Ice Network

Gold faces tough test in world champ Tuktamisheva

Papadakis, Cizeron's absence opens door for new ice dance champion
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Team USA's Gracie Gold will look to clinch a trip to the Grand Prix Final when she competes at the 2015 Trophée Eric Bompard. -Getty Images

The French federation announced Wednesday that Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the 2015 European and world gold medalists from France, have withdrawn from the 2015 Trophée Eric Bompard. Papadakis is recovering from a concussion suffered in August.

"Didier Gailhaguet, the president of the French federation, went to Montreal last weekend to assess the way Papadakis and Cizeron were practicing," the press release said. "The injury Gabriella sustained [is behind her]. Yet, after discussions between the French federation's doctor and Canadian neurologists, precaution needs to be applied. The French federation has decided to withdraw the team...from the Eric Bompard and the NHK trophies. The team will resume competition at French nationals mid-December."

Papadakis and Cizeron are also quoted in the press release as being "very disappointed by the federation's decision" but at the same time as "understanding its well-founded reasons."

Ice dance

The 2015 Trophée Eric Bompard could have seen a repeat of the ice dance podium from last year's competition, with the top-three finishers all set to compete again in Bordeaux, France, this year.

This isn't possible anymore, of course, but Papadakis and Cizeron's withdrawal will nonetheless open the door for other teams to take the title, including last year's silver medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada and Team USA's Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who took bronze in Bordeaux in 2014.

Besides those two teams, Russia's Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, the 2015 European bronze medalists, will also fight for a medal in their first Grand Prix of the season.

Great Britain's Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland will display their new programs and show off the results of working with renowned coach Igor Shpilband.

Ladies

Ashley Wagner had become a popular icon in France, after so many years of competing at the French lap of the Grand Prix. This year, however, she will not skate in Bordeaux. The City of Wines will welcome another star of Team USA as Gracie Gold will compete at Trophée Bompard for the first time.

Coming off of a silver medal at Skate America, the French audience should respond well to her poise, rightfully praised technique and the unique class that characterizes her.

Standing in the way of Gold claiming her second career Grand Prix title (2014 NHK Trophy) is world champion Elizaveta Tuktamisheva. Tuktamisheva emerged from Skate Canada with a silver medal (behind Wagner).

Both Gold and Tuktamisheva are hoping to clinch trips to the Grand Prix Final.

Japan's Kanako Murakami, who placed fourth at Skate Canada, will also fight for a medal.

Julia Lipnitskaia, the 2014 European gold medalist who moved the world through her Schindler's List free skate two seasons ago, will also be in the mix for a medal.

Maé Bérénice Méité will lead the French ladies team once again this year at Trophée Bompard. Méité admitted recently that her 2014-15 season was marred by a painful knee injury that prevented her from skating to her potential. She took advantage of a longer offseason to work both on her dancing and interpretation skills in Montreal. Both her short program and free skate should reflect her progress.

Team USA's Angela Wang will take the ice for her second career Grand Prix.

Pairs

The world's top pairs teams seem to have had their Grand Prix assignments spread out so that each has won an event. So far, China's Wenjing Sui and Cong Han won Skate America, Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won Skate Canada, and Russia's Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov won Cup of China.

That trend of the world's best coming away with gold may continue at Trophée Bompard, as the event will play host to one of the more talked about comebacks of the season when Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia return to the Grand Prix after a year away from competition. 

The team took the gold medal at the 2015 Nebelhorn Trophy, confirming that it will shoot for the top again this season.

After Volosozhar and Trankov, the pairs field is rather wide open in Bordeaux. Two other pairs competing in the event have already landed on Grand Prix podiums this season: Russia's Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov placed second at Skate Canada, and Canada's Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau took bronze at Skate America in their Grand Prix debut. 

Team USA's Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran, who placed fourth at Skate Canada, are also set to compete. 

"We missed our triple toe-triple toe here. Next time will be at the [Trophée] Eric Bompard, and it will be much more difficult," a disappointed Morgan Ciprès told icenetwork after he and Vanessa James easily topped the French Masters in October.

Trophée Bompard will be the duo's first Grand Prix of the season.

China's Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang will also compete in their first Grand Prix of the season in Bordeaux.

Men's

The men's field should provide quite the competition. 

The list of competitors reads like a "who's who" of skating today -- with the notable exception of the last two world champions (Spain's Javier Fernández and Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu). Two of the last three Grand Prix winners will meet in Bordeaux: Canada's three-time world champion Patrick Chan, who won at Skate Canada, will face Team USA's Max Aaron, the 2015 Skate America gold medalist.

Japan's Shoma Uno, who won the free skate at Skate America (ahead of Aaron) to grab the silver medal in his Grand Prix debut, will also compete. Kazakhstan's Denis Ten and Russia's Maxim Kovtun are the other top contenders.

Chan has skated many times at Trophée Bompard, winning the event as far back as 2007. The event has always been a charm for the Canadian. In the fall of 2013, he topped Hanyu in a memorable contest, turning in two of the best performances he has ever skated, breaking records both for his short and free just a few weeks before the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

Ten, who won the bronze medal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, wasn't positive he would be able to skate in this event in October.

"I'm not sure if I can go to my second Grand Prix," Ten said after his tough ninth-place showing at Skate America, where he fought lower back and hip injuries.

However, Ten proved to the world at this event last year that he could be a Grand Prix contender when he took bronze for his first career medal of the series.

France will be represented by Chafik Besseghier and Romain Ponsart, as Florent Amodio withdrew prior to the event.

A Grand Prix in the French wine capital

For the second year in a row, Bordeaux plays host to Trophée Eric Bompard.

Many thought that the French leg of the Grand Prix would return to its usual setting this season, Bercy Arena in Paris (now known as AccorHotels Arena), after undergoing huge renovations the last two years. A completely remodeled Bercy Arena was unveiled a few weeks ago along the banks of the Seine River, but the Trophée nonetheless returned to Bordeaux.

In that respect, should skating be compared to good wine?

Just a few days ago, a wine expert predicted a record vintage for 2015.

"This year's summer lasted much longer than usual. We had virtually no rain through the months of June and July, and the vineyards escaped thunderstorms in August. This year's vintage should not deliver big quantities, but it could break a record in quality," he said enthusiastically.

Hopefully, the 2015 Trophée Eric Bompard will provide a superlative Grand Cru as well.