Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2016 Trophee de France Post-Mortem: 2 more U.S. Medals & Medvedeva's FS: a Closer Look

Again, apologies for the delay but here is around 1000 words worth of Trophee de France in review…

LADIES:  Reigning World Champ Evgenia Medvedeva won by more than 20 points, despite falling on an element (either a 3Flip or 3Lutz) in the free skate, so that might give you an idea of just how dominant she continues to be in her sophomore year on the senior circuit… if you weren’t sure, that is. Speaking of Med’s FS—aka the 9/11 “tribute”—I’ve heard several different opinions (and I posted a survey about it on Twitter a few weeks ago). Some are intrigued by the choice; most are troubled by it, and a few are downright offended. My take is mixed: 1) given the prickly current state of affairs between the U.S. and Russia, I’m not sure a Russian skater depicting someone enduring one of America’s darkest days is going to be an easy sell anytime soon. 2) I don’t know how much Evgenia knew about 9/11 going into this season, nor do I know how much input she had (vs. her coach and choreographer) in doing this program in the first place. In short—she just turned 17, and I don’t think I can hold a 17 year-old young woman fully accountable for decisions like this. Having said all that… 3) The biggest problem I have with the program—aside from the infamous “phone call” at the end of the piece and the (dreaded) voiceover material that plays during her footwork sequence—is the fact that it IS a 17 year-old (from ANY country) doing this program.  When Julia Lipnitskaia did the Schindler’s List program, part of why it worked was because she was believable as The Girl in the Red Coat. But asking a teenager to take on the role of a grown woman, and all the emotions that might come with a horrific 9/11 realization? I think that’s asking too much. Even of an athlete as exceptional as Medvedeva.

OK, sermon over. What else happened at this Paris event a couple weeks ago?

With the ladies…
+  We discovered France’s Laurine Lecavelier, who was down in 31st at 2016 Worlds but finished a surprising 6th here (after 11th and 12th place finishes the past 2 years). We also discovered that while you CAN wear a convertible costume for your free skate… it doesn’t mean you SHOULD… for Lecavelier skated her Grease FS squeaky clean until she turned from Sweet Sandy to Slutty Sandy (the part skated to “You’re the One that I Want”). Maybe that was the idea? That only Sweet Sandy= squeaky clean? Nah, probably not.

+  And unfortunately we also witnessed some new lows for two accomplished skaters: USA’s Gracie Gold toughed out her post-Worlds issues, came in 8th (her lowest finish in five years on the GP circuit)…and Japan’s Mao Asada toughed out what we’ve since learned are continuing knee issues (she apparently didn’t want to talk about it much with the press, for fear it would sound like she was making excuses) to do mostly double jumps en route to 9th place… her lowest finish in—GASP—11 years on the circuit. With no GP Final in sight for these two, hopefully both will have the time they clearly need to prep for their respective Nationals (late December for Asada; late January for Gold).

MEN:  I know the big news was either back-to-back GP wins for Javier Fernandez—who is gunning for his first-ever GP Final title—or the halfway-to-spectacular GP debut of USA’s Nathan Chen (record-breaking quad-riffic SP; somewhat subpar FS that killed his podium chances). But for some of you (and me for sure), I’ve heard the most exciting thing to come out of the Paris men’s event was back-to-back clean programs from Adam Rippon that included his first fully-rotated and landed quad in competition. I think Adam’s hard-fought-and-won National title infused him with the same sort of confidence we’re now seeing in World Bronze Medalist Anna Pogorilaya—that “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet” vibe that, in Adam’s case, has so far resulted in his most exciting programs—and best finishes—to date. And there are a LOT of great programs in his scrapbook. Whether he adds the GP Final to his accomplishments depends entirely on NHK results this coming weekend; Yuzuru Hanyu and Jason Brown are the two most likely to advance if they finish on the podium—but something tells me Adam will continue to do well either way.

DANCE: Reigning World Champs Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron made their GP debut on home ice and it was every bit as splendid as you might expect, earning them the highest marks (both in SD and FD) of any GP debut this season. USA’s Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue took a distant 2nd (nearly 20 points behind); both Hub/Don and Canada’s Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier were able to gain some ground over Russia’s Elena Ilinykh /Ruslan Zhiganshin when a non-element fall on Elena’s part kept their FD score from improving on their SkAM FD score.

PAIRS: Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot made like Javier and earned back-to-back golds (here and the previous week at Rostelecom). Unlike Javi, they took an injury in the process—Aliona strained ligaments in her ankle with their attempt at a throw 3axel—and last I heard they’d already planned to skip the GP Final to rehab it properly.

But again, the real story of the pairs event for me was another team entirely… France’s own Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres finally won their first GP medal in 6 years on the circuit! (OK, technically they won their first medal at this event a year ago, but as you probably recall the event was rewarded on SP only due to the terrorist attacks in Paris causing the rest of the competition to be cancelled. Methinks this time around was slightly more rewarding.)

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