Six Grand Prix events are done, and so the 2018 Grand Prix Final is set for Vancouver next week. Almost half of the spots were decided based on the results at Internationaux de France, and for some, like Rika Kihira and Nathan Chen, it was exactly as they had expected. For others, like Evgenia Medvedeva and Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitrii Kozlovskii, it was disappointment with the Final berth right in front of them. Here’s a look at what happened in Grenoble before we set our sights on Vancouver.
Internationaux de France play-by-play/videos
Short: PAIRS | DANCE | MEN | LADIES
Free: PAIRS | DANCE | MEN | LADIES
Patience and confidence
Going into her free skate, Medvedeva was a silver medal and a very doable score away from making the Grand Prix Final, a competition she’s won twice. Instead, she left Grenoble without a medal for the first time in her entire junior and senior international career. Both of her programs were nervy, and mistakes crept up because she just didn’t have the kind of confidence in herself that she did in recent years.
The fact is change takes time. We’ve seen that for many skaters who have made coaching changes and, like Medvedeva, committed to reworking technique and training in a different way than they had in the past. We’ve seen positives already - her axel technique is greatly improved, her pick-off on her flip and lutz have a lighter tap than they used to. It may be easy for her to doubt her decision to move and make a rash conclusion - especially for a skater who did nothing but win for three and a half years - but the more she sticks with it, the most that she will be comfortable with who she is now as a skater.
From all accounts, her training and her practices have been strong - and so it’s a matter of time before she learns to trust herself enough to skate a clean program. And when that happens, so comes the confidence and self-belief, and that’s when she will be at her most dangerous.
I mean, no better time to do it than at Russian Nationals in a month, right?
Related: Grand Prix Final qualifiers
The big news in the men’s event wasn’t Nathan Chen winning gold - that was to be expected. Rather, it was Jason Brown having a resurgent competition and winning the short program on his way to a silver.
Were you one of the folks who scratched their heads when Brown’s short program score of 96.41 came up? After all, you thought, his best ever international score was 94.32 before this season and base values for jumps have generally come down, right? Oh, but that doesn’t include the change in the GOE scale, which provides a wider range of GOEs and greater rewards for quality and greater disincentives for errors.
Related: How the changes in IJS work
We saw it with Yuzuru Hanyu earlier in the season, where he was scoring similar short program scores as he did in previous seasons when quads were worth more. And we saw it again with Brown in that short program, where he maxed out his levels and did all of his elements superbly, earning him 62 out of 63 GOEs of +3 or higher, 16 of which were +5.
Quality matters. Don’t be surprised when high-quality lower-difficulty elements earn scores as high or higher than mediocre-quality higher-difficulty elements.
(Too) Big numbers (?)
In dance, there was certainly no surprise, as it was Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron who took the title. It was a very grand start to their season, especially after Cizeron hurt his back in practice a few weeks back, which led them to withdraw from NHK Trophy. As a result, there will be no Grand Prix Final for them this year, but if their skating and their scores in Grenoble were any indication, they won’t need Vancouver for more experience.
Their rhythm and free dances were the class of the competition. No one did the Tango Romantica patterns quite like they did, and their free dance was a magnificent composition.
But my question here was whether they were really 16 points better than Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov and 28 points better than Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier. This was, of course, made possible by high levels, and huge GOEs and PCS marks. And this discrepancy isn’t the case just for ice dance. Some of these huge gaps are also a bit curious in other disciplines as well, especially when the base value of elements performed aren’t all that different.
It all comes down to quality and the calibration of marks, especially the GOEs. As with other competitions this season, judges are still getting used to the -5/+5 system. I’ll be curious to see how these gaps change as the season progresses.