Asada seeks strong skate at Grand Prix finale
World champion and Olympic silver medallist Mao Asada will be looking to regain her form and confidence at this week's Trophee Eric Bompard.
With the world championships looming in March in Tokyo on home ice, Asada needs to bounce back following dismal performances in her first two competitions this season at the Japan Open and the NHK Trophy.
Asada, who won silver at the Vancouver Olympics, parted ways with Russian coach Tatiana Tarasova this year after the world championships and has struggled to adapt to her new coach Nobuo Sato, who previously worked with Miki Ando and Fumie Suguri.
The Trophee Bompard starts Friday at the Palais Omnisports in Paris. It is the sixth and final event in the ISU Grand Prix series before next month's Grand Prix Final in Beijing, which will feature the top six skaters in each discipline.
Cynthia Phaneuf of Contrecoeur, Que., is also a medal contender in the women's event. She was fourth at Skate Canada last month, her only other Grand Prix event this season.
Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., is entered in the men's competition. Mylene Brodeur of Stanbridge-Station, Que., and John Mattatall of Wallace, N.S., will compete in pairs and Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill of Toronto will skate in the ice dance.
At the Japan Open last month, Asada put on her worst free skate performance since she started her senior career five years ago, missing a triple Axel during her new program to Franz Liszt's Liebestraum. She then fell twice at the NHK Trophy and finished eighth.
"I spoke with my coach about this event and about training from now on, and he said he was worried after my performance at the Japan Open but a little more at ease having looked at the overall picture from [the NHK Trophy] and my practice," said the 20-year-old Asada. "He said it will be hard but we can build things up."
Asada shouldn't be written off too fast as she experienced problems all season with her trademark triple axel before defeating Olympic champion Kim Yu-na at the worlds.
In Paris, Asada's main competitor is expected to be American Alissa Czisny, who launched her season with a win at Skate Canada and can secure a spot at the final. Cynthia Phaneuf of Canada, American Mirai Nagasu and Kiira Korpi of Finland are the other top contenders.
In the men's competition, local favourite Brian Joubert will be looking for a second win in his home Grand Prix after winning in 2006.
"This is a very important competition for me, in front of my home crowd and I need to perform well this year," said Joubert, who followed a disastrous Olympic performance with a third-place finish at the world championships.
Joubert also parted ways with his coach Laurent Depouilly and started a new partnership with former mentor Veronique Guyon, with whom he already worked for 15 years.
"I want to show that I'm still capable of winning and my goal is to reclaim the world title," said Joubert, who won the title in 2007. "Everything is going well with Veronique. She is a very good technician and I can feel the difference from the previous years."
In the pairs competition, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany will try to qualify for the final with another solid performance following their victory at Skate America earlier this month. In ice dancing, Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France will be looking for a second Grand Prix title after winning at the Cup of China.