The Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris, France, provided some food for thought. The level of competition, in many cases, still seems to be a little weak. It could be just this time of the season. It could also be the skaters are trying to accomplish more than they are ready to at this point.
There weren't any brilliant moments in the pairs event. I am always looking for that moment when the leading pair takes the ice in the free and you know they mean business.
The winners, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia, won this event on the strength of their overall quality as a pair. Volosozhar and Trankov are only in their second season and would have been one of my early picks on paper for worlds, but I'm not so sure now. Their free program had errors and they seem to be struggling to find each other. I have yet to see the "oneness" that I expected.
Russian teammates Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov earned the silver, flip-flopping places with Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford following the short.
Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, the 14-year-old skating sensation from Russia, prevailed in Paris. With her outstanding jumping ability, Tuktamisheva was able to claim a second Grand Prix title in her first senior season and a spot in the Grand Prix Final. There is lots of work still to be done as far as bringing out a strong presentation side but, at her age, Tuktamisheva has lots of time.
Alissa Czisny of the United States took the bronze but won the free program. In a sport now measured in tiny numerical increments, the rule here is the short program counts more than ever. Czisny came into the free after a third-place finish in the short. Her first place in the free still wasn't enough to overcome the eventual .17 margin that would have given her the silver.
Italian Carolina Kostner is skating with a joie de vivre that is charming. Having already qualified for the Grand Prix Final, this competition was more as an exercise in performing under pressure. She is typically much stronger in one or the other of her programs but, this season, has competed more evenly in both. Kostner took the silver.
The men took the ice in a highly anticipated event. Toronto's Patrick Chan won the gold and is going to the Grand Prix Final. Although he landed two quads in the free program, he would be the first to say that it was a struggle. What continues to give Chan the advantage is the quality of his programs -- created by Lori Nichol -- and the fact that he has outstanding skating skills. The rest of the field didn't pose much of a threat and Chan earned this title about 40 points below his personal best.
Nan Song of China took his second medal -- a silver -- in as many weeks. Good for him. It is nice to see consistency and good ol' honest skating rewarded. Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic took the bronze, but also struggled in his free program. Knocking on the door of the Grand Prix Final for the last couple of years, Brezina is delighted to have finally made it.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the world silver medallists from Canada, easily took the title in ice dance and will be headed to Quebec City for the Grand Prix Final. It is so interesting to be fielding questions and comments from fans who think that Virtue and Moir have missed the mark with their Funny Face free dance. I couldn't disagree more. I love the way that everything from the crazy running steps to the look on their faces to the intricate footwork is all about dance from that golden movie era. Virtue is the perfect delicate and feminine Audrey Hepburn to Moir's gallant and masculine Fred Astaire.
The French champions took the silver medal. Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat dropped out of their second Grand Prix at Skate Canada while Bourzat recovered from severe bronchitis. In Paris, their speed and overall performance was greatly improved. They skate to The Mummy soundtrack. They are terrific skaters with an imposing presence, but I find Pechalat's costume distracting enough that I occasionally lose track of the skating, which is a shame because they do some cool things.
I don't see the drama or the speed with the Italian ice dancers Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, but what I do see I like. They have great edge quality and intricacy in their free dance program. They were solid enough to earn their second bronze medal of the Grand Prix.
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