The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series continued with Trophée Lalique November 13- 15, 2003. The fourth of six qualifying events took place at the Palais Omnisport Paris-Bercy in Paris, France.
Sasha Cohen, the current US National bronze medalist, entered her third Grand Prix event in Paris, and won the gold with a total score of 197.19 points. Shizuka Arakawa of Japan won the silver medal (172.12 points) while Hungary’s Julia Sebestyen, won the bronze (163.32 points).
Viktoria Volchkova of Russia was scheduled to compete, but withdrew for undisclosed reasons. This would not have been a scoring event for the 21-year-old from Moscow, who now sits in 14th place overall in the Grand Prix series after competing at Skate America and Cup of China.
Cohen skated with a focused precision to Lecuona’s Malaguena, in the short program, landing a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, a triple flip and a double Axel. Showing off her flexibility in her spiral sequence, the 19-year-old received special applause from the audience and earned a total segment score of 69.38 points.
“I felt good. It was strange with having half of the arena being empty. It felt a little bit like practice,” Cohen said with a smile. “I really feel I’m learning how to compete well. I can count on myself, I’m dependable. I definitely try to go out and enjoy it and leave the nerves behind.”
Arakwa, who was seventh to skate, performed to Legrand’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The current Four Continents silver medalist completed a triple Lutz-double-toeloop combination, a triple flip follwed by a nice flying camel spin (that ended in a donut position), and a good double Axel. Arakawa, who won silver at Skate Canada earlier this month, was awarded a total segment score of 62.34 points.
“I wanted to do the triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination, but my Lutz was too low, so I couldn’t do it,” Arakawa explained. “But I’m happy with my program, it was my first clean short of the season.”
Despite being first on the ice for the ladies’ short program, Sebestyen appeared calm. Skating to a waltz, the European bronze medalist opened with a triple flip, followed by a high triple Lutz-double toeloop, a solid double Axel and good spins. Sebestyen, who finished third at Skate Canada behind Arakawa, earned a total segment score of 58.44 points.
“I skated first not for the first time, so I didn’t care about the starting number,” Sebestyen commented. “I think my program was better than at Skate Canada. The program as a whole was good.”
In her long program to Tchaikovski’s Swan Lake, Cohen opened with a triple Lutz-double toeloop followed by a clean triple flip-double toeloop combination. The 19-year-old executed four more triples (slightly two-footing the landing on a flip), a double Axel (hand down), and delivered fast spins with interesting positions. She was awared total segment score of 197.19 points to win the long program.
“This was my third Grand Prix, and it’s tough to maintain my skating throughout the four weeks of the Grand Prix season,” said Cohen. “I was happy with my perfomance tonight and very happy with how the event turned out.”
Arakawa had to overcome a shaky start in her Turandot program when she stepped out of her opening triple Lutz. Though the 21-year-old landed a clean triple Salchow, she stumbled after overrotating the second jump in her triple flip-double toeloop combination. She recovered to land a double Axel, a triple lutz-double toeloop combination, and a triple toeloop. The judges awarded her 109.78 points.
“I made some mistakes today,” Arakawa told the press. “I rushed too much going into my jumps. Now I’m happy with my placement.”
Sebestyen put out an elegant Tango for her long program that included good spins, a triple Salchow, a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, and a triple loop. Her first major mistake happened in her triple toeloop-double toeloop combination (she overrotated the double toeloop). The 22-year-old then doubled a triple flip and two-footed her second triple Lutz, but finished with a good double Axel. She scored 104.88 points and remained in third place.
“I’m happy with my Free Program. That’s the third good long program for me this year,” the European bronze medalist said.
Beatrisa Liang from the US, finished fourth overall, jumping three spots from seventh to fourth after the long. Finland’s Alisa Drei finished fifth, followed by Anne Sophie Calvez of France, who was sixth.
This was a final scoring event for Cohen, Arakawa, and Sebestyen, who earned 12 points, 9 points, and 7 points respectively.
Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria were the winning team at this event with a total score of 210.44 points. They were followed by Canadians Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, who won silver (202.37 points). Trailing by a mere 2.07 points (200.30), France’s Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder took the bronze.
The Compulsory Dance (CD) chosen for this event was the Austrian Waltz. The dance was invented by Austrian brother and sister team Susi and Peter Handschmann and performed for the first time in 1979.
Denknova and Staviski, who won silver last week at Skate Canada, were in first place after the CD. Dubreuil and Lauzon and Delobel and Schoenfelder came in second and third respectively, separated by only 0.2 points.
The Bulgarians defended their overnight lead in the Original Dance (OD), putting out a sultry and upbeat Blues and Swing routine. The Blues portion (James Brown’s It’s a Man’s Man’s World) included a difficult dance spin and a lift with Staviski in a spread eagle position, as well as interesting transitions. In the Swing portion, the reigning World’s bronze medalists highlighted their intricate side-by-side footwork line to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s Big and Bad, earning a total segment score of 62.58 points.
Delobel and Schoenfelder showed off their technical skills in their performance to a Boogie Woogie and Blues. The French Champions started with a demanding side-by-side footwork line, much on one foot, and a spin in two directions. Their diagonal footwork was strong as well, but Schoenfelder lost his balance and tripped during a rotational lift, causing both of them to fall. They earned a total segment score of 59. 77 points which moved them up one spot to second place.
Dubreuil and Lauzon skated their Swing and Blues routine to Americano and Why Don’t You Do Right, featuring an impressive lift in which Lauzon whirls his partner around his body. The Canadians also executed a dance spin with change of position as well as a fast rotational lift. They scored 58.02 points, placing them in third overall after the OD.
Denkova and Staviski skated their romantice Free Dance (FD) to Georg Friedrich Händel’s Suite in D-minor. The flowing routine featured innovative lifts and two difficult dance spins, as well as fast footwork and good transitions. Unfortunately, at the end of their program, the reigning European silver medalists fell on an optional lift. Nethertheless, the Bulgarians placed first in the FD with a total segment score of 108.03.
“This competition was a big challenge for us,” Denkova told the post-event news conference. “We made many changes since Skate Canada and obviously there was not enough time. We did only one run through with the changed elements. But we’re very happy with the response of the public to our programs.” Staviski said that he doesn’t really have an explanation for the fall.
Dubreuil and Lauzon performed to a sultry Tango routine (Des Tours de Vise, Santa Maria, Vuelvo al Su, and Tango Inna Babylone) which featured difficult lifts and intricate footwork. The current Canadian National silver medalists received the highest technical score of 44.20 points and 63.68 points for program components for a total segment score of 107.88 points, moving them up another spot to second.
“This program is physically very hard, and it was our third competition in a row,” Dubreuil said. “We were maybe a little bit tired. But we still put out a pretty good performance and we’re looking forward to working a little bit more on that program to make it even better for the next competition.”
Delobel and Schoenfelder excited their home crowd with their program to Maxime Rodriguez’s Merlin. Coached by Muriel Boucher-Zazoui, the French team performed interesting lifts and transition moves as well as two nice dance spins. Though their footwork was strong, Schoenfelder made a little mistake in the twizzle sequence. The couple who won silver at this event last year, earned 104.08 points and dropped to third place.
“It was a good competition for us except for the fall yesterday,” Schoenfelder explained. “I think we’re improving from one competition to the next.” Delobel added that the couple put yesterday’s mistake behind them quickly. “Today was another day, and we’re strong together. So we skated better.”
Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, the current US National silver medalists, earned the highest technical score (20.00 points) in the OD, but finished in fourth place over all after the FD. Svetlana Kulikova and Vitali Novikov of Russia were fifth, followed by Roxane Petetin and Mathieu Jost of France, who were sixth.
Denkova and Staviski earned 12 points (their last scoring event) in Paris, and are scheduled to compete again at the NHK Trophy later this month. Dubreuil and Lauzon earned 9 points, while Delobel and Schoenfelder earned 7 points – a final scoring event for both teams.
World Junior Champions Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China, secured themselves a spot in the Grand Prix Final after winning the gold in the pairs event. World silver medalists Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin of Russia, won the silver medal with 165.20 points, while on their heels, were USA’s Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn, who won the bronze with a total score of 162.26.
Zhang and Zhang put out a clean program to Joe Satriani’s All Alone that included very synchronized side-by-side triple toeloops, a throw triple loop, and a high double twist. The reigning World Junior Champions were awared 60.12 points, placing them second.
“I think our program today was quite ok,” Dan Zhang said. “Some parts done really well. We really like the new judging system because of the detailed feedback we get. That helps us in our work.”
Totmianina and Marinin, who drew first to skate, set the standard for the pairs short program with a strong performance. Skating to Variations on a Theme of Paganini, the couple executed a throw triple loop, side-by-side triple toeloops, a double twist, and a one-armed lift. The Russians were awarded a total segment score of 63.88 points.
“This was better than at Skate Canada,” Totmianina said. “After Skate Canada, I was sick, and we didn’t even know if we can go to the Trophee Lalique and Cup of Russia.”
Scott and Dulebohn opened their short program with a lift and a throw triple Salchow that had a lean in the air, but Scott saved it. The US champions also landed the side-by-side triple toeloops and displayed good spins to George Bizet’s Farandole.
“We had a difficult throw, it was a little off,” commented Dulebohn. “But we still were able to manage to skate a clean program. That was our goal this evening, and we’re very happy with that.”
For their long, Zhang and Zhang performed to Emmerich Kalman’s Gräfn Mariza. They pened with a huge throw triple twist, followed by a double Axel-triple toeloop sequence. The current Four Continents bronze medalists went on to complete a throw triple loop, but the program was disrupted when Dan Zhang fell on the the side-by-side triple Salchow. Despite the fall, the team from Beijing earned 114.76 points for an overall total of 174.88, moving them from second to first place.
“We’re actually not so satisfied with the peformance,” Dan Zhang said. “I fell on the triple Salchow, that was disappointing. We were nervous, because this is an important event.”
Skating to last season’s Cotton Club, Totmianina and Marinin ran into trouble at the beginning when they both fell on the side-by-side triple Salchow. After more mistakes with the triple twist and side-by-side triple toeloop combination, the team from St. Petersburg finished fourth in the Free Skate. After a score of 101.32 points, they slipped from first to second with an overall total score of 165.20.
“I think this was the worst we’ve ever skated,” Marinin commented, who had been sick prior to this event. “I had fever and I couldn’t skate at all for three days. So we had only three days left for our preparation, and it wasn’t enough.”
In their long program to Les Miserables by C.-M. Schönberg, Scott and Dulebohn produced a solid performance that contained a side-by-side triple toe-double flip sequence, a triple twist, and two triple throws as well as a one-armed lift. They received 107.60 points, finishin second in the Free Skating and third overall.
“We skated pretty well. We had a few mistakes, but it definitely has room to grow for next week (at the Cup of Russia),” Scott explained. “We are honoured to win the bronze medal,” Dulebohn added. “It’s the first time for us. We really wanted to win a medal in one of our Grand Prix events this year. It’s very gratifying. It wasn’t our best performance, but we really feel that our long program is getting stronger as the season goes on.”
Canada’s Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto, who were in third after the short, dropped to fourth overall, followed by Katerina Berankova and Otto Dlabloa of the Czech Republic.
Zhang and Zhang earned 12 points for this event. The Chinese are still scheduled to compete next week at Cup of Russia, however it will be a non-scoring event for them as they earned 7 points at Skate America. Totmianina and Marinin earned 9 points and are hoping to score again at the Cup of Russia event. This was a non-scoring event for Scott and Dulebohn who are also scheduled to compete in Moscow next week.
In the Men’s event, reigning World Champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia, who won gold at Skate Canada, entered and won his first scoring event. Belgium’s Kevin van der Perren took the silver, his first senior Grand Prix medal, while USA’s Michael Weiss won the bronze.
Plushenko, who was the 11th to skate out of 12 skaters, stumbled on his quadruple toeloop, adding only a single toeloop. He then landed a triple Axel and triple Lutz in his program to a selection of flamenco and tango rhythms. The reigning World and European champion displayed fast footwork, but the program seemed to lack his usual flamboyance. He was awarded a score of 75.35 points, putting him in first place.
Kevin van der Perren of Belgium stood in fourth place with a score of 63.95 points, 1.64 points ahead of reigning World Junior Champion, Alexander Shubin, after performing his short to Tango Tanguera by Astor Piazolla. His jumps included a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination, triple flip, and a double Axel.
Weiss skated conservatively to Henry V, opting for a triple flip-triple toeloop combination instead of a quad combination, two-footing the landing on the second jump. The US champion also executed a triple Axel and a triple Lutz, both of which were below par. Weiss, who recently won gold at Skate America, received 65.90 points for his performance.
Performing his long – a tribute to Vaclav Nizhinski (a Russian ballet dancer), Plushenko awed the crowd with his opening jump – a quad-triple toeloop-double loop combination. He followed through with with a triple toeloop, two triple Axels (one in combination with a double toeloop), and three more triples (he doubled the fourth triple which was a loop). The 21-year-old exhibited intricate footwork along with two good combination spins, earning 158.94 points overall for his free skate.
“I’m fine with my skate,” Plushenko commented. “I finally did two triple Axels and the quad-triple-double combination. I didn’t skate so well at Skate Canada.” It was the first time for Plushenko to win a Trophée Lalique event.
Van der Perren put out a strong long program to selections of Robin Hood soundtracks by Michael Kamen. The 2002 World Junior silver medalist opened with a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination followed by his trademark triple Salchow-triple toeloop-triple loop combination. The 21-year-old executed two more triple jumps and three double Axels, earning 133.38 points to move him from fourth to second overall.
“I was so happy about my fifth place finish at Skate Canada, and I thought this would be the limit I would get,” van der Perren commented. “Today I proved myself wrong. But I was lucky. If all the others skate clean, I don’t think I’ll be second or third.” The Belgian skater announced that he hopes to put a quadruple jump into his programs in time for the European Championships.
Skating first of the top contenders, Weiss opened with a triple toeloop, but missed the quad toeloop attempt. The two-time World bronze medalist recovered to land a triple Axel-double toeloop combination, although the Axel was two-footed. The 27-year-old produced four more triples, but missed his second triple Axel. Weiss earned 130.08 points for his military-themed performance to When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Amazing Grace, and Battle Hymn of the Republic.
“My skate wasn’t as good as I would have liked,” Weiss admitted. “I guess the judging system balances out two programs. So I got lucky with the marks and overall scores. Next week will be a scoring event for me in Russia. So this was a non-scoring event. I was happy to just get a medal.”
France’s Brian Joubert, who won silver at Cup of China (non-scoring event) last week, was hoping to score in his home country. The European silver medalist was in sixth place after the short, moving up only two spots to fourth after his long program. The 19-year-old’s total score was 195.58 points – only 0.40 points from Weiss’s total score of 195.98.
Daisuke Takahashi of Japan put out a clean short program, earning a total segment score of 71.31 points. The 2002 World Junior Champion was only 4.04 points behind Plushenko, putting him in second place. After his long program, Takahashi was awarded 123.31 for a total score of 194.62, resulting in a fifth overall placement.
Plushenko earned 12 points while van der Perren earned 9. This was a non-scoring event for Weiss, who will compete again at Cup of Russia along with Plushenko.
Cup of Russia, the fifth of six qualifying Grand Prix events, will be held Nov 21-23, in Moscow, Russia.