Ice Network

Satisfied Virtue, Moir top Péchalat, Bourzat in short

Ilinykh, Katsalapov take third; Leading four teams earn season's bests
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Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir grabbed a 4.72-point lead. -Getty Images

There was no surprise Friday night in the short dance at the 2013 Trophée Eric Bompard. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada finished five points ahead of Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat of France and more than six points ahead of Russians Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsapalov (75.31 for the Canadians, 70.59 for the French and 69.07 for the Russians).

The top four teams all beat their season's best.

Virtue and Moir always have that talent, seeming to dance as if they are at a parade. Except they are the only ones at the parade, and they do extremely difficult moves.

Their Finnstep, quickstep and foxtrot, skated to a jazz medley featuring music by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, was a delight to watch. It seemed so light and smooth and measured in every step from start to end. They got only a Level 3 for their two Finnstep sequences, but they received superlative components scores (9.5 in average, with a 9.79 for interpretation, 0.75 ahead of Péchalat and Bourzat's components). The way Virtue and Moir adapt to one another at every step of their program is just unique.

"We are really excited," Moir said. "Tessa and I are really happy about the way we skated tonight. We did quite a number of changes since Skate Canada, and we executed them well."

As for their Level 3 in the Finnstep, "We'll have to study the decomposition precisely, which we have not had the time to do yet," Virtue explained.

Péchalat and Bourzat skated their foxtrot, quickstep and Charleston routine to "Sing, Sing, Sing" perfectly for the first time this year.

The two-time European champions garnered 63.60 points. Since Cup of China, they have modified their program, especially the Finnstep, in which the second sequence had gotten only a Level 1 in China. They also delivered perfectly on their incredible final straight-line lift, which they struggled with in China. That lift could finally appear as it was meant to appear: incredibly tricky, spectacular and almost endless -- from the ice, to lap, to back, to lap, to right and left arm to the ice!

The team got Level 4's for both of their Finnstep sequences and for their twizzles and lift, and they were awarded a Level 3 for their step sequence.

"Our performance was stronger technically than Cup of China," Péchalat said. "After Cup of China, we realized that we had to focus more on our key points. Also, we changed our slow movement to make it more like ballroom, according to what the judges had advised us to do."

The French team is second entering the free dance Saturday.

Ilinykh and Katsalapov of Russia had to fly from Japan to Paris within a couple of days after their fourth-place finish at NHK Trophy. Their practice session had been quite disappointing in the morning, but their actual performance was far more convincing.

Their quickstep and foxtrot were petulant and precise. He in black, she in a silver-lined, classy, light-pink dress, they managed to bring the audience to their feet.

"We had only one day in Moscow between Japan and France," Ilinykh explained. "Fortunately, the atmosphere was very warm here in Paris, and we felt really good".

Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi of Germany soon became a crowd favorite as they started their performance (before their music even started, so off their time) by a climate-setting pantomime. He, wearing thick glasses, purple pants and a jersey pullover, she in flashy dark green, danced quite an entertaining foxtrot and quickstep, in a black-and-white, old movie style -- though quite colorful!

Their trick was undoubtedly Maestro Martin Skotnicky's touch. (Skotnicky coached to their world and European gold medals such greats as Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay of France and Suzanna Rakhamo and Petri Kokko of Finland, who created the … Finnstep dance.) The German duo amassed 60. 13 points and beat their season's best to sit in fourth place before the free dance.

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the 2013 world junior silver medalists, delivered a perfect and elegant, ballroom-style quickstep and foxtrot. They stand in fifth place with 58.10 points. Not bad, for the first senior Grand Prix of their season and of their young lives!