.

Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc of the U.S. finished fourth with 66.12 points. Italy’s Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini are in fifth (59.62 points).

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