And then we had one. We are five competitions into our six Grand Prix events before the Final in December. There has yet to be a Grand Prix competition this season without some kind of unexpected result, and Internationaux de France was no different. Whether it was the ladies short and free being polar opposites, or Before I turn my sights (and drive) to Skate America, here are some of my takeaways from competition.
Ge medals in his final Grand Prix
Always the sentimental favorite, Misha Ge has transformed from an exuberant but unrefined skater to an expressive and sophisticated skater. And so when a bad ankle and personal circumstances threatened to cut his career short one season before the PyeongChang Olympics, many hoped that he could and would return for one more year.
And return he did, and he's better than ever.
This past weekend, Ge delivered two more clean programs, though without the technical firepower of his competitors. But it was the combination of the clean skates and the increasing appreciation from the judges of his superb skating that put him on the Grand Prix podium for the first time - a fitting way for him end his Grand Prix career. I won't write any more here. I'll let you enjoy his performances.
The fight for Olympic spots continue
With the national championships just around the corner, the race for Olympic spots is heating up. It was a big week for the French skaters, as many of their best were at Internationaux de France and facing off internationally for the first time. Kevin Aymoz beat Romain Ponsart here, and the intrigue for the one spot may increase depending on the status of Chafik Besseghier, who withdrew from this competition. In a slight upset, Mae Berenice Meite, 10th in Sochi, came out on top over Laurine Lecavelier, who was the one who qualified the one spot for France at Worlds last season. Meite is now 2-0 against Lecavelier, with wins here and at French Masters.
For the Russian women, Alina Zagitova's mistakes in the short added a few question marks to how much of a lock she was for PyeongChang, but her free skate erased them pretty quickly. Maria Sotskova did herself a lot of favors by continuing her consistency and making the Grand Prix Final. Former World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva's bid stalled with a ninth-place finish after a gamble on the triple axel didn't work out. For the Russian men, Alexander Samarin continues to make his case for a spot with a fourth-place finish.
Mai Mihara maintains her position with a solid but not spectacular fourth-place performance - without a Grand Prix Final berth, it will mean that she will need to be two-for-two at Japan Nationals to really give herself a good shot at the Olympic team. On the pairs' side, Lubov Ilyushechkina/Dylan Moscovitch looked stronger this week than they did at Skate Canada, and their trajectory is looking up.
GOE woes continue
Usually, the results that come out of the IJS are business as usual, because the vast majority of the time, the best skaters will skate the best and the judges can do exactly as they need to do. But this weekend, we saw some of those anomalies at the extremes that amplify the weaknesses of the IJS. I won't rehash my take on how Grades of Execution don't properly deduct for errors, particularly for elements with high base values (you can read it here), but I do want to talk about GOEs with respect to what happened in Grenoble.
Remember when Mikhail Kolyada fell three times (two of them on quads) in his free skate at Rostelecom Cup and got at 185? He got over 20 points for those three falls - and it's not because the judges did anything funny; it was because of how GOEs work. This weekend, the men who got first and second in the free skate both fell twice and made other large errors on their jumps, but attempted three or more quads each. The man who got third in the free skate skated a clean, eight-triple program, but did not attempt a quad.
But because a few of the jumps that Javier Fernandez and Shoma Uno fell on were underrotated, those errors weren't given nearly as many points as Kolyada's were. Still, the question remains - what is the proper way to still reward difficulty while penalizing mistakes? I know that, for me, the current GOE system - antiquated as a slightly evolved vestige of the pre-quad era - is not the way to do it.
I'll end this on a high note - the brilliant short program from Fernandez that saved him for the gold medal in Grenoble.
Plastic is the new metal
On to a lighter note, those who stuck around for the medal ceremonies saw something ... well, a bit puzzling. This year at Internationaux de France, we had plastic stars of various sizes. in colors for each discipline according to the ISU results pages.
Considering how inexpensive medals (made of metal) are, it's extremely unlikely that the lack of traditional medals was due to some sort of cost-cutting effort. They were trying something novel, but yeah, it didn't really work.