Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bon Soir, Bordeaux: 2014 Bompard in Review

Trophee Eric Bompard (the 2014 edition) is in the books. Here's my take on the event:

The ladies’ podium at TEB looked, well, just like I thought it would (for once!). Elena Radionova continued to hit her jumping sweet spot and claimed gold... Julia Lipnitskaia recovered fairly well from her nightmarish Cup of China appearance (though not perfectly) and took silver... Ashley Wagner nailed the performance, if not all the jumps, and accepted bronze. There were no close calls in terms of points; no judging controversies, at least among the top three. The most noteworthy happening of the free skate, to be honest, was Russia’s Maria Artmieva and her curious costume choice—the majority of which appeared to me a button-down shirt(!) as she skated to Chopin selections(?!).  She’d competed at Rostelecom Cup a week earlier, in more typical competition wear, so the prevailing thought on Twitter was that something must’ve happened to her costume at the last minute. If so—maybe her alternate choice didn’t have sufficient shoulder coverage, and the shirt was the best thing they could come up with on short notice? Either way, I think it was a Grand Prix first... and, with any luck, will also be a GP “last”.

If you haven’t looked it up or read it elsewhere already, I bet you’re wondering what’s what for GP Finals as we head into the final week of competition. Here’s the scoop where the ladies are concerned:
+ Unsurprisingly, four Russian teens already occupy 4 of the 6 slots: Radionova, Lipnitskaia, Elizaveta Tutkamysheva, and Anna Pogorilaya.
+  Next in the points is Wagner, followed by Japan’s Rika Hongo.
 Four skaters competing at NHK are capable of doing well enough to challenge Wagner’s and Hongo’s tentative spots on the roster: Kanako Murakami, Satoko Miyahara, Gracie Gold (all of whom would need to place 2nd or higher), and Polina Edmunds (who would have to win).


I was very sorry I’d discounted Denis Ten from my predictions... until it almost didn’t matter. His early-season history is such that I figured him to be a 4th place TEB finish at best. But then he went gangbusters on his short program, earned 91+ on it, and the tide appeared to be changing! Ack, what was this? My gold medal prediction in 2nd place; my silver medal prediction in 6th?! But then Maxim Kovtun proved to be the Last Man Standing in an event that saw programs rapidly lose steam (Chafik Besseghier, Konstantin Menshov), never really have steam to begin with (Ricky Dornbush), or simply had too many errors to win (Ten, Tatsuki Machida). In other words... not the best event to witness.

And before any of this even happened there was Yan Han’s free skate. Technically, it went better than it did at Cup of China (by about 16 points) and he pulled up to an 8th place finish. But seriously, why was he there? All I could think as I watched him last weekend was It’s too soon and I hope he doesn’t fall any more (he accumulated 3 falls between the two programs; two were pretty awkward-looking tumbles on 4Toe attempts). I’ve been watching the IceNetwork home page like a hawk all week, hoping to see that Yuzuru Hanyu has withdrawn from NHK Trophy... but to no avail. He’s going. So we’d better practice holding our breath.

And as for the Men’s GRAND PRIX STANDINGS...
+  Kovtun, Javier Fernandez, and Machida are all locks for the GP Final.
+  Further down, on a very tentative bubble, are Nam Nguyen, Jason Brown, and Ten (all with 20 points).
+ All three of those guys could be bumped out this coming weekend by: Hanyu (who’d need to finish 3rd or higher), Takahito Mura (4th or higher), and Sergei Voronov (3rd or higher). 


So I guess I’d better start giving more consideration to the Chinese team of Wang/Wang...before I could figure out who they are (and I still am, by the way—the male Wang has been on the scene a while; the female Wang has not) they’d already gone and won two GP bronze medals this season! Something’s definitely clicking there...

Meanwhile, I’m starting to wonder if the French team of James/Cipres will ever catch a break. Despite solid skating from them over the past few seasons—no small feat, given the inconsistencies and weaknesses of other pairs teams—they’re all but guaranteed a middle-of-the-pack finish. They’ve got to be wondering What do we have to do...

Looking at the GRAND PRIX STANDINGS among pairs teams...
+  Stolbova/Klimov, Peng/Zhang, and Sui/Han have spots in the GP Final.
+ Tarasova/Morozov, Denney/Frazier, and Wang/Wang are on next in line.
+ Four teams are capable of qualifying via NHK: Kavaguti/Smirnov and Duhamel/Radford (both of whom are in the Final with a 4th place finish or higher), Yu/Jin (who’d need to finish 3rd or higher), or Bazarova/Deputat (who would have to win).


Will Pechalat/Bourzat feel one more twist of the knife in their collective gut if their French successors (Papadakis/Cizeron) become as decorated in their 2nd year on the GP circuit as P/B was in half their entire, storied career? Two events, two gold medals. BOOM. There’s something very elegant yet earthy about them this year. And not at all over the top (at least not yet—I know they’re young)! I look forward to their continued evolution.

So are you excited to see Gilles/Poirier as 2-time GP medalists this season, or do you miss their Psycho FD too much to care? I find myself as fond of this year’s old-school feel as I was last year’s spooky trip down Hitchcock Lane, but I realize I might be in the minority... until I remind myself that the judges have put them on the podium this year. Repeatedly.

And finally... although I’m glad Hubbell/Donohue made the podium again, and I liked their new free dance costumes a little better than the old ones... I still can’t say I fully appreciate their current FD (though I really want to!)

The GRAND PRIX STANDINGS for dance go like this...
+ Chock/Bates, Papadakis/Cizeron, The Shibutanis, and Gilles/Poirier are all Final-bound.
+ Ilinykh/Zhiganshin and Hubbell/Donohue are on the bubble.
+ Four teams are still within reach: Weaver/Poje (who need to finish 4th or higher at NHK), Coomes/Buckland (who need to be 3rd or higher), and Sinitsina/Katsalapov or Monko/Khaliavin (both of whom would need to win).

Speaking of NHK, my predictions on that event should be up, as usual, no later than an hour or so before the first event begins. (U.S. readers, that means you’ll likely be past your post-turkey nap, and well into your third slice of pie. NHK actually starts on the east coast at 12:45 AM Friday morning!)

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