Ice Network

Stolbova, Klimov buttress lead to bag Bompard gold

Chinese pairs nab silver, bronze; USA's Scimeca, Knierim land fourth
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Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia soared with their 'Notre-Dame de Paris' free skate, clinching the pairs victory with 209.81 total points in Bordeaux. -Getty Images

Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia won the Trophée Eric Bompard "haut la main" (hands down) ahead of Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, and Xuehan Wang and Lei Wang, both from China.

Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, from Team USA, landed fourth, a mere two points from the podium. Most if not all teams skated near perfect programs in Bordeaux. Most beat their season's best, with the notable exception of the winners, however! That provided the competition with a joyful mood, similar to the one that can be experienced in ice dancing, where falls are the exception.

Stolbova and Klimov have taken the pairs skating world by storm so naturally within just a few seasons.

They opened their program to Notre-Dame de Paris with a triple twist and followed up with a beautiful throw triple flip, a side-by-side triple toe to double toe-double toe combination. The rest of their program was equally perfect. Their flow, speed and unique amplitude underlined the romantic drama they were portraying. At the last second, reminiscent of what Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkovy used to do, they landed a magnificent throw triple Salchow, which launched a spontaneous standing ovation from the French audience. (Some skaters know how to get a standing ovation!)

The team amassed 138.61 points for their free skate and 209.81 overall, 9.13 points ahead of the second-place couple and nearly 30 ahead of the bronze medalists.

"It was different to skate here," Klimov said afterward. "We felt more confident than at Rostelecom; we could skate more emotionally. I think we did OK; at least, we did what we had planned."

Three-time Chinese world junior champions Sui and Han delivered a faultless program to Tchaikovsky's "Francesca da Rimini." They scored 133.41 points for their free (a new season's best) and 200.68 points overall.

They opened their program with an impressive quad twist, which gained them nearly nine points. Not only can Han lift his partner high; he can also send her far away. Their throw jumps were particularly wide and landed at high speed. That gave their program the lightness and flow that makes pairs skating so beautiful.

"Oh yes," Cong admitted candidly afterward in private. "We could have three quads in that program. Maybe next season?"

"We performed quite well today, even though we still have some improvement ahead of us," Sui said. "I was a bit nervous on our side-by-side triple toe-double toe-double toe, but that worked out eventually."

Wang and Wang experienced a few mishaps during their routine, which they skated as elegantly as if they had been attending a Viennese grand ball. They completed a triple twist, throw triple flip and throw triple loop, but they had to single the double toe at the end of their side-by-side combination, and landed only a double Salchow.

"We are happy that we performed at our level today," Lei Wang explained.

It was 4:09 p.m. in Bordeaux when Leslie Carron (Alexa Scimeca) and Gene Kelly (Chris Knierim) entered onto the ice for their American in Paris (or Bordeaux?) routine, Scimeca dressed in a royal blue and Knierim in a black outfit with a white sparkling collar. They started their program with a stellar triple twist, followed by a perfect side-by-side triple Salchow. They also landed their double Axel-double toe combination, although the latter jump was downgraded by the technical panel. Their throw triple flip, with that special lift to enter it, was impressive as well. They amassed 120.28 points in the free (their season's best), and 179.32 points overall. They even scored better than Wang and Wang for the technical elements.

"Usually, we skate cleaner in the short than in the free," Knierim said. "We often have one or two mistakes in our free. This time we had none, so this is great ! This is a great step up for us from Skate America, and it was actually our goal here. It's great to see the improvement we have been making."

"This is one of my very best Grand Prix!" Scimeca added with her cheek-to-cheek smile. "Maybe my first ever Grand Prix will remain unique, of course, but I'm sure I'll try to come back!"  

Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès of France had not been seen skating with such perfection in months. They landed each one of their elements with determination. They seem to have regained their single skating jumps (they landed a triple toe-double toe-double toe combination and a triple Salchow), and their thrown flip and Salchow were clean as well. Their triple twist was rated only a Level 1, however. They ended in fifth place with a total of 167.88 points.

James and Ciprès grabbed their home audience's cheers and applause right from the start of their routine to Angels and Demons and Requiem for a Dream.

"That performance will give them some confidence back, Claude Péri, their coach, said afterward. "They really needed to skate well today!"

This competition was a great one altogether, and each team really brought the crowd to its feet. Seeing every team giving -- and achieving -- its best is a dream, especially in skating!