Anyways, I'll unfortunately miss the first day of skating at Trophee Eric Bompard, which is the final regular-season event on the Grand Prix. I have already gone over the current standings for each of the four disciplines in previous posts, but I thought I'd tie those in with a preview of each of the events. The competition begins on Friday.
Current World bronze medalist Brian Joubert started his Grand Prix off with a fourth place finish at the Cup of China. The competition wasn't a disaster, but the only way he will make the Final is with a win at home. For those that rely on history, it doesn't bode well for Joubert. He's finished in fourth at Bompard the last two seasons while winning his other Grand Prix assignment. Maybe he plans to switch it up this year?
While Joubert was finishing off the podium in China, Japanese skater Takahiko Kozuka was rising to the occasion, winning the second Grand Prix gold medal of his career. A top four finish here should be enough for Kozuka to earn a trip to the Final, but another gold medal could help further push his name as one of the top contenders in the world.
Two more competitors enter Bompard already with podium finishes on the Grand Prix this season. Florent Amodio won the bronze medal at the NHK Trophy, while Brandon Mroz was the surprise silver medalist at Cup of China. If Amodio can bring the house down and win the competition in front of his home country, he will make the Grand Prix Final. Another silver medal for Mroz, and he's also going to Beijing. Not likely? You never know. I don't think many people thought he'd end up second in China.
One more name you can't count out is Canadian Kevin Reynolds. The two quads in the short program isn't just talk anymore-- he did them at Skate Canada and found himself in second place. If he can find the triple Axel that was non-existent a few weeks ago, he might also be another major contender.
Chafik Besseghier might be a long-shot for the podium here, but he absolutely bombs into his quad. I have a feeling he will turn a few heads this weekend.
Unfortunately, this mens competition sits at ten entries-- as it was a week ago.
You know, I look forward to this event being over so I can write something other than, "Wow, what an unpredictable field of ladies we have here!" Seems like I've written that for every single competition so far this year. What we do know is that Miki Ando, Rachael Flatt, Carolina Kostner, Kanako Murakami, and Akiko Suzuki are five of the six Grand Prix Final qualifiers, with a handful of skaters fighting for the last spot.
While there is no clear favorite, American Alissa Czisny looks to continue her success after winning the gold medal at Skate Canada. A top four finish for her here should be enough to make it to Beijing, but that placement is anything but a given. Czisny says that her re-working of jump technique leading into this season has made her more consistent.. laying down two solid competitions would be a good indicator that this is (finally) true.
And then there is a battle of the previous competition fourth-place finishers: Cynthia Phaneuf of Canada, who was fourth at home, Kiira Korpi of Finland (fourth at NHK), and Mirai Nagasu of the USA, who was fourth in China. Phaneuf and Nagasu were the short program leaders in their events, and any of them could honestly come away with a win here. If any of these three do win, the only way they will make the Grand Prix Final is if Czisny finishes fifth or lower (yes, a fourth place would go to a tie-break).
Oh, Mao Asada. You are a complete non-threat to the Grand Prix Final after your eighth-place finish at NHK, but have you gotten it together enough in the last five weeks to find yourself on the podium? Based on her own reaction to the disaster in Japan, I think she understands and accepts that her whole situation of changing coaches and going back to basics on some jumps WILL take time. Hopefully we at least see some improvement from NHK.
Definitely the easiest event to predict (or so I think..), and two-time World Champions Savchenko and Szolkowy of Germany lead the way. They won Skate America and should have to problems winning here. On a personal note, I hope I get into their programs much more than I did two weeks ago.
Bazarova and Larionov of Russia should have no problems earning another silver medal here, and that would also put them in the Grand Prix Final. The fight for bronze will most likely come down to Brodeur and Mattatall of Canada, and Hausch/Wende of Germany. At the NHK Trophy, these teams finished sixth and seventh overall, with only three points separating their final scores.
Not a single French pairs team here, even though up to three were allowed.
THE ICE DANCERS
Well, it's no joke to say that half of the field withdrew from Cup of Russia last week--- they really did. Withdrawals have affected the ice dance rosters at every Grand Prix stop this year, and we again find only eight entries in France.
Pechalat and Bourzat already have won Grand Prix win this season (in China), and they should blow the competition away here at home. The only way they aren't getting to the Final is if they have to withdraw, too (and I'm begging them to please not do that).
The silver medal race should be exciting between three teams: Carron and Jones of France, Riazanova and Tkachenko of Russia, and Chock and Zuerlein of the USA. If you compare final scores of all three teams from their first events, there is about as little separation between them as possible. A silver medal by the Americans means they will qualify for the Grand Prix Final, while a silver medal for any other team means that Hungarian couple Hoffmann and Zavozin make it to Beijing instead.