American Sasha Cohen made it two for two by winning Trophee Lalique, her second consecutive Grand Prix event, and earning herself a trip to the Grand Prix Final in St. Petersburg next March. The eighteen-year-old American won Skate Canada, her first major senior international victory, two weeks ago in Quebec City.
Cohen’s victory did not come without hiccups, though. In the short program, she fell on her double Axel – the easiest jump element – after completing the much more difficult triple lutz-double toe combination and the triple flip from steps. That error cost Cohen -0.4 in mandatory deductions and left her second behind Japan’s Yoshie Onda in that phase of the event.
In the free skate, Cohen managed five clean triple jumps plus two flawed ones. She attempted a very difficult triple lutz-triple toe combination, but stepped out of the landing. She later planned a sequence of a triple toe loop-half loop-triple salchow, but an error on the first jump caused her to omit the remainder of the combination. Cohen later improvised a triple salchow to bring her triple jump count to five.
Though two consecutive victories is an impressive feat, Cohen will need at least six and probably seven clean triple jumps in order to win a world title. Next week, she will go up against World Champion Irina Slutskaya at the Cup of Russia, a non-scoring event for Cohen.
Cohen was joined on the podium by Onda and Finland’s Alisa Drei, each of whom also completed five triple jumps. The lackluster ladies field consisted of just eight skaters following the French federation’s withdrawal of their competitors.
American Michael Weiss had a much different path to victory in the men’s event. After two serious errors in the short program, Weiss – who has had a dismal season to date – found himself tied for fifth place. However, in the long program, he stood up on both of his quad attempts (though they were two-footed) and completed all of his planned triple jumps to win the free skate. Because the skaters who were in first and second place after the short program had multiple errors in this free skate, the free skate placement was enough to pull Weiss all the way to first place overall. The gold medal is Weiss’s first at a Grand Prix event and his first international win since his 1994 World Junior title.
Unfortunately, Trophee Lalique was Weiss’s non-scoring event. His fifth place at Skate America and fourth place at Nations Cup both count for points, so he has no chance of qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.
Weiss was joined on the podium by China’s Min Zhang and Japan’s Takeshi Honda. Zhang’s fourteen points may squeak him into the Grand Prix Final on a tiebreaker, depending on the results at Cup of Russia and NHK. Honda, unfortunately, selected this as a scoring event, so his third-place finish at Lalique is counted while his win at Skate Canada will be discarded.
In the pairs event, Russia’s Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin won their third Grand Prix event of the season. The world silver medalists completed all of their planned technical content and earned marks of up to 5.8. They were followed by France’s Sarah Abitbol and Stephane Bernadis and China’s Qing Pang and Jian Tong.
Totmianina and Marinin have easily qualified for the Grand Prix Final. Abitbol and Bernadis have elected not to skate in a second event and therefore cannot qualify for the Grand Prix Final. Pang and Tong must wait and see if their 14 points is enough to qualify for them; like Weiss and Honda, their best finish – second at Skate Canada – unfortunately did not count for points.
The ice dance event was full of shakeups. The French team of Isabel Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder surprisingly won the compulsory dance, then finished fourth in the original dance, and finally finished second in the free and second overall.
Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov of Ukraine continued their winning streak, even earning a perfect 6.0 for a free dance that contained a visible error. This victory is the third of the season for the Ukrainians, who have qualified for the Grand Prix Final.
Americans Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto are attempting to become the first U.S. team to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, but their third-place finishes at Lalique and Skate America will likely not be enough after the conclusion of the Grand Prix. Nevertheless, the rising stars accomplished what no American dance team has done to date – medals in both of their Grand Prix events – and certainly pose a serious threat for the U.S. title.