Monday, 19 October 2009

Trophee Eric Bompard, firsthand

So I'm back from Paris! And what a weekend. This is going to be a seriously long blog post so be prepared!

After arriving in Paris and checking into our hotel we went straight to the arena, POBP Bercy, for the compulsory dance. If you haven't seen it, it's an amazing arena; the sides are covered in grass, and I've always wondered how they cut it, since it's vertical!

1. Tessa Virue/Scott Moir CAN 38.41
2. Sinead Kerr/John Kerr GBR 36.13
3. Nathalie Pechalat/Fabian Bourzat FRA 35.53
4. Emily Samuelson/Evan Bates USA 31.11
5. Kristina Gorshkova/Vitali Butikov RUS 29.56
6. Kimberly Navarro/Brent Bommentre USA 27.17
7. Madison Hubbell/Keiffer Hubbell USA 27.17
8. Ekaterina Rubleva/Ivan Shefer RUS 27.12
9. Pernelle Carron/Lloyd Jones FRA 26.28
10. Zoe Blanc/Pierre-Loup Bouquet FRA 24.08

I'd never seen a compulsory dance before, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. Virtue and Moir are really in a league of their own; their precision was totally amazing and they managed to keep it up throughout the whole competition. I managed to sit in the 6th row for the whole of Friday's event (it's first come first served for seats, though you can only sit on one side of the arena!). Plus Albena Denkova was sitting two rows in front of me, which was pretty exciting.

Next was the mens' short program:

1. Tomas VERNER CZE 81
2. Nobunari ODA JPN 79.2
3. Adam RIPPON USA 75.82
4. Sergei VORONOV RUS 72.8
5. Yannick PONSERO FRA 72.5
6. Brian JOUBERT FRA 72.15
7. Alban PREAUBERT FRA 66.49
8. Ryan BRADLEY USA 65.21
9. Chao YANG CHN 60.72
10. Javier FERNANDEZ ESP 60.56
11. Peter LIEBERS GER 60.31
12. Vaughn CHIPEUR CAN 51.45

The highlight for me had to be Adam Rippon. His short program, to "Jonathan Livingston Seagull", had the audience in complete silence (which is very rare in France!) as they paid attention. His happiness whilst he is skating is so evident and really makes his skating far more enjoyable to watch. The US men actually did a really great job on the short program; I adored Ryan Bradley's SP, though it didn't score so highly. He skated to the ever-popular "Dark Eyes" and showed real charisma. The audience absolutely loved him, especially on his step sequence, though it only obtained Level One. His triple axel in the program was massive, best 3A I saw all weekend. The other amazing SP was obviously Tomas Verner. When I had got over his costume, I really got into his program; "Zorba the Greek" worked so well for him. Brian might not have done so well, but I still adore that program. I also got a t-shirt with him (and the other French Olympic hopefuls on) for 19 euros.

Then we watched the Pairs SP:

1. Savchenko and Szolkowy, Germany: 72.98
2. Mukhortova and Trankov, Russia: 66.98
3. Dube and Davison, Canada: 64.54
4. Canac and Coia, France: 55.96
5. Inoue and Baldwin, USA: 55.06
6. Dong and Wu, China: 49.70
7. Castelli and Schnapir, USA: 49.50
8. James and Bonheur, France: 38.96

I'm a huge Savchenko and Szolkowy fan, but those painted clown faces? Honestly, they were so distracting, I could barely enjoy their program. I did, however, really enjoy Dube and Davidson; they seem to have recovered from the disappointments of last season. Their body language seems so much better as well, in the kiss and cry and whatnot. On the subject of body language, I had to mention Mukhortova and Trankov - they seemed to have turned a real corner after her cold behaviour last year. Canac and Coic did so well; I had a seriously noisy French family in the rown behind me who screamed and went absolutely nuts when they skated; turned out to be Florent Amodio! Candice Didier was also sitting and watching for most of the events; it's a real shame she didn't get to skate. Dong and Wu were excellent, I thought, though it seems to me she is far more talented than him. Her jumps were totally consistant throughout the warm-up, whereas he didn't look so solid.

Then it was the ladies' event:

1. Yu-na Kim, Korea: 76.08
2. Yukari Nakano, Japan: 59.64
3. Mao Asada, Japan: 58.96
4. Alexe Gilles, USA: 58.22
5. Caroline Zhang, USA: 57.26
6. Kiira Korpi, Finland: 54.20
7. Carolina Kostner, Italy: 51.26
8. Elene Gedevanishvilli, Georgia: 48.68
9. Anna Jurkiewicz, Poland: 43.86
10. Gwendoline Didier, France: 41.96

...or as I like to call it, the competition for second place. Yu-na Kim might have the hugest scores ever (my friend worked out that she could have missed out every single jump and still won) but my does she deserve it. Her James Bond SP was just perfect, and she had a huge amount of support in the crowd; there were hundreds of Koreans, all with elaborately made banners that put mine to shame. Tatiana Tarasova might have been a talented coach, but honestly I think Mao needs to move on. It really was just not working well for her this event. The suprise of the event, for me, was Alexe Gilles. Her SP was mature and elegantly skated, and was really a great Senior Grand Prix debut. Caroline Zhang's program was nice; she might have improve in a lot of areas, including her speed over the ice, but her technique (the infamous "mule kick") seems to be getting even worse.

The last event of the friday was the original dance:

1. Virtue and Moir, Canada: 100.32
2. Pechalat and Bourzat, France: 91.87
3. Kerr and Kerr, Great Britain: 90.86
4. Samuelson and Bates, USA: 77.66
5. Navarro and Bommentre, USA: 77.36
6. Gorshkova and Butikov, Russia: 75.14
7. Rubleva and Shefer, Russia: 74.24
8. Carron and Jones, France: 71.46
9. Hubbell and Hubbell, USA: 70.24
10. Blanc and Bouquet, France: 68.32

The OD of the evening had to be Sinead and John. There were three American country/folk ODs in a row and the best was definitely saved until last. Yes, I have have a British bias, but I think the whole audience agreed with me! The theme (a trucker, Sinead, picks up a hitchiker, John) was clearly obviously, and the music (Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere") worked really well. Virtue/Moir and Pechalat/Bourzat were obviously better in terms on technicality, but for audience fun Sinead and John won hands down. I got talking to a woman sitting near us who turned out to be a family friend who used to coach them when they were young. She told us loads of interesting stuff, including the real reason why Sinead broke up with her partner before John (Jamie Ferguson) and why John was put on the ice in the first place (he was annoying and "full of it" and needed to be kept out of trouble!) I think Samuelson/Bates and Navarro/Bommentre are going to be ones to watch for the future.

The saturday opened with the mens' long program. I managed to get a video of the warm-up:

1 Nobunari ODA JPN 242.53
2 Tomas VERNER CZE 229.96
3 Adam RIPPON USA 219.96
4 Brian JOUBERT FRA 207.39
5 Yannick PONSERO FRA 205.74
6 Sergei VORONOV RUS 204.45
7 Alban PREAUBERT FRA 189.63
8 Chao YANG CHN 178.63
9 Ryan BRADLEY USA 177.65
10 Peter LIEBERS GER 176.52
11 Javier FERNANDEZ ESP 170.16
12 Vaughn CHIPEUR CAN 155.43

Nobunari Oda really stole the show with his Charie Chaplin routine, it was totally adorable. He always looks so young! Speaking of young, again Adam Rippon did amazingly! I felt he looked nervous in the warm-up, but he came out and did a really excellent routine. His joy when he realised he was in position for a medal was seriously cute; I don't know if Ice Network caught it, but he did a jump off the side of the kiss and cry, and punched the air. Aww. He seems really sweet; I saw him talking to Joubert before the warm-up and Verner whilst on the podium. He's friendly! On the subject of Verner, he might not have been able to prevent himself running out of steam in his "The Godfather" LP, but I reckon if he can perform it to the best of his ability, he'll be a force to reckoned with. Speaking of which, I don't think Yannick Ponsero should be written off; his LP to a Gershwin medley was really excellent, despite a number of doubling outs jumps. However, in France he gets very little support, compared to Alban Preaubert; every time he skates, the French fans almost take the roof off the arena! Despite a crowd-pleasing routine to a medley of Rolling Stones songs, I can't say I'm a fan. Similarly, Joubert didn't fare well at all, finishing in the same place as last year. Despite all the faults in both his programs, I though he was great. If he manages to "get his head in the game" I think those programs will fare him well.

There was quite a bit of drama in the pairs' LP:

Maxim TRANKOV RUS 192.93
2 Jessica DUBE
Bryce DAVISON CAN 180.97
Robin SZOLKOWY GER 174.42
4 Rena INOUE
John BALDWIN USA 158.36
5 Adeline CANAC
Maximin COIA FRA 150.18
6 Huibo DONG
Yiming WU CHN 144.45
7 Marissa CASTELLI
Simon SHNAPIR USA 133.01
8 Vanessa JAMES
Yannick BONHEUR FRA 118.66

I can't believe anyone saw that coming; what a meltdown from Savchenko and Szolkowy! It was really unfortunate; they were lucky to end up in 3rd. Better now than in Vancouver, though. The two pairs who leapfrogged over them did derserve their positions. though. Dube and Davidson's program to "The Way We Were" was magical, I felt, and many are comparing the program to Sale and Pelletier. Speaking of S/P, I was one of the people who saw extreme irony in Mukhortova/Trankov using the iconic "Love Story". Whilst I found it hard to get S/P out of my head, I though they actually did a great job. Finally, have to mention Inoue/ Baldwin; man that triple axel was AMAZING. They might be a bit older than most of the skaters at the event but I think they've still "got it". Their program was definitely a crowd favourite.

In between the pairs and ladies event, everyone is forced to leave the stadium. A couple of my friends were staying at the Novotel, the official competitors' hotel across from the arena, so we went to do hang out in the lobby. In the space of about twenty minutes we saw Inoue and Baldwin, who signed autographs and posed for pictures for ages, and Nobunari Oda, who also did the same. We also saw Brian Orser and Yu-Na Kim's mother, holding her dress, waiting for Yu-Na to come down the lifts. There was positively a crowd waiting. Her, Mao and Yukari all came out but were bundled off to the arena really quickly. We also saw Miki Ando (who wasn't competing) with Morosov, just the two of them, a couple of times, which did nothing to extinguish those relationship rumours. Her and Valentina Marchei watched most of the competition together.

Anyway, we had kind of resigned ourselves to the fact that we weren't going to actually talk to any of the skaters/coaches (they were far too busy and we were far too nervous!) so we left the hotel. As we were leaving, I spied Adam Rippon coming in and just had to get a picture. I told him how much I loved his short program and he was seriously nice, considering I was going all crazy fangirl on him! I've obviously cropped my friends out of the picture.

So back to the arena, for the ladies:

1 Yu-Na KIM KOR 210.03
2 Mao ASADA JPN 173.99
3 Yukari NAKANO JPN 165.70
4 Caroline ZHANG USA 153.15
5 Alexe GILLES USA 151.92
6 Carolina KOSTNER ITA 147.63
8 Kiira KORPI FIN 138.83
9 Gwendoline DIDIER FRA 118.07
10 Anna JURKIEWICZ POL 115.06

Erm, Yu-na's skate, and subsequent score just blew me away. Brian Orser is just the most amazing coach, period. I want to just give all the European ladies a big hug. I really hope Carolina and Kiira can pull it together. Elene Gedvanishvili might have had a program to Carmen, of all the pieces, but actually she did a really great job.

And the ice dance.

1 Tessa VIRTUE
Scott MOIR CAN 197.71
2 Nathalie PECHALAT
Fabian BOURZAT FRA 181.64
3 Sinead KERR
John KERR GBR 177.11
Evan BATES USA 158.07
5 Ekaterina RUBLEVA
Ivan SHEFER RUS 155.54
6 Kimberly NAVARRO
Brent BOMMENTRE USA 150.29
7 Kristina GORSHKOVA
Vitali BUTIKOV RUS 145.96
8 Madison HUBBELL
Keiffer HUBBELL USA 143.28 7
9 Pernelle CARRON
Lloyd JONES FRA 140.27 9
10 Zoe BLANC
Pierre-Loup BOUQUET FRA 138.12

All of the top free dances from this event absolutely blew me away. Navarro/Bommentre, Samuelson/Bates, Kerr/Kerr, Pechalat/Bourzat and Virtue/Moir were all magical. Virtue and Moir were especially spectular; I love how they encorporated the lift from last year's FD but added a innovative dismount. Some said that their Mahler music was boring, but I think the complete opposition. That FD has Olympic Gold Medal written all over it, if they clean it up a bit (there were 2 deductions). For this event we sat behind the Kerrs' aunt and cousins, who were cheering them on very enthusiastically.

Then we watched the medal ceremony: pictures below. When all the skaters finished posing for the photographers they all skated off, but we shouted for John and Sinead and they stopped right in front of us to take some pictures, which was nice. Their dad filmed the entire medal ceremony rink-side! And Tessa and Scott and their coach posed for loads of pictures on the kiss and cry and stuff, it was so sweet!

Overall, it was a great event; really got me excited for the rest of the season! Agree or disagree with what I said? Comment below!