As the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating circuit heads to Paris for this week’s Trophé?e de France, skaters are hoping to secure a return trip to the country for next month’s Grand Prix Final in Marseille.
There are definite frontrunners here, starting with two-time world ice dance champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. The French team has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top over the last couple of years, filling the void created by the absence of Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
These two talented teams now train together in Montreal with Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, and the question on everyone’s mind is who will come out ahead.
We’ll get a better idea this weekend when we get the chance to see Papadakis and Cizeron in Grand Prix competition for the first time this season. Virtue and Moir, who are not competing in Paris, won two weeks ago at Skate Canada and appeared as if they haven’t missed a beat.
Don’t take your eyes off Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier. Their first Grand Prix medal at Skate Canada, coupled with perhaps the most innovative and entertaining material this season, makes them a promising choice for another trip to the podium.
American Nathan Chen is the kind of kid (yes, he’s only 17) who can upset the apple cart in men’s figure skating. He was the first to perform four quadruple jumps in a free skate during competition, which he did at the U.S. nationals back in January.
Fernandez has the edge in my mind, not because he can compete with the quads but because his experience allows for him to adapt in competition. Not sweating the small stuff (or as I like to call it, the short program) helped Fernandez overcome a seven-plus-point deficit after the short last week to take the Rostelecom Cup in Russia for the third consecutive year.
The 17-year-old Russian started with a win at the world junior championships in March of 2015, then cruised through last season’s Grand Prix stops, the European and world championships, and this season’s Skate Canada event with only one loss. Her consistency is already legendary.
The fight in Paris will be for the rest of the field to work out who will join Medvedeva on the podium.
2016 world pairs bronze medallists Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot are smart competitors. Like their biggest rivals, two-time world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, Savchenko and Massot understand the judging system and how to maximize their scores.
In a relatively small field of only six (rather than eight) pairs, the goal for Savchenko and Massot should be demonstrating through amazing skating that, come March 2017, they’ll be the team to beat at worlds.
Men: Javier Fernandez (Spain)
Ladies: Evgenia Medvedeva (Russia)
Pair: Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot (Germany)
Dance: Grabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (France)