Ice Network

Pot-au-feu: Rippon skates free sans winged friends

Carroll questions proliferation of quads; Ge leads 'Mannequin Challenge'
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Adam Rippon's free skate was one of the highlights of 2016 Trophée de France. -Getty Images

The arena that hosts the French Grand Prix, now called AccordHotels Arena, has been completely refurbished these last two years, but pigeons still manage to enter the building. One could be seen during the ladies short program Friday evening.

Adam Rippon thought of that when the time came for him to skate his great free program to "The Arrival of the Birds" and "O."

"I wondered if the couple of pigeons that live in the arena would come by," he said during the post-event press conference. "But no one came. There was no pigeon this time!"

Rippon's program was one of the "hits" of this year's Trophée de France, thanks to his incredible choreography and gestures, and their "intune-ness" with his music. There was no pigeon to dance with him, but he received a well-deserved standing ovation. As for the pigeon, it did come back during the ladies free. Are we to understand that Parisian pigeons prefer women?

Watered-down champ

Javier Fernández is a great storyteller -- on the ice and off. Here is how he recounted his fall (and only mistake) during his free program.

"I have a change of edge before my second triple axel, and sometimes I'm off balance. When that happens at practice, usually I just don't do the jump and keep going with the program. But here, during competition, in the middle of my program, I couldn't do that. So I thought, 'This will be my mistake,' and I went for it. Of course, that was the place where the ice was covered by water and I fell into the water. So one should never lose power before a jump!"

Quads and wisdom

"Quads are difficult jumps, and we need to be smart about how we use them," Fernández advised after his short program.

When asked about the generalization of quads, master coach Frank Carroll wisely answered, "It's like, 'Do a quad here on the floor and then do the same on the ice, and add a few movements. The one who can do the most quads is the best free skater in the world.' Is that really the best skater? There is so much more to it. Take, for instance, a Jason Brown. He is such a great pleasure to watch, and such a great performer, too. And he is out because quads elude him? What have they made of our sport?"

"The limit to quads and 'quints' may be mechanical, as you can only rotate so many rotations in the time a jump takes," another expert suggested. "But it may also be physical: When you see the number of young people injured, especially their hips, you wonder if this can keep going for long."

French strike?

When you cover a skating event, one part of your job is, of course, to watch the practice and competition. Another part is to listen to skaters and coaches all the time, especially as they are leaving the ice. There is a zone for that, the so-called "mixed zone," where skaters and journalists can exchange a word. As often happens around the rinks, the mixed zone and the press stands in Paris were rather distant, and one had to rush at the end of a program (and even more at the start of the next) from one place to the next. Along that path, at the arena in Paris, there is a funny door with a printed sticker on it that reads "Offic." Must have been painted on a Friday afternoon, I suppose? But don't worry: The French may be the biggest strikers on the planet, but there is no strike scheduled (yet), and airplanes should be on time Monday morning, as most skaters will be leaving the country that day.

Living a skater's life

As you may imagine, elite skaters do travel a lot, but they have very little time to visit the cities in which they skate. That was the case for Trophée de France gold medalist Evgenia Medvedeva. That's why she was so excited Sunday night.

"Tonight, a few friends and I are going to go to the Eiffel Tower. Piper [Gilles], Wakaba [Higuchi], So Youn Park and a few others, and a couple of guys, too, we will all go together. It will be my first time there. It's my childhood dream!"

The most beautiful ice statue

Uzbekistan's Misha Ge seems to be quite shy on competitive ice, but he really is quite a joyful and creative fellow. He and France's Vanessa James had a fun idea together: At the end of the final parade in the exhibition gala Sunday night, they asked all their fellow skaters to create a living statue together. Each one took a pose on the ice -- one skater lying on his head showing impressive balance, Medvedeva in Rippon's arms, teams offering one of their best lifts -- all frozen at once, while Ge filmed the scene, moving in his flashy multicolor outfit from one group of skaters to the next. For once in skating, skaters were fixed and the camera was moving at skating speed!

"It's the first time we did it," Ge confessed. "I asked the organizer, and he agreed to it. Let's say it was an initiative from the skaters!"

Still more memorabilia from skating. Hopefully, it will be posted in a way that is accessible to all of us. (Editor's note: It is. You can watch it here, on the ISU's Facebook page.) Thank you, all you skaters!

'Til our edges meet again…

This fourth leg of the Grand Prix was captivating. The three reigning world champions won -- without real surprise. But it's always fascinating to see the sport and the champions of tomorrow start to emerge, as we did in Paris with (among others) Nathan Chen, the new quad king of the world, Maria Sotskova and Wakaba Higuchi.

I'll not end this pot-au-feu without that last ingredient that made the recipe tasteful and savory: you, the reader. Without you, there would be no report to echo the wealth of the sports we love. Thank you in sharing your passion! It makes up for the less interesting or cheerful moments life has to offer.