3. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres FRA
2017 Europeans free skate
From the first time I saw this program at Skate America, I knew it could be something special. But as the season went on, it became so much more than I could've even imagined.
Thanks to this program, Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres gave the figure skating world the biggest breakthrough of the season - in any discipline. Yes, we had skaters who made huge leaps this season, but what made James/Cipres' leap so spectacular was the fact that it really was so unexpected. This is a pair who has spent the past four seasons unable to figure out a way to shatter the wall between them and the very top pairs of the world, a pair who looked to perhaps always be stagnant in that second group.
And in this climate of pair skating, where so many teams are just so good, it was difficult to think that we could have this kind of movement from James/Cipres.
But break through they did - and it was this free skate at Europeans that announced their ascent to the top tier of pairs in the world. They brushed away their personal best FS score and became only the eighth pair in history to surpass the 145 mark. And though their Worlds experience was not as strong as they had hoped, they ended their season superbly with more personal bests at World Team Trophy.
This was a breakthrough spurred on first by their coaching change to John Zimmerman, Silvia Fontana, and Jeremy Barrett, then by their program choices for the season. If there's ever proof that the right vehicle can transform a skater, this is it.
Just in time too, because James/Cipres now go into the Olympic season not as also-rans, but as true medal contenders.