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Savchenko, Massot skate imperfectly, still win gold

James, Ciprès thrilled with bronze; Top teams all push technical envelope
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Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot didn't have the skate they were looking for Saturday, botching both of their jump elements and suffering a fall on their throw triple axel, but the Germans still managed to hang on to win the gold -- their second in as many weeks in the Grand Prix Series. -Getty Images

Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot won their second Grand Prix gold in as many weeks at the 2016 Trophée de France on Saturday, finishing ahead of Russia's Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov and France's Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès.

The event was marred with errors; no team skated perfectly. At the same time, though, the top teams tried some mindblowing technical maneuvers: Tarasova and Morozov landed a quad twist (rated Level 2), James and Ciprès launched their throw quad salchow, and Savchenko and Massot went for both their throw triple axel and throw quad salchow (which became a missed triple).

Those elements took their toll on the programs.

"We take some risk with these difficult elements. A fall there can become really hard. But we want to improve pairs skating, just like the men do by adding more quads," Ciprès said at the post-event press conference.

"It's hard to continue a program after you've missed a quad twist," Morozov added. "It takes a lot of energy. Then, all the difficult elements have to follow, and we need to land them as well!"

Performing to Patrick Watson's "Lighthouse," Savchenko and Massot completed a huge triple twist and side-by-side triple salchows, but they doubled their planned side-by-side triple toes. Additionally, she fell on the throw triple axel and two-footed the throw triple salchow, which was meant to be a quad. Two of their lifts and their two spins were rated Level 4; the other lift and their death spiral were rated Level 3.

Nonetheless, the European silver medalists amassed 133.04 points for their free program and 210.59 points overall, which allowed them to keep the lead.

"This second Grand Prix, just one week after the first one, was really hard," Massot explained. "It was hard physically, but mostly mentally. I am disappointed that I missed two of my jumps, but I came back into the program. Our lifts were good, too.

"I must say also that it was amazing for me to skate in Paris again. (Massot is from France and competed for his home country for several years.) We were so warmly welcomed. It was just crazy seeing all these fans."

Tarasova and Morozov did land their quad twist successfully, although it was rated Level 2. They followed with side-by-side triple salchows and a throw triple salchow, but she doubled the triple toe of their subsequent combination. Their three lifts received a Level 4, their spiral a Level 3. They garnered 130.70 points for their free program and 206.94 overall.

"We're happy with our silver medal," Morozov said, "although [our performance] was not clean. This is the first time we did the quad twist in the Grand Prix, and this is a very big step for us."

James and Ciprès, who now train in Florida under John Zimmerman, skated their free to "The Sound of Silence" by Disturbed. The program built from start to end, as if it were carried by their steps and their successes, jump after jump. They opened with a triple twist and followed with side-by-side triple toe-double toe-double toe combinations. They then launched their throw quad salchow, which she two-footed. They followed with side-by-side triple salchows and a throw triple flip, both landed perfectly. Their three lifts were rated Level 4, their spins and spiral Level 3. They amassed the second-best score for the free program (132.52 points) and won the bronze medal with 198.18 points overall.

"'Confidence' was their theme for this week," Zimmerman explained. "They have discussed it all along the week."

"We're really happy," a radiant James said as she left the kiss and cry. "It's a major step for us, but mostly for me. I really needed to regain confidence in myself, in my team, in my training."

"It was really hard for us to come back to the ice after Skate America (where the team finished fourth, including a seventh-place showing iun the free skate)," Ciprès added. "Skating like this in front of your home audience made me really calm. I felt no pressure. I knew that the audience was wholeheartedly with me. I just wanted them to be proud of us.

"The move we made to go train in Florida was a big decision for us. The investment is paying (off)," he continued. "Everyone -- judges, officials and audience -- can see that we are improving."

Natalia Zabijako and Alexander Enbert skated precisely to the languid song "Cry Me A River." They landed their triple twist, but Enbert fell on the triple toe of their side-by-side combination, and they opted for side-by-side double salchows instead of their planned triples. They dropped from third to fourth place, with 121.20 points for their free program and 192.56 points overall.

Team USA's Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran skated to a medley of songs by Journey. Castelli fell on the triple toe of the team's side-by-side combination and did the same on their side-by-side triple salchows. Their lifts were impressive (all three were rated Level 4), as was their spin. Their spiral received a Level 3.

They remained in fifth place, earning 116.92 points for their free program and 176.18 overall, both personal bests.

"We managed!" Tran said. "We didn't have the best warmup, but we came back and went for everything in the program."

"It's not fully there, but we're getting there," Castelli offered. "We're getting better and better at each competition."