Ice Network

World champions abound at Trophée de France

Papadakis, Cizeron to debut new free; Chen to make Grand Prix debut
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Evgenia Medvedeva looks to continue her winning ways at the Trophée de France. -Getty Images

The event doesn't bear the name "Eric Bompard" anymore, but it will take place in a familiar place once again this season: Paris.

After two years in Bordeaux, Trophée de France returns to the City of Lights -- and it holds some of the most exciting promises of this year's Grand Prix Series.

Will hierarchy prevail?

No fewer than three reigning world champions are due to compete in Paris. Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva, who won Skate Canada two weeks ago, leads an interesting ladies field. Spain's Javier Fernández is flying in directly from Moscow, where he just won the Rostelecom Cup, ahead of Japan's Shoma Uno. And France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron will unveil their new dances for the first time on this season's Grand Prix stage.

Ice dance

Three of the main contenders -- Papadakis and Cizeron, Team USA's Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, and Canada's Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier -- must love skating in France, as all three were assigned to the event in both 2014 and 2015. Papadakis and Cizeron won the gold medal in 2014 but withdrew in 2015 because of Papadakis' concussion. Hubbell and Donohue took the bronze in 2014 and decisively won the short dance in 2015 (the free dance of the event was cancelled the next morning, after the terrorist attack in Paris). Gilles and Poirier grabbed the silver medal in 2014 and finished second again 2015, behind Hubbell and Donohue.

All three teams are targeting the podium again. Hubbell and Donohue are coming off a second-place finish at Skate America, while Gilles and Poirier earned the bronze at Skate Canada, where they edged 2014 world champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte by more than two points.

Papadakis and Cizeron will begin their Grand Prix season in Paris, where they are due to introduce their new free dance. This promises to be a special moment, as the program has yet to be seen in a competitive setting.

Those three teams, however, won't be alone vying for the podium. Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin of Russia and Isabella Tobias and Ilia Tkachenko, who skate for Israel, will aim at improving their placements and scores from Skate America, where they finished fifth and sixth, respectively.

Ladies

Medvedeva will -- again -- be the one to beat in Paris, where she will be skating for the first time. The way she has developed her interpretation and style may well make her the next ice princess in France.

To some extend, the Trophée de France may act as a replay of Skate America, as no fewer than four ladies who competed in Chicago will be in Paris as well. Among them are some of the main podium contenders: Canada's Gabrielle Daleman, Team USA's Gracie Gold and Japan's Mao Asada ended fourth, fifth and sixth in Chicago, and South Korean So Youn Park ended eighth.

Gold has good memories from her first outing at this event, one year ago: She won the short program and, as a result, qualified for the Grand Prix Final in Bordeaux. While her confidence might not be as high as it could be, Gold should receive strong support from the French audience.

World junior silver medalist Maria Sotskova of Russia will compete in her first senior Grand Prix in Paris. Sotskova has changed coaches last summer, and her performance in Paris will be closely watched, as she may be joining the elite pack of great Russian skaters. Veteran Alena Leonova, the 2012 world silver medalist, will also be present.

Maé-Bérénice Méité, who is now coached by Shanetta Folle in Chicago, will lead the French team.

Pairs

Fresh from their victory in Moscow, Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot will aim for another gold this week. This will be the team's first time competing in Paris, just one year after Massot was released by the French federation.

Savchenko and Massot will again meet Russia's Natalia Zabijako and Alexander Enbert, a Russian duo that just won the silver medal behind the Germans in Moscow.

Russia's Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov created a sensation at Skate America three weeks ago, when they skated the short program of their lives and wound up with the bronze medal.

Two other teams who competed at Skate America will also be in Paris: France's Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès will try to land the thrown quad salchow they have been polishing with their new coaches, John Zimmerman and Silvia Fontana, in Florida. They landed it at the Autumn Classic International earlier in October but failed to convert it at Skate America, where they ended fourth. Team USA's Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran were seventh in Chicago.

Men's

Fernández has skated only once at the French stage of the Grand Prix, in 2009, when he finished a distant 11th. This year he will be the undisputed favorite of the event.

The field is quite open behind Fernández. Team USA's Adam Rippon arrives in Paris having won the bronze at Skate America. His compatriot, Nathan Chen, will make his Grand Prix debut in Paris, in the hope of hitting many of his quadruple jumps and earning a podium spot.

The event will be serve as the only Grand Prix assignment for Kazakhstan's Denis Ten this year. Back in 2014, Ten won the bronze in Bordeaux.  

Uzbekistan's Misha Ge (sixth at Skate Canada), Japan's Takahito Mura (eighth at Skate America), Italy's Ivan Righini (skating in his first Grand Prix assignment of the season) and France's Chafik Besseghier (eighth at Rostelecom) will try to find an open step on the podium as well.