Ice Network

Volosozhar, Trankov comfortably in front after short

James, Ciprès sit second; Séguin, Bilodeau in third; Castelli, Tran in mix
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Skating in the first group, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov looked more or less like their old selves in their return to the Grand Prix Series. The Olympic gold medalists from Russia sit comfortably in first after earning 74.50 points for their Bollywood-themed program. -Getty Images

Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov won the short program at 2015 Trophée Eric Bompard easily with a score of 74.50, finishing 8.5 points ahead of France's Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès, who sit in second with 65.75 points. 

Canada's Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau are in third with 64.95 points, but the podium is far from settled as the four trailing teams stand less than 2.63 points behind third place.

Volosozhar and Trankov did not show any rust in their return to the Grand Prix after a year away from competition. The reigning Olympic champions skated a clean program, including a superlative triple twist and a side-by-side triple salchow. Their only flaw came on a throw triple flip, which was the only negative Grade of Execution (GOE) they received.

Still, the program was somewhat of a fight for the Russians, as their skating was a little unsteady and out of synch at times. The performance was, nonetheless, far better than the one they had skated in Oberstdorf to start the season.

"Tonight, we were more focused on the skating and we were not as nervous," Trankov said. "I was completely sure of my power and of my partner. We were better with our components, too. For the time being, we are happy for this skating. We will improve step by step."

Their components were very high, ranging from 8.57 for skating skills to 8.96 for interpretation.

"It's a little bit closer to the Volosozhar-Trankov you knew two years ago," Trankov added.

Trankov skated in plain white, while Volosozhar wore in Indian green underlined with pearls to go along with their Bollywood music selection.

"The theme is coming from a movie called Ram-Leela (an Indian adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet). We spent a lot of time working with a Bollywood dancer in Moscow," Trankov explained.

"Maxim and Tatiana will be hard to catch, but we can always compete with the others," James and Ciprès told Icenetwork at the start of the season. "We have things to try, and we have the weapons for it."

Tonight, James and Ciprès mastered their nerves and their technique all at once, displaying their vast talent during their program to Joss Stone's version of "I put a Spell on You."

They landed their side-by-side triple toe and throw triple flip successfully.

"The short program is usually not our preferred segment," Ciprès said. "So we are really happy to sit here tonight."

"The experience we had last year at Europeans (they missed out on the podium after the free) will be useful to us, for sure!" James added with a laugh.

Séguin and Bilodeau sit in third place after a wonderful skate that was certainly one of the most pleasant programs to watch in the segment. It was a fun and lively routine that was technically difficult.

"We came here without any pressure and we did our thing," Bilodeau said. 

They were certainly also the fastest on the ice.

"Our program is based on music," Bilodeau said. "Every one note has a step attached to it. So, as soon as we get late in our steps, the whole program is behind."

"We like to reflect our personality with our music and the playfulness of this program," Bilodeau added later on. "Our mindset is, 'Let's go have fun, play with the music and with ourselves.'"

China's Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang skated to the Beatles "Norwegian Wood" by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Cheng fell heavily on their side-by-side triple toe, but the rest of their program was clean. They are currently in fourth place, 0.85 points off the podium and only 0.02 points ahead of Italy's Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise.

Team USA Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran were the first pair to hit the ice. They skated a clean program, from their opening triple twist to their side-by side-triple salchows and throw triple salchow. Only their triple twist looked off.

"We're still a new team. We were the first ones to break the ice, so we're really happy with what we've done tonight," Tran said as he stepped off the ice.

"What we hope for this season is really to skate better and better and beat our season's best at each competition," Castelli added.

"What they need to do now is less thinking and more feeling the program," coach Bruno Marcotte said. "That will be their main challenge. They're still learning about each other and each other's energy."

"Until nationals, we will work on raising the levels of our elements and their base value," Tran concluded.

Incidentally, five of the seven teams, with the notable exception of Peng and Zhang, improved their season's-best scores. This may seem normal at the start of the season, yet 2015 Trophée Eric Bompard is already the fourth event of the Grand Prix, and no other category offered as much excitement Friday in Bordeaux.