Taking place in Angers last week was the Grand Prix de France, which marks the halfway point in this season’s Grand Prix series. The competition saw personal bests, history making jumps, and skaters who secured themselves a spot in the Final. Keep reading for a recap of the exciting event!
🥇 Adam Siao Him Fa (France)
🥈 Ilia Malinin (USA)
🥉 Yuma Kagiyama (Japan)
🥇Isabeau Levito (USA)
🥈 Nina Pinzarrone (Belgium)
🥉Rion Sumiyoshi (Japan)
🥇 Charlene Guignard / Marco Fabbri (Italy)
🥈 Laurence Fournier-Beaudry / Nikolaj Soerensen (Canada)
🥉 Evgeniia Lopareva / Geoffrey Brissaud (France)
🥇 Lia Pereira / Trennt Michaud (Canada)
🥈 Sara Conti / Niccolo Macii (Italy)
🥉 Camille Kovalev / Pavel Kovalev (France)
The winner of the men’s event was reigning European champion Adam Siao Him Fa of France, who broke the 300-point barrier with 306.78 points. He came into the competition well prepared, and was in second place on the first day after a successful and clean short program, where he opened with a seemingly effortless quad lutz which was given +3.78 GOE. Although his quad toe was not landed with the most flow, he had the patience to be able to add on a solid triple toe-loop in combination. He is an acrobatic skater, displaying a cartwheel and aerial in the step sequence; they were well integrated into the choreography and in time with the music, and thus did not seem gratuitous. He had impressively fast ice coverage in the element, and committed to each shape and position of the choreography. In his free skate to pieces by Max Richter, he once more showcased his capacities as a storyteller, opening the narrative from the first few moments of the program. He possesses an amazing technical arsenal, pulling off four quads with unfaltering high quality, all the while paying attention to the other aspects of the program such as artistic and emotional details. His ability to gain speed in the final elements of the program to accompany the skate’s climax was a testament to his stamina and training.
Ilia Malinin of the USA was in second place, following on from his win in Skate America. His short program to ‘Malaguena’ comprises of well-crafted choreography which will no doubt push him to develop and bring out his musicality. He had a fall in the step sequence, but was clean elsewhere; Malinin did well to interact with the audience in this element, which was a space to improve last season, but it does risk detracting from the integrity and cohesivity of the performance. In terms of jumps, he put out a quality quad toeloop with remarkable distance and height, followed by a quad lutz-triple toe combination; the triple axel was landed on the beat of the music to move into the faster section of the piece. His free skate this season is to the soundtrack of ‘Succession’. He did not opt for the quad axel, but landed four quads, and had transitional content going into and coming out of the elements. It wasn’t the clean skate he would have wanted, with a step out of the quad lutz-euler-salchow combination which opened the second half of his skate that was given -0.99 GOE. It is commendable that he is pushing his components further this season and he was given a high PCS of 86.98 from the judges.
In third place was Yuma Kagiyama of Japan, coming back from last season’s injuries. He has recycled both his programs from last year, and it will be exciting to see how they develop over the course of the season. His short program was a clean skate to ‘Believer’, where he showed both power and masterful control within his movements: the song choice works well with the dynamism of his skating. Kagiyama was successful on all jumps and transitions, and the program as a whole is well-constructed. He is someone who racks up points in grades of execution; while he only had one quad, the salchow, and thus had lower base values compared to the other two skaters on the podium, the quality of each element shines through in his performances. In his ‘Rain in Your Black Eyes’ free skate, he nailed the quad salchow and the quad toe, with a beautiful running edge coming out of the jumps. Although a popular choice of music, it is a piece which pushes him in terms of expression and projection. He had the costly error of popping one of his axels into just a single, and also stepped out of the triple lutz; despite this, he delivered a strong ending to his program, with an Ina Bauer in the choreo sequence with extended limbs, and a highly complex step sequence which he made look effortless.
Lukas Britschgi of Switzerland delivered two great performances in Angers for a new personal best of 257.34. He skated to ‘I’m in the Mood for Love’ and ‘Superstition’ in the SP, and these choices make for a stark contrast between the first and second halves of the program. Britschgi emulated both styles with confidence: he is a strong performer who is good at engaging with the audience. Although he opted for a double instead of triple toeloop after his opening quad toe, it was a clean performance and the final jump, the triple lutz, was landed in time with the beat of the music. His free skate was the third highest scoring program, and he opened with a 4T-3T and a 4T which were both of high quality; his triple axel later on moreover displayed impressive height. He always does well with strong, rhythmic pieces of music, and he grasped the complex beats of the percussive piece with skill. There was a slight loss of balance with the twizzles in the step sequence, but it was another clean and triumphant skate from Britschgi.
Fifth after the short program but tenth in the free skate and seventh overall was Stephen Gogolev of Canada, who came in following Daniel Grassl’s withdrawal and was told only several days before the competition. He skated to ‘The Sound of Silence’ in the short program, and nailed the quad toe-triple toe combination, as well as the following quad salchow. Compared to his TES of 50.17, his PCS of 35.97 indicates that his components can be pushed much further, which will no doubt come with time and as he grows more secure with the other elements of his skating. He had good expressivity in the intense final section of the SP, which was given a level four. He struggled more in his free skate: although he landed the opening quad toe, he popped the next lutz into just a single, and had trouble landing several of his other jumps cleanly, doubling a salchow in the second half of his program as well.
Isabeau Levito won the gold medal in Angers, following on from her second-place win at Skate America. She was first after the short program, where all her elements were given positive grades of execution. She earned level fours in all spins and the step sequence, although she struggled a little with balance in the opening of the latter. She skated with poise and elegance in her ‘White Crow’ free skate, which is a great match for the lyrical music. She was confident in her jumps in the first half of the program, and was given good grades of execution for them. However, she struggled slightly with the triple lutz-euler-triple salchow and triple flip-double toe combinations, and received an underrotation call for the salchow. Whilst spins are usually her forte, she had an uncharacteristic loss of centre in the final spin, exiting early and earning no points for the element. Despite the scattering of errors, however, it was a strong enough skate to put her in first place overall, and her step sequence showed her skill at edgework and musicality, as she worked carefully to hit all the accents of the piece.
Nina Pinzarrone of Belgium was fourth after the short program, but rose to second place overall to get the silver medal. She was solid on her jumps in the short program, although her lutz was judged as on the quarter. The program has choreography between all elements, making for an enjoyable performance to watch. Pinzarrone extends her limbs beautifully in her skating, and in her free skate to Khachaturian’s music, she was clean on all of her jumps, landing them securely with a great extended leg coming out of them. She engaged well with the judges, and had well-sustained positions in the choreographic sequence, which were used along with the step sequence to build up to the music’s climactic moments. She will be competing at the NHK Trophy later this month, and is a skater to watch this season.
In third place was Rion Sumiyoshi of Japan. She skated to ‘Blood in the Water’ in her short program. She fell on the opening double axel, but retained concentration and landed the following two jumping passes cleanly. In her free skate the following day, she nailed the quad toeloop which was her second element, becoming the first Japanese woman to land the element in international competition. She landed all her following jumps as well, although her lutz was called for rotation and received a negative grade of execution. Sumiyoshi demonstrated tight positions in jumps and spins: she is a skater who is careful and purposeful with her movements, and seemed calm throughout the skate. She was first in the free skate event, and rose from fifth place after the short program to take the bronze medal.
World Silver medalist Haein Lee of the Republic of Korea finished fourth. Her short program to pieces by Christopher Tin is musically difficult to grasp, but she does so commendably. Lee was tight on the landing of the triple toe, which was judged as underrotated, and her flip was also called as landed on the quarter. Although it was not the clean skate she would have wanted, she secured all level fours; the step sequence was a highlight, and she finished her skate by ending right in front of the judges. Her free skate this season is to ‘Notre Dame de Paris’, and once more saw some errors with jumping passes, with the triple toe called for underrotation once more, and a lutz popped into a single in the program’s second half. The final jump, the double axel, was however landed with perfect timing to highlight the transition into the emotive and passionate ‘Danse mon Esmeralda’ with which she closed the skate. Her big skating works well with the song choice, especially in the step sequence where she really took care to capture each position and movement.
Wakaba Higuchi of Japan delivered two memorable performances, coming back to international competition after an injury last season. In her short program to ‘Never Tear Us Apart’, she displayed great musicality, skating with intensity and charisma, although her PCS was the third highest overall at 30.96. She was solid on her double axel, with which she opened the program, but her combination was given a negative GOE, and she popped the final jump into a double, which is invalid in the short program and thus is worth no points. Higuchi was stronger in her free skate to music by Coldplay, which had a beautiful section of opening choreography. There was a lean on the triple loop, but she pulled it off well regardless. She doubled the lutz in the second half of the program but managed to add a double toe and double loop in combination. The trademark dynamism and emotion of her skating shone through in the step sequence, and the element was a highlight of her performance.
Anastasia Gubanova of Georgia was in second place after the SP, but dropped to sixth place after the free program. Her short program to ‘Mojo’ takes a different approach from last season and is an interesting choice. She was solid in her jumps, but lost out on levels in the step sequence and final spin. Her free skate to ‘Caruso’ is more in her comfort zone; she had a step out of the triple flip, but the spiral in her choreo sequence was well timed to the chorus of the song. Nonetheless, she can arguably grow into the program more to convey the passion and intensity of the piece.
In first place in the Ice Dance event were Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy, with 214.54 points. Their rhythm dance was to ‘Holding Out For a Hero’ and ‘Against All Odds’, and they had amazing speed through the twizzles, which were given level fours and +3.09 GOE. The team showed great ice coverage: they are both strong technicians and performers, and the program is unique and memorable. They employed the straight line lift to emphasise the music and ended with a crowd-pleasing midline step which possessed impressive synchrony. Their free dance this season is to the soundtrack of ‘The Theory of Everything’, and the lyrical program works well for them, changing things up from the intensity of last year’s free dance. The twizzles were once more integrated seamlessly into the program, and the seeming ease with which they pulled off the curve and rotational lifts did not betray the difficulty of the element. They were also rewarded well in PCS, receiving 55.94 for a total free dance score of 127.92.
Second with a comfortable 15-point margin over the bronze medallists were Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen of Canada. Their ‘Top Gun’ themed RD was a clean program, opening with an impressive and level four straight line lift, and following up with a clean set of twizzles. It is an energetic and vibrant skate, and they brought the soundtrack of the film to life in their performance. Their free dance is to numbers from the musical ‘Notre Dame de Paris’, which enables them to display a range of emotions and tonalities within the program, encapsulating the feel of the work within their skate. Their one-foot turns were slightly out of sync near the end of the element, but they were well-matched in the twizzles, and the curve lift was used effectively in the final piece of music.
Third were Skate America bronze medalists Evgeniia Lopareva and Geoffrey Brissaud of France, with 190.82 points. Skating in front of a home audience, they put out two strong performances, and now have a chance at making the Grand Prix Final. Their rhythm dance is set to two pieces by Mylene Farmer and is a unique program which sets them apart from other 80’s rhythm dances this season. They received level fours in the twizzles and the lift, and showcased dedication throughout to the characters and tone of the program which they were portraying. In their free dance, the team skated to music by Rachmaninov, and Lopareva had well-defined and sustained positions in the straight line lift. The twizzles were used to match the faster section of the music, and the judges gave the element a level four with a +2.18 grade of execution. The two used the choreo step sequence to emphasise the beats and ending of the piece and finished in a creative position to conclude their clean skate.
Skate America silver medalists Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud of Canada took the gold medal in Angers, with 194.67 points. Although they could have been more fluid on the opening triple twist in their short program, they put down a clean skate, with the side-by-side triple toeloop landed in sync with each other, and on the beat of the music. There was flow coming out of the throw triple loop, and the team did well to match the strong beats of ‘River’ by Bishop Briggs in the step sequence and displayed good projection towards the spectators. They had a fall on the first side-by-side combination (3T-2A-2A) in the free skate, but had good height and elevation regardless, and managed to hang onto the side-by-side triple salchow later on. Both of the throw jumps were excellent, with good speed and running edges. Skating to the soundtrack of ‘Gladiator’, Pereira and Michaud emoted well in the buildup of the program near its conclusion.
In second place were reigning European champions Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii of Italy, second in both the SP and FS. The short program to ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ highlights the elegance of their skating, and the team’s strong musicality. They secured a level four in the triple twist, but the throw triple loop was not landed cleanly and received a negative grade of execution of -1.29. Nonetheless, they were strong in the side-by-side triple salchow which followed, and their lift demonstrated quality extension and the positions were held well. Their free skate this season is the same ‘Cinema Paradiso’ program from last year, and it shows that they are well-versed and comfortable with it. They had an error with the side-by-side jump combination, but came back better with the side-by-side triple salchow, and nailed the throw triple loop. The team has standout expressivity and showed sensitivity to the detail and nuances of the piece.
Camille Kovalev and Pavel Kovalev of France won the bronze medal in front of the home crowd. In their short program, the triple twist had good height but lacked some fluidity and was given a level two with a -0.23 grade of execution. They were better on the throw triple flip, as well as the side-by-side triple toe loop. The step sequence, given a level four, was fun and energetic. Unfortunately, they had a fall on their final spin, which led to a lower TES than they would have wanted, and they went into the free skate less than a point above Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez of the USA. Despite this pressure, they put out a strong free skate, performing to a James Bond program inspired by that of Junhwan Cha last season. They pulled off both side-by-side jumps, and the 3T-2T-1A sequence showcased their patience, as they gave themselves enough time between the jumps for them to deliver them in time with one another. They struggled a little more with the throw jumps, with the triple flip having a two-footed landing, and the triple salchow receiving 0 in GOE: the program was hence dotted with some mistakes, but it was enough for them to secure a place on the podium.
To watch the video of our GP de France livestream with Angelo Dolfini, click here.