Say it ain't so! The competition we all knew and loved as Trophee Eric Bompard (and before that, Trophee Lalique) has no title sponsor. And it's now Trophee de France. But have no fear, the competition has not diminished. In fact, with THREE of the four reigning World champions in this event, this promises to be a fantastic competition.
Also, hello again, skating world, post-Rio Olympics.
What is there to watch for at Trophee de France? Here are my top five thoughts.
1. Higuchi, Sotskova debut against Asada, Gold, Medvedeva (oh my!)
Perhaps the most intriguing competition here will be between the ladies. Just looking at that lineup of skaters is exciting. You have World champs Evgenia Medvedeva and Mao Asada, you have US champ Gracie Gold, and then you have the Grand Prix debuts from Junior World medalists Wakaba Higuchi and Maria Sotskova. And that's not even accounting for Gabrielle Daleman, who had a career-best last season, and Alena Leonova, who has won a World medal before. Getting in the top five is going to be a feat in itself. It will certainly be interesting to see how the newbies fare against the veterans.
2. Chen back in competition
Most of the skating world was shellshocked when they heard that Nathan Chen injured his hip during the exhibition (of all things) after winning the bronze at Nationals and making it onto the World team. Worlds was to be his first foray into senior international competition, but it would have to wait. Fortunately, we have already seen footage of Chen landing quad toes during the summer, so his recovery seems to be going very well. Trophee de France will be his first Grand Prix, and he will be up against the likes of World champ Javier Fernandez, Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten, and U.S. champ Adam Rippon. How he stacks up against them will be very interesting, especially as Chen and his team looks at his overall potential trajectory toward Pyeongchang next season.
3. Yamamoto's first GP
After winning the bronze at Junior Worlds two years ago, Sota Yamamoto has been one on the radar, especially in the super competitive world of Japanese skating. He's a great talent who certainly has the potential to be the full-package skater. But his triple axel has been a liability, though getting a quad toe in his repertoire has helped. Lots of interested observers will be looking at Yamamoto very carefully this season. He's on the shortlist of skaters to fill that third spot alongside Hanyu and Uno.
4. Papadakis/Cizeron start making their case
As they come off grabbing their second consecutive World title last season, Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron had to deal with the reality of the challenge they would face next season - the return of Olympic champs Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir. And though Papadakis/Cizeron won't face off against Virtue/Moir here, they will be making sure to show their best in their season Grand Prix debut. In a lot of ways, this will serve as their warmup for two weeks later, when that epic matchup will happen at NHK Trophy.
5. Where do James/Cipres fit in?
I feel like I've been asking the same question for the last few seasons. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres have really been on the verge of breaking into that top group of pairs. And why not? They have the tricks, they have the power, and they have pocketed some big scores in international competition. But they haven't really been able to put together clean competitions, which has hindered their ascent. This will be another season of asking that same question. But if that quad sal works as well as we've seen it in practice, it could help give them that breakthrough that they've been searching for..