This week’s Grand Prix de France marks the third of the Senior Grand Prix events, and took place in Angers. There was a plethora of intriguing and moving narratives which played out through the skaters’ performances, telling stories of love and faith, and delivering programs dedicated to home and family members. Read on for a more detailed look at what went down!
🥇Adam Siao Him Fa (France)
🥈 Sota Yamamoto (Japan)
🥉 Kazuki Tomono (Japan)
🥇 Loena Hendrickx (Belgium)
🥈 Yelim Kim (South Korea)
🥉 Rion Sumiyoshi (Japan)
🥇 Charlene Guignard / Marco Fabbri (Italy)
🥈 Laurence Fournier Beaudry / Nikolaj Soerensen (Canada)
🥉 Evgeniia Lopareva / Geoffrey Brissaud (France)
🥇 Deanna Stellato-Dudek / Maxime Deschamps (Canada)
🥈 Camille Kovalev / Pavel Kovalev (France)
🥉 Annika Hocke / Robert Kunkel (Germany)
Winning the gold medal in the men’s event was Adam Siao Him Fa of France, becoming the first French man since 2006 to win the title. He entered the competition as a podium favourite in front of this home crowd. His short and free programs are part of a wider narrative, and are thus innovatively linked together. He had a costly error on the opening jump pass in the short program, popping the quad toe-loop into a double, yet did not let this affect his other elements, showing height on his triple axel and earning +3.19 GOE on his quad salchow. The program set to ‘Rain, in Your Black Eyes’ displayed his musicality and ability to tell a story. Adam’s free skate opened with the same choreography as his SP, thereby manipulating motifs and echoes in what is a creative set of programs; he portrayed the narrative with beautiful commitment and definition to each movement. It was a clean skate apart from a slight deduction on his 4T-1Eu-3S combination, and earned the highest TES and PCS amongst the men.
In second place was Sota Yamamoto of Japan, who was first after the short program. His SP skated to ‘Yesterday’ opened with a stunning 4T-3T which received a GOE of +3.12, followed by a 4S and 3A. His step sequence enabled him to show musicality and attention to the piece, with level 4s in all spins and the step sequence. He was less than half a point behind his PB of 92.81. He wasn’t able to deliver a clean free skate, with a popped triple axel and a mistake on his opening jumping pass. Nonetheless the strong performance, coupled with his wonderful short program, helped him win the silver medal with a comfortable margin.
Compatriot Kazuki Tomono was third. His exuberant and playful personality shone through in his SP to ‘Happy Jazz’; despite a step out of the opening 4T, he continued the performance by showing two strong jumping passes. He received level fours across all other elements, earning a high GOE of +1.56 on the step sequence, showing his strength as an entertainer and performer. His free skate, choreographed by Misha Ge as it has been for the past few seasons, brought a fun and modern side to the classical ‘Die Fledermaus’. He wasn’t able to deliver a clean skate, with deductions in five elements and a popped triple axel, but once again had high levels on his spins and step sequence.
Other notable competitors included Sihyeong Lee of South Korea who finished fourth, after delivering the second highest-scoring free skate despite placing seventh after the short program. He had a clean FS aside from a triple axel landed on the quarter, opening with a quality Rippon quad toe-loop which earned a GOE of +1.76 and 11.26 points overall. Sena Miyake of Japan withdrew before the free program due to illness, and had a disappointing SP with some costly errors; he opened with a strong 4S but popped the 3A and doubled the second jump in his combination. It was nonetheless a delicate and lyrical performance. Lukas Britschgi from Switzerland had tough back-to-back competitions after last week’s event in Canada; he fell on the quad toe-loop in the short program but managed to put out a stronger free skate, with an energetic performance which paid attention to the beats in the percussion during his step sequence.
Ivan Shmuratko of Ukraine delivered two emotive and profoundly touching programs in his Grand Prix debut. He has described his short program to ‘Біля тополі’ or ‘Near the Poplar’ as a tribute to his country. Although he had a mistake on his jump combination, all other elements were positive, with fluidity coming out of the triple flip, and he achieved level fours in all spins. Ivan used a slightly different arrangement of soundtrack to what he had skated to at the Nebelhorn and Finlandia trophies, which opened and closed with birdsong. Here, he returned to that which he showed at the German Test Skates at the start of the season, ending with a pervasive air raid siren with his gaze upwards: a powerful reminder of the realities in his home city Kyiv and his country. His free skate was set to ‘Find Me’ by Forest Blakk, a spoken word poem, which blends beautifully with Adam Solya’s choreography so the emotion and words of the text become inextricably linked to every movement. Ivan is somebody who speaks volumes through the very art of skating, harmonizing the poignant poem with the intensity of the music. He had a fall on the opening 4S but earned a positive GOE for everything else. He closed the program with his signature split slide as part of his choreo sequence.
In first place for the women’s event was reigning world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium. She delivered two clean programs, skating to ‘Si Mama’ and ‘Mi Gente’ in her short program, where she took the lead with 72.75 points. It will be exciting to see her interpretation of the music continue to develop over the season as she grows into the program. Her free skate, performed on her birthday, was also successful and showed top quality, with positive GOEs across all elements. Changing some of the music and choreography since her last competition, she opened with a soft, lyrical piano piece which transitioned into a more dynamic performance. She is a strong contender for all top podium places at every competition this season.
Winning the silver medal was Yelim Kim of South Korea. She also delivered a clean short program, with a high GOE of +1.59 on her triple flip. There was a remarkable fluidity throughout the program, demonstrating a lightness and elegant beauty to her skating. The step sequence displayed her musicality and strong interpretation of Max Richter’s ‘Mercy’. She wasn’t able to deliver a clean free skate, with falls on the triple lutz and triple salchow, but showed quality in her other jumping passes. She showcased a stunning Ina Bauer in both programs, which is quickly becoming her trademark move.
Coming into third place was Rion Sumiyoshi of Japan, with less than half a point difference from Yelim Kim. Despite placing fifth after the short program, she delivered a strong free skate the following day. Rion opened with a quad toe-loop, and although she wasn’t able to land it, she followed up with some strong jumps, with remarkable speed and flow which earned her solid GOEs, such as the triple loop with +1.12. There were some smaller errors in jumping passes in the latter half of her program, but it was nonetheless a dynamic skate with intricate transitions.
Haein Lee of South Korea, who placed fourth at Skate America, was fourth again in France, although she produced the second highest scoring free skate with 130.72 points. It was a great performance despite some mistakes in jumping passes, demonstrating speed and expression in the step sequence which earned a level 4 and a GOE of +1.17. Mana Kawabe of Japan finished sixth overall although she was third after the short program. She struggled more in the free skate, with two falls, yet displayed her strong musicality and grace whilst skating to Anne Sila’s ‘Drowning’. Maé-Bérénice Méité of France showed two powerful programs in front of a home crowd, back on the GP circuit after what has been a difficult past couple of seasons. Her Michael Jackson short program was an energetic performance which earned applause and cheers from the crowd, demonstrating a wonderful sense of showmanship and rhythm which was a delight to watch. Her free skate to ‘I Surrender’ by Celine Dion was dynamic, and despite some smaller deductions on several jumping passes, was nevertheless a strong skate.
In first place for the Ice Dance event were Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabri from Italy, with 207.95 points overall. They had the highest TES and PCS in both the rhythm and free dances, and edged out Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen to take the lead after the rhythm dance. Their elements were all rewarded with solid GOEs, most notably the choreo rhythm sequence at the end of the program with +5.57. They followed up with an equally strong free dance which was a clean skate, maintaining a level 4 in all lifts. The performance opened powerfully and retained the intensity and emotion throughout the performance, skating to ‘My Love Will Never Die’, ‘Mephistos’ and ‘Eden’.
Winning the silver medal were Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen representing Canada. They showed top quality in the rhythm dance with confidence and verve throughout the program. They earned high grades of execution for all elements, especially the stationary lift, and the choreo rhythm sequence of +5.79, closing with strong energy and attention to the details of movement. They achieved a season’s best of 82.38 points. Their free dance was set to intricately woven pieces of music, which reflected the changes in tonality and tempo with skill. They ended with an emphatic choreo slide, and were second in terms of both TES and PCS.
Third were Evgeniia Lopareva and Geoffrey Brissaud of France. Their rhythm dance opened with the choreo rhythm sequence, thereby setting the tone for their program. They followed up with quality elements, save from a slight error on their opening twizzles; they showcased charisma and delivered a strong performance. Their free dance was set to the timeless music of Edith Piaf, which was interpreted with committed passion and expressive movements: both skaters have good musicality. They gained a comfortable margin above the other French couple, Loicia Demougeot and Theo le Mercier, and were rewarded with positive GOEs in all their elements.
In first place were Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps of Canada, who have been having a successful season, with a second place finish at Skate America. They weren’t able to deliver a clean SP, with a slight deduction on the side-by-side triple toe-loop and a fall from the throw triple loop. Nevertheless, they opened the program with magnetism and a triple twist that earned a GOE of +1.87, interpreting the Piazzolla tango with intensity. Their free skate was to ‘Cleopatra’ and showcased quality elements such as the forward outside death spiral. There was a deduction on the throw triple flip and a fall on the throw triple loop, but it remained a strong performance and another GP medal for the team.
Camille Kovalev and Pavel Kovalev of France won the silver medal. In their short program set to music by Billie Eilish, they nailed the side-by-side triple toe-loop and received +1.20 GOE for their lift. They showed wonderful confidence and personality in the ‘Bad Guy’ section of their program during the step sequence, and earned a score of 63.98. Their free skate was to Florent Pagny’s rendition of ‘Caruso’, which built up well to the climax. There was a hand down on the triple flip, and was the third highest free skate score; however it was enough to take the lead over Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel by a slim margin of 0.12 points.
Coming into third place was Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel of Germany. There were some errors in the short program regarding the side-by-side salchow and throw triple loop, which led to negative GOEs, but the rousing ABBA program is sure to be a crowd pleaser in their competitions to come. They delivered a strong free skate to ‘Without You’ by Ursine Vulpine, matching the power and nuances of the piece with skill. Their lasso lift was given a GOE of +1.30, and they succeeded in the throw triple flip. Despite being fifth after the short program, this performance enabled them to win the bronze medal.
Karina Safina and Luka Berulava representing Georgia were third after the short program but fell to fifth place overall after the free skate. They emulated the tonality of their short program’s ‘Danse Macabre’ well, but had a fall from the throw triple loop and a deduction on the spin. The free skate was riddled with errors; doubtless Karina’s injury affected the performance, and we wish her a speedy recovery.