Delobel and Schoenfelder waltz to lead in Paris

The fourth stage of the 2007-08 ISU Grand Prix Series began today in Paris, France at the Palais Omnisport de Paris Bercy.

Approximately 59 skaters from 17 different countries are competing for points and global prize monies totaling $180,000 in U.S. dollars. The points will go toward qualification for the Grand Prix Final of Figure Skating in which the top six competitors from each discipline will be invited to compete for a total purse of $272,000 U.S. dollars.

The Grand Prix Final will be held Dec. 13-16, 2007, in Torino, Italy.

Trophée Eric Bompard kicked off on Nov. 16 with the Compulsory Dance, Men’s Short Program, Ladies’ Short Program, and the Original Dance.

The Compulsory Dance (CD) of the event was the Austrian Waltz, which consists of two sequences and was created by the Austrian brother-and-sister team of Susi and Peter Handschmann. It was first performed in 1979.

As usual for the French Grand Prix event, the compulsory dance competition was closed to the general public due to security reasons and cost. This resulted in an extremely eerie experience of watching the world leading skaters perform in front of the empty and mostly silent stands.

Nonetheless, France’s Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder put a comfortable distance between themselves and the rest of the competitors by winning the “Austrian Waltz” by nearly a five point margin.

The European champions were clearly the most proficient dance team, performing the waltz on the largest pattern with the required deep lobes and excellent unison. Their only weakness was the relative lack of the lilting waltz character, but their superior technique allowed them to score 39.51 (20.26/19.25) points – exactly one point short of their personal best.

Russia’s Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski made a very strong debut to their competitive season by finishing second with a personal best of 34.98 (17.66/17.23) points. While the Russian silver medalists expressed the waltz character perfectly however, they couldn’t match the excellent flow demonstrated by the French team.

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy placed third with 31.86 (16.34/15.52) points. Though the Italians excelled in presentation, they were unable to fully match the level of perfection in technique compared to that of the other stronger teams.

Coming off a disappointing fourth place finish at Skate America, USA’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White placed a close fourth with 31.74 (16.40/15.34) points. Their soft and smooth skating earned them more points than the Italians in technique, but the relative lack of character hurt them in the program components.

Pernelle Carron and Mathieu Jost of France were fifth, followed by Armenia’s Anastasia Grebenkina and Vazgen Azrojan.

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