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Internationaux de France set to open in Grenoble

French city to host first major skating event since 1968 Winter Games
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Javier Fernández will look to rebound from his sixth-place finish at the Cup of China when he takes the ice this week in Grenoble. -Getty Images

With the 2017 Grand Prix Final drawing closer, the 2017 Internationaux de France is set to open Thursday in Grenoble, as competitors look to secure their place at the series finale next month in Nagoya, Japan.

It's been fifty years since Grenoble last hosted a major skating competition, when the French city welcomed the 1968 Olympic Winter Games to town. It was at this event that a young American lady, Peggy Fleming, revolutionized the popularity of skating worldwide. Fleming won the gold medal that year in what remains one of the great shining moments in the sport's illustrious history.

With the competition set to open, here's a breakdown of what fans can expect from the fifth leg of the 2017 Grand Prix Series.


Some skaters avoid competing against their main adversaries during the Grand Prix season in order to reach the Grand Prix Final with an unblemished competition record. This won't be the case in the ladies field this week, as Kaetlyn Osmond -- who won gold at Skate Canada -- is set to square off against Alina Zagitova, the reigning world junior champion who earned top honors at the Cup of China.

Zagitova has achieved a feat only her renowned training mate, two-time defending world champion Evgenia Medvedeva, has accomplished in recent years: winning her first senior Grand Prix crown right after claiming gold at both the Junior Grand Prix Final and world junior championships. She could very well reach the top of the podium once again this week in France.

Osmond has once again elected to skate her short program to the music of France's Édith Piaf, and upon seeing her routine, French audience members surely won't be disappointed!

Russia's Maria Sotskova, who placed second to Osmond in Canada, will also compete in Grenoble. She and Osmond will be bringing their own version of Swan Lake to the ice as well.

Team USA's Polina Edmunds has never skated at the French leg of the Grand Prix, and her stop in Grenoble will be her only appearance in the series this season. It will also mark her return to international ice after Edmunds endured an injury-riddled campaign a season ago.

Veteran Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, the 2015 world champion, has become quite familiar with the French Alps, as her coach and mentor, Alexei Mishin, holds seminars in nearby Courchevel each summer. The Russian didn't fare well at the Cup of China but has a chance to redeem herself in Grenoble.


No fewer than four competitors in Grenoble have already medaled at their previous Grand Prix events this season. Japan's Shoma Uno won gold at Skate Canada, where Russia's Alexander Samarin took the bronze. At the Cup of China, Team USA's Max Aaron picked up the bronze medal -- the same color medal Israel's Alexei Bychenko took home last week from the NHK Trophy.

Another name that could have easily been be added to the list, had it not been for a stomach virus, is that of 2015 and 2016 world champion Javier Fernández, who will also skate this week in Grenoble.

"There are two things I'd like to achieve next season," Fernández said at last season's European championships. "Win the Grand Prix Final and an Olympic medal -- whatever the color."

The first target has now eluded him, since his sixth-place finish at Cup of China will most likely prevent him from qualifying for the Final, but Fernández is a fighter and a true crowd pleaser, and we should expect a bounce-back performance from him this week.

The aforementioned Aaron will not be the only representative from Team USA in the field. Vincent Zhou, the reigning world junior champion, will skate the second Grand Prix of his career in Grenoble. Zhou skated the second-best free program at the Cup of China to place fourth in the final standings, right behind teammate Aaron.

Uzbekistan's Misha Ge, who finished fourth at the Rostelecom Cup, and Kazakhstan's Denis Ten will also vie for the podium.


Russia's Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov have proven in recent years that they are one of the strongest teams in the world. The 2017 European champions and world bronze medalists arrive in Grenoble as heavy favorites in the discipline, four weeks after earning a clear-cut victory in Russia.

All of their competitors in Grenoble are still looking to win a stage of this season's Grand Prix, including France's Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès, who took bronze at Skate Canada. They'll also have the support of the home crowd behind them this week.

China's Cheng Peng and Yang Jin, who ended fifth at Skate Canada, also have the potential to be competitive at this event, as does the Canadian team of Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch, who placed sixth in the world last season.

Italy's Nicole della Monica and Matteo Guarise will also strive for a podium finish, as they showed strong improvement at their last outing in China, where they finished fourth overall.

Team USA selected Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran to skate in Grenoble, and after competing in France last season, they pair is all the more comfortable with their surroundings. Tran also previously won the world bronze medal in 2012 on French ice (while representing Japan) with former partner Narumi Takahashi.

Ice Dance

France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron arrive in Grenoble with the prestige of owning a new world record overall score, which they achieved at the Cup of China. They cracked the 200-point bar for the first time in ice dance history, while also performing a beautiful free dance to Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata."

Two of the main contenders on the Grand Prix circuit outside of the French team are Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. Both are world medalists who have won the silver medal at their first Grand Prix of the season, with Chock and Bates accomplishing the feat at Cup of China, and Weaver and Poje reaching the podium at Skate Canada.

Russia's Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin are also ready to reach the podium, as they did at the Rostelecom Cup earlier this season when they won the bronze medal. Italy's Charlène Guignard (who is of French origin) and Marco Fabbri should also be in the mix.

Some of the older skating fans in Grenoble may remember that at the time of "their" Olympics in 1968, ice dance was not even an Olympic sport. It was included in 1976, some eight years later.

Now, let the competition begin!