Editor’s note: CBCSports.ca is live streaming every short and free program at the Internationaux de France, beginning Friday at 9 a.m. ET. The event will also be featured on Road to the Olympic Games on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBC Television. Here’s Pj Kwong’s breakdown of what to expect at the Grand Prix event.
With only two events left in the Grand Prix of Figure Skating series, there’s a lot to prove for the athletes competing in this week’s Internationaux de France.
In the men’s competition, this is a chance for Javier Fernandez to demonstrate that he’s still on track for serious medal consideration at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.
The Spaniard’s first Grand Prix event of the season did not go according to plan. Fernandez was reportedly suffering from a stomach ailment that compromised his strength and may have been the reason for his sixth-place finish in China.
It’s unlikely he’ll qualify for the Grand Prix Final, even if he wins in Grenoble this weekend, but that will not prevent Fernandez from pulling out all the stops. The question is, has he had enough time to get up to full strength?
Shoma Uno, on the other hand, is as ready as a skater can be. He illustrated that point a few weeks ago by winning the Skate Canada title with a 40-point advantage. There is little doubt that Uno won’t make the Final and I imagine his goal in France is to lay down two solid programs and lock in another gold medal.
Japan’s Shoma Uno wins Skate Canada International0:30
Ladies: Osmond in fine form
Speaking of medals, a gold in France is well within reach for Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond, who is already on the Grand Prix leaderboard with the gold she earned at Skate Canada.
Osmond’s Olympic-season strategy is working for her. She came back to a much-loved short program and has also introduced an inspired, Black Swan-themed free program. It’s nuanced and has a level of sophistication that provides the perfect balance to her outstanding technical ability.
5 Things about Kaetlyn Osmond2:08
Pairs: James & Cipres look for boost
On paper, the Russian team of Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov should be able to easily handle the competition in France. The 2017 world bronze medallists have already won a Grand Prix event this season.
Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov headline Russian podium in Moscow8:50
But should is the key word because they’re going to have to hold off hometown favourites Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres.
What James and Cipres may lack in certain pairs skills like a consistent quad Salchow throw, they make up for in a dynamic and explosive style that is very compelling. I’m counting on that style and material that is so well-suited to them, not to mention the boost from the French audience, to propel them to the top of the podium.
Dance: Papadakis & Cizeron press Virtue & Moir
French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are on a roll. Not only did they claim gold at the recent Cup of China, they did it by posting a new world-record total score and breaking the 200-point barrier.
France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron capture ice dance title in Beijing8:21
Continuing on their flawless trajectory is the best way for them to put pressure on Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir when the two teams meet at next month’s Grand Prix Final. The French team doesn’t need to post a new world record at this competition to make their presence felt. Playing it safe by skating two solid (and beautiful) programs on their way to a second Grand Prix gold in this field will be enough.
There are two other dance teams who need to skate well in France to earn spots in the Grand Prix Final. Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, and American rivals Madison Chock and Evan Bates have each won medals at the world championships and are now looking for a path to the Olympic podium. Ultimately for these two teams, every competition is a chance to show that their names should be considered in the Olympic medal conversation.
Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew Poje dance to 2nd at Skate Canada International0:29
Pj’s gold-medal picks
Men: Shoma Uno (Japan)
Ladies: Kaetlyn Osmond (Canada)
Pairs: Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (France)
Dance: Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (France)