Paris welcomes fifth stage in Grand Prix SeriesCity of Lights provides backdrop for 2013 Trophée Eric Bompard
Back in the 1910s, the best tennis players were also among the best skaters, practicing tennis in the summer and skating in the winter at Roland Garros' renowned stadium. One century later, tennis greats seldom skate, but the same Bercy sports hall can accommodate both sports in just a few days, recomposing from a tennis court to a skating rink within hours. A few days after the tennis world left Paris for the Masters final in London, the city welcomes the skating world for the annual Trophée Eric Bompard.
The two events will share more than the arena, however: the Trophée ticket office has never been as successful as it has been this year, as the French federation announced a few days ago. The skaters should have an audience of more than 10,000, at least for the free programs Saturday.
The Trophée has known about every place in the calendar since its inception. This year it comes at the fifth lap of the Grand Prix, just before the Rostelecom Cup. Most favorites of the season have already skated their first Grand Prix and will seek a confirmation of their status in Paris. Ashley Wagner, Patrick Chan, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat, among others, will aim at securing a place at the Grand Prix Final.
This year's Trophée Bompard should also bring some titanic competitions, as a number of earlier Grand Prix medalists will encounter one another in Paris. In the men, Han Yan, the Chinese prodigy who won Cup of China, will skate against Chan, who won gold at Skate Canada, and Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, who was second to Chan three weeks ago.
In the ladies, Anna Pogorilaya from Russia, who took the world by storm when she won Cup of China, will have to fight against teammate Adelina Sotnikova, who was second in China, and Wagner, who finished second at Skate America.
In pairs, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who finished a disappointing third at Skate Canada, will meet with veterans Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China, who were second at Cup of China. In ice dance, Virtue and Moir, who won at Skate Canada, will be challenged by Péchalat and Bourzat, who won in China.
Men: Here comes the new generation
The competition was supposed to provide the opportunity for the French audience to meet with two American representatives -- Jason Brown and Ross Miner -- who had never skated at the Trophée before. Miner, however, had to withdraw after injuring his ankle in practice last Thursday. Brown's lyrical skating should easily find its fans in Paris.
Yan and Hanyu will also take the Bompard ice for the first time in their careers. Hanyu must, however, have some great memories of his last skate in France, as he won the world bronze medal in Nice, some 18 months ago.
Nan Song from China, who took the silver medal in Paris two years ago, and Czech Republic's Michal Březina already have their fans in Paris. Florent Amodio will be the only French skater in the field, after his teammate Chafik Besseghier withdrew. Besseghier injured his ankle severely last month and is not ready to skate competitively again. Both Amodio and Besseghier are now practicing year long in the same arena. Rather amazingly, Brian Joubert is not scheduled to skate in Paris this year.
Ladies: Like a reminder of Russia vs. the U.S.
Three skaters are coming from the U.S. and two from Russia. The two nations make up more than half of the field.
Wagner and Christina Gao may have liked skating in Paris last year as much as the French audience liked them, as they decided to come back this year. Their teammate, Samantha Cesario, will discover the City of Lights. Skating her free program to French-composed Carmen, she should electrify the audience.
Actually, Wagner will be coming to Paris for the third time and with renewed ambitions.
"The triple to triple is a full-time job," Wagner told icenetwork at the end of Skate America.
She will do her best to confirm that her triple flip-triple toe combination has become a part of herself. Gao will, for sure, have worked extensively to secure her triple flip, which eluded her at Skate Canada. Her elegance and finesse on the ice will be welcome again.
Wagner won this event last year, with a solid advantage of 11 points over the two Russian competitors, Elizaveta Tuktamisheva and Julia Lipnitskaia. At the time, Wagner was skating to French music, Camille Saint-Saëns's Samson and Delilah. Rather ironically, this year she will be skating to Russian music, Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.
Like Wagner, France's Maé-Bérénice Méité has been working extensively this season to secure her triple-triple combination (Salchow-toe loop). She hopes to find better success in her home arena than she did at Skate America last month.
Pairs: The field is open!
Duhamel and Radford, and Pang and Tong undoubtedly share the status of favorites, but the rest of the field is wide open. The French will warmheartedly welcome Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, the 2012 U.S. gold medalists. They created a sensation at worlds in Nice in 2012 with their powerful and extended lifts. Denney's charisma should in turn lift the rainy mood in Paris.
Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès, who finished eighth at 2013 worlds in London, are coming back after their withdrawal from Skate America. Ciprès had to endure a lengthy operation to his wrist and a long-lasting rehabilitation process. They will also be the only French contestants in the field, after Daria Popova and Bruno Massot withdrew earlier this week.
Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov, the 2012 European silver medalists from Russia, will compete in their first Grand Prix of the season in Paris.
Dance: No surprise again?
Three world-class teams will take the ice in Paris: Virtue and Moir, Péchalat and Bourzat, and Elena Ilinikh and Nikita Katsapalov of Russia, who are rushing from Japan after their fourth-place finish at the NHK Trophy.
Virtue and Moir have become regular visitors to Bompard. They are strong favorites to win in Paris -- again -- and will try to prove that they have finally mastered those twizzles that eluded them at Skate Canada.
Péchalat and Bourzat should be able to check that their own creative and poetic planet, that of "The Little Prince and His Rose," is well tuned with the French audience.
Sadly, there will not be any American team this year. The United States has produced some of the greatest dancers of the last years, and they will be missed in Paris.
Long lifts, amazing strength and speed, maybe even some controversy here and there (hopefully, not too much) -- just like a few days ago, when tennis was Bercy's star, the arena should play it hot this week. Stay with us!