Patrick Chan 'the man to beat in Sochi'
Grand Prix of Paris win puts him back on top
Any competition that ends up landing a new world record in the short, free and overall scores has to be a confidence booster for a skater. Patrick Chan is that skater and the Trophee Eric Bompard Grand Prix in France this past weekend was the competition.
With the Olympics less than three months away, the goal for every skater is to get their best out in front of their rivals and judges alike. For Chan, that didn’t happen at the Skate Canada event. The Grand Prix in Paris re-established that he will be the man to beat in Sochi.
Yuzuru Hanyu finished in second place despite errors on both quad jumps off the top of his free program. What was significant for Hanyu in this Grand Prix outing was the fight that he showed throughout the balance of his program to stay in contention.
American champion Ashley Wagner was the gold medallist in Paris and earned a trip to the Grand Prix Final. For me, Wagner is the quintessential American female skater in the style of Dorothy Hamill, Kristi Yamaguchi, Jill Trenary and Michelle Kwan, to name a few. She is as elegant as she is strong technically and artistically; she is one of the most watchable skaters today.
A pair of talented Russian teenagers rounded out the women’s podium: 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova took her second silver medal of the series, while 15-year-old Anna Pogorilaya took bronze, adding to the gold she won at the Cup of China. Both skaters will have to wait for the conclusion of the Cup of Russia next weekend to know for sure that they will be going to the Grand Prix Final.
Pang, Tong 'in their swan song'
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir easily took the title in Paris and will be meeting biggest rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White at the Grand Prix Final in three weeks. The goal for Virtue and Moir was to close the point gap between themselves and Meryl Davis and Charlie White, their U.S. rivals. It is not so much what the number is but rather that in each of their two Grand Prix events, Davis and White have earned more points than Virtue and Moir. This can signal to the skaters that they may need to re-visit either the structure of the program or its content in order to maximize their total point potential.
The upset in the dance event happened when the Russian team of Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov got ahead of French champions Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat to take the silver. I like the French team a lot, admire their creativity and would typically have them ahead in my own rankings but, in France, the Russians had a very strong performance in their free dance that must be acknowledged.
I am happy for Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China on a sentimental level for taking the title at this Grand Prix. They are in their swan song season, have competed at the Grand Prix six times and had never won this event before now.
I am also delighted for Canadian champions and World bronze medallists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who won silver. Although they had hoped to take the title I think their main goal had to be improving on their bronze medal performance from Skate Canada. As far as France was concerned, I think that this competition checked off that box with their improved performance in their Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter program.