2023 Grand Prix de France: Pairs
Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud of Canada took the Pairs’ title at 2023 Grand Prix de France in their second season together as a team. Italy’s Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii maintained second to pocket the silver, while Camille Kovalev and Pavel Kovalev of France settled for bronze.
Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud
Pereira and Michaud improved on their short program from 2023 Skate America, placing first in Angers with a new personal best of 65.97. The Canadian bronze medalists were solid, landing a level-three triple twist, side-by-side triple toes and a throw triple loop. The team also earned a level four on the lift, spin and death spiral in their routine to “River” by Bishop Briggs.
“It felt great out there today!” said Michaud. “For us, the most important thing is how we feel right coming off the ice, and that was great. Scoring a personal best shows our personal growth. We knew what to expect and prepared for the quick turn around after Skate America.”
“We’re really proud of our skate today,” added Pereira. “We try to take every new competition as a learning experience and to push ourselves to skate better and better each time.”
The skaters acknowledged that the Grand Prix Final is definitely on their minds but emphasized that they want to enjoy each competition.
In their free skate to music from the Gladiator soundtrack, the 2023 Skate America silver medalists opened with a level-three triple twist, but then Michaud fell on the last jump of the triple toe-double Axel-double Axel sequence. He also struggled on the landing of the triple Salchows, but those were the only mistakes. The team produced a solid throw triple loop and throw triple Salchow while showing two level-four lifts and death spiral. They scored a new personal best of 128.70 for first place in the free skate and overall (194.67).
“We are very happy!” said Pereira. “Every competition brings a new experience for us. This time it was our first time skating last and hearing everyone’s score. It was amazing to skate in front of the crowd. It was one of the biggest crowds we ever skated in front of, and we could feel the energy.”
With this win, the team who place second at Skate America, has qualified for the Grand Prix Final.
“We still have things to improve on,” said Michaud. “We want to push our artistry. We will be focusing on the skating skills. We will get some touch-ups with our choreographers for both programs. It’s pretty insane to have reached the Final after only about a year of skating together.”
Pereira agreed, adding, “It’s great feeling that all the work we are putting in is paying off. We are super excited!”
Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii
With the exception of a step out on the landing of a throw triple loop, Conti and Macii were solid in their short program to “Pagliacci, Act 1: Intermezzo.” The 2023 World bronze medalists showed a level-four triple twist and clean side-by-side triple toes while picking up a level four on a group three lift. They scored 65.31, finishing in a very close second place.
“We are mainly happy on how we skated,” said Conti. “We made a mistake, and we lost points in the second half of the program, but overall, we skated well.”
Maci explained that the short program is a “try-out” for the Olympics.
“This music was the wedding music of my grandparents,” he said. “My grandpa was like my father. Sara also knew him, and he passed away two years ago. We hope to make him proud with this program!”
“Last season everything was new, and this season also everything is new,” he added. “We need to keep it up. Competitors come from forward and from behind and they are really good. We have to work on our mental strength, but we are sure we can make it.”
Their free skate to music from Cinema Paradiso featured a level-four triple twist, spin, and reverse lift. The 2023 European champions also showed solid triple Salchows and throw triple loop. The only errors came when Conti stepped out of the last jump of the triple toe-double Axel sequence and the throw triple Salchow. They finished second in the long program and overall (124.15 / 189.46).
Conti was injured during the summer, and they were unable to do throw jumps for a month. The team admitted to feeling pressure and that they have been working with a sports psychologist.
“We knew we had to be perfect in order to still win,” said Macii. “The pressure is so much higher than last year. Second place was an achievement back then, but we are also mental coaches to each other. I told her she can do it! We need a few more extra rounds. I want her to be sure of herself.”
“I know I can do it,” said Conti. “I don’t know what happened. Maybe I need to do more repetitions.”
“When you give everything, you can and still make a mistake,” he added. “It’s human. You can still be proud of yourself.”
Their next Grand Prix event will be in Finland.
Camille Kovalev and Pavel Kovalev
Kovalev and Kovalev had a low catch on their triple twist in the short, which was graded a level two. Their routine also featured a throw triple flip, side-by-side triple toes, as well as a level-four death spiral and steps. Unfortunately, Pavel lost his balance and fell during the pair combination spin, which resulted in a one-point deduction. Their score was still a season’s best of 59.04 for third place.
“We were really happy all the way to almost the end of the program where we did a really stupid mistake in the end, a mistake that usually never happens,” said Camille Kovalev. “The Grand Prix in France is always something really special to us. People encourage us here at our home country! Last season, we won the silver medal here as a total surprise. It was more stressful this season as we knew we had won that medal last year. Maybe that led to the mistake.”
The defending silver medalists placed third with a new personal best (115.87) with their spy-themed free skate. The only mistake came when Camille double-footed the landing of the throw triple flip. She also fought for the landing the throw triple Salchow, but the side-by-side double Salchows were clean. The Axel lift and pair spin were graded a level four and they finished third overall with a total score of 172.88.
“We are so happy,” said Camille. “We came here with the goal to win a medal and we did it. We fought until the end to get it!”
“It’s been a great competition for France,” she added. “Just like last year, Adam won the gold and Evgenia and Geoffrey won the bronze. We were happy for them, but also wanted to join them (silver).”
They will share ice with the Italians again in Espoo in two weeks.
Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez
USA’s Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano picked up a season’s best 58.46 for a fourth-place finish after the short program. Their routine to “The Feeling Begins” and “Prince of Persia” featured a level-four triple twist, death spiral, lift, and spin. Unfortunately, Plazas fell on the side-by-side triple toes and put a foot down on the throw triple loop.
“We are quite tired and relieved that it’s done,” said Plazas. “We are working really hard but tend to get tired towards the end of the week. We are usually good at practices but can’t really transfer it to competition. We need to work on that!”
“We worked on our jumps with Tomas Verner and hope to work with him again,” added Fernandez. “The technical is our weak spot.”
They hope to compete at another Challenger before nationals.
Rounding out the top eight
USA’s Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea stood in fifth after the short, but the team had a fall in practice today and withdrew from the event. They are currently scheduled to compete two weeks in Finland at Grand Prix Espoo.
Anna Valesi and Manuel Piazza of Italy finished sixth (150.57) overall and will compete next week at Cup of China.