It’s become the thing this season - Grand Prix competitions with fantastic ladies’ fields. And it’s happening again this week in Grenoble, where three Grand Prix Final spots are still up for grabs and a few skaters here are looking to set themselves up to get those spots. But the real question is - after the incredible start to her season, can anyone here beat Rika Kihira?
Internationaux de France preview
Unofficial hashtag: #IdF18
GOLD Rika Kihira JPN - With a gold at NHK Trophy in an incredibly difficult field, Kihira catapulted herself into the top tier of ladies’ skating this season. That ascension has been assisted greatly by her triple axel, and her triple axel, and her triple axel. With the most difficult content out there on the senior circuit, she’s set herself apart from many of her peers. If she can continue putting consistent programs out there as she has been this season, this Grand Prix Final coming up could be very interesting.
SILVER Evgenia Medvedeva RUS - Everything about this week for Medvedeva will have to do with how comfortable she feels as a skater in her new environs, and how much of that invincible confidence that she had in the past few seasons has returned to her. She’s now entering her third international competition with Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson as her coaches, and with another month of training since she took bronze at Skate Canada, my bet is on her to look more like her old self here in France.
BRONZE Mai Mihara JPN - Fourth at NHK Trophy, Mihara continues to show off her silky smooth jumps this season. But in Japan, we saw that some of her jumps do have the potential to get called under, and she will need to avoid those to fend off others for the podium in this deep of a field.
4. Bradie Tennell USA - After Kihira, Tennell has the most technically ambitious content in this field. But that also means that her programs are risky - and for her so far this season, it’s been about underrotations. Two clean skates will give her a great shot at the going home with a medal - her short program will tell a lot about how strong her overall finish will be in France this week.
5. Marin Honda JPN - It really was an implosion for Honda at Skate America. After a very strong short program that set her up for a great competition, she fell on her opening combo in her free skate and never recovered. Everything about the material that she’s putting out this season points to greatness, but as she adjusts to her new life in California and her new training with Rafael Arutyunyan, will she be able to deliver close to the promise that everyone knows she has?
6. Stanislava Konstantinova RUS - With a silver at Grand Prix of Helsinki three weeks ago, Konstantinova has a solid look at a Grand Prix Final berth. But with the depth of this field, she will need to bring that consistency to Grenoble this week to put herself in the conversation for the Final.
7. Alexia Paganini SUI - The fourth-place finisher at Rostelecom Cup last week, Paganini skated lights out and surprised everyone with her performances, her career-best scores, and her placement. She comes in beaming with confidence in her second Grand Prix event in as many weeks. Watch out, she could surprise again.
8. Laurine Lecavelier FRA - Coming off a fifth-place finish at Alpen Trophy, Lecavelier knows she has a lot more potential than what she showed there. She was fifth at Skate America to start the Grand Prix series, and two solid programs could put her up in the top half again this week.
9. Maria Sotskova RUS - It has been a tough season so far for Sotskova, who has been balancing school with skating. Her two competitions earlier in the season were inconsistent, and her jumps have been less sharp than they were in past seasons. She was ninth at NHK Trophy two weeks ago.
10. Mae Berenice Meite FRA - After some career-best skating at Autumn Classic to start her season, Meite’s trajectory hasn’t been terribly strong, as mistakes crept in at French Masters, where she finished behind Lecavelier, and then again at NHK Trophy, where she was 10th.
11. Lea Serna FRA - The two-time French bronze medalist will be on the Grand Prix for the first time in her career. She comes in most recently with a fifth-place finish at Volvo Cup.
12. Matilda Algotsson SWE - Making her Grand Prix debut, it’s going to be quite a tall task for her competing in this field. She has shown great skating in the past - I think back to her silver at Nebelhorn Trophy that qualified Sweden a spot at the Olympics - but she hasn’t shown that yet this season.