Ice Network

Tarasova, Morozov reign supreme in Grenoble

James, Ciprès take silver on home ice; della Monica, Guarise win bronze
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Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov make it 2-for-2 in the 2017 Grand Prix Series by winning the gold in Grenoble. The Russian silver medalists committed a few mistakes during their free skate to the Christina Aguilera song "Candyman," but their overall score of 218.20 clinched them the title and a spot in the Grand Prix Final for the second year in a row. -Getty Images

Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov were almost sure to win their second Grand Prix title of the season Saturday in Grenoble following the brilliant showing they displayed in the short program.

While their performance in the free skate was not what they expected, the Russians -- who finished second to France's Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès in the segment -- still did enough to capture the gold medal. James and Ciprès corralled the silver medal, while Italy's Nicolle della Monica and Matteo Guarise secured third place.

Tarasova and Morozov decided to go for a more humorous number for their free skate this season, opting to go with Christina Aguilera's "Candyman" for their musical selection. Dressed in black and yellow outfits, the pair opened the segment with their usual power and poise to land a perfect quad twist, which added 9.43 points to their tally instantaneously. They went on to land side-by-side triple salchows and a throw triple salchow as well.

Though Tarasova nearly popped their most important combination -- the side-by-side triple toe-double toe-double toe -- the Russian's still received Level 4 grading for two spins and three lifts, while their death spiral garnered Level 3 grading.

Despite Tarasova also two-footing their throw triple loop, the skate earned the pair 140.36 points in the segment, a mark that helped elevate their total score to 217.20 points, which was enough for the top place on the podium.

"It was not our best performance," Morozov said at the post-event press conference. "We made one and a half mistakes, and I think we missed concentration. Going to a funny program is good for us this year as it's actually relaxing in competition. We have one classical short program as well, and that's enough. One program is classical, and one is funny. It's good that way."

Winning the gold medal was all the more impressive for Tarasova and Morozov when you take into account the fact that they followed the incredible performance James and Ciprès delivered in front of a raucous home crowd.

Skating to "Say Something" and "Sense of Freedom," James and Ciprès delivered an incredibly powerful program. They struggled to complete their opening triple twist, but landed a precise and synchronized side-by-side triple toe-double toe-double toe combination, followed by a huge throw quad salchow, though James two-footed the landing. The French tandem also landed picture perfect side-by-side triple salchows, and despite losing one level on their combination spin and death spiral, the hometown favorites still garnered 141.14 points in the segment, some 0.78 points ahead of the Russians.

Their technical mark, however, was much higher. James and Ciprès received 70.95 points in that regard, which was 3.92 points more than Tarasova and Morozov, but their components were evaluated as being 3.12 points lower than those of the 2017 European champions.

"I am super-happy with the program we skated," a somewhat-disappointed Ciprès said shortly after leaving the ice. "But I'm also disappointed with the points we missed."

"It's not real mistakes, but rather a question of being more concentrated throughout," James added. "It's great for us to win the free, however. Technique was our strongest quality, and the second mark was our weakness. Even today, we have missed several points on the component marks. We need to keep working at it, keep going with our technique and keep blending the two together."

"People seem to like our programs, and that's a positive outtake," Ciprès concluded.

Wearing costumes with oceanic coloring, Nicole della Monica and Matteo Guarise skated an all-Italian program to Roberto Cacciapaglia's "Tree of Life Suite." The Italians landed their opening side-by-side triple salchows but struggled with their subsequent side-by-side triple toe-double toe combination. Their throws -- a triple loop and a triple salchow -- were quite impressive, as were their lifts. With their technical elements also stabilized, the entertaining team displayed a newfound unison, which emphasized the power of their skating. They amassed 126.94 points for their free and 197.59 points overall.

"This was a hard evening for us. We were more relaxed yesterday," Guarise said. "My legs were shaking at the beginning, and this is always interesting when you start a program like that. Altogether, we finish with a smile, and we are winning our first Grand Prix medal."

Canada's Lubov Iliusheshkina and Dylan Moscovitch skated a delicate program to Billy Vera's "At This Moment." Their program included a triple twist, a side-by-side triple toe-double toe combination and salchow, and a throw triple salchow. They also featured a throw triple lutz at the end of their program, which came right before their final spin. They amassed 126.71 points for their free program, a new season's best, and 193.07 overall.

China's Cheng Peng and Yang Jin skated to "The Butterfly Lovers' Violin." They landed a solid triple toe-double toe combination, and their two throws -- the loop and salchow -- earned them additional points for execution. Each one of their elements, minus the twist, received Level 4 grading as well, including their three lifts, spin and death spiral. They garnered 125.14 points for their free and 188.14 points overall to take fifth place.

"At our last competition, Skate Canada, we got a Level 3 for our spins," Jin said. "We went back home and we focused on improving them."

Team USA's Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran skated to Shawn Philips' "Women." They opened their routine with fast and ample steps through the ice, and landed a powerful triple twist. Their lifts were impressive, as were their two throws, a flip and salchow. They struggled with their side-by-side jumps, the salchow and toe, but finished a well-balanced routine with quite an original entry into their final death spiral. They received 118.16 points for their free program, a new season's best, and 177.15 points overall to finish sixth in the final standings.

"Being here is quite unexpected for us," Castelli explained. "We were named just one week before the competition started. We were hoping for it, and we're glad we came. We were very confident with our long program."

"It was very quick to choreograph, and we never went back. We love its flow," Tran said about the affinity the duo shares for the free skate. "This is our fourth season together, and everything starts to melt together. Elements are smoother now."