Ice Network

Fondue delight: Grand Prix arrives in Grenoble

Fernández finally at ease; James, Ciprès open eyes during practice run
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France's Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès will surely have the crowd behind them when they take the ice in Grenoble. -Getty Images

Recipe for success

There is no denying that Fondue is an alpine dish, but in order to make it properly, you need to start with three different kinds of cheese from the area. The choice of cheese is a key factor for the success of the recipe, as you don't want the finished product to be too "cheesy." To sweeten the dish a bit and make it pop visually, you'll want to add white wine and kirsch liquor, with a little touch of cornstarch for added flavor. Once it's hot and melted, this delicious treat is ready to be served.

And, it will be my treat to serve you all the happenings throughout the 2017 Internationaux de France. Welcome to the 1968 Olympic city of Grenoble!

Alpine scenery

Grenoble is considered one of the doorsteps to the Alps. The city is surrounded by two gorgeous mountains, the Chartreuse and the Vercors, which emerged from heavy cloud cover last week to now offer the view of a shining white snow cap. The air is crisp and the sky is crystal clear, which makes for true skating weather.

Happy 50th to a true icon

"Of course, we're here to celebrate," a French official offered as the rink officially opened for the Grand Prix on Thursday morning. The Internationaux de France was organized in Grenoble for the first time, 50 years after the city hosted the 1968 Olympic Winter Games. Peggy Fleming, who won gold at the '68 Games, returned to the site of her triumph a decade ago to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Games. She left an indelible mark over the skating world in 1968, and in 2008, she left an indelible print of her hands onto a plaque on the floor -- in the middle of what used to be the ice surface where she won gold.

A big salute also goes out to Dame Fleming, as well as Oleg Protopopov, who won Olympic gold in Grenoble with his late wife, Ludmila Belousova. And, let's not forget to send a friendly hello to Tim Wood, who won silver for the United States in the men's category.

Survey of the day: Skaters and history

While each competitor here this week knows who Peggy Fleming is, only a few were aware that she won her Olympic gold medal in Grenoble. There was also only one skater -- Team USA's Max Aaron -- who knew that Fleming's Olympic triumph came 50 years ago. "I know nothing about skating history," quipped one of Aaron's teammates, even offering up a laugh at the lack of knowledge.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" is perhaps an appropriate saying for this moment. If it holds true, then Team USA should get receive excellent results in Grenoble!

Get well soon, Chafik!

Chafik Bességhier dreamt of finally skating internationally in his hometown of Grenoble, where he trained for many years. Grenoble had not organized any ISU competitions in 50 years, so when the opportunity finally arrived, the 28-year-old was obviously excited. Unfortunately, Bességhier suffered a lung infection several weeks ago and is now slowly recovering, though not in time to participate in the Grand Prix on home ice.

Biting backpack

Morgan Ciprès' backpack has rapidly become a hit in the Grenoble arena. It's made of grey fabric with two red eyes and the smile of a shark embroidered on the back. Does that mean it's meant to bite?

"Not at all!" Ciprès laughed. One thing, however, is certain: The quote "I love your backpack, Morgan!" is now becoming a popular saying in Grenoble.

Javi's nightmare is over

Last season, drawing to skate first in the last group of skaters had become one of Javier Fernández' nightmares -- especially when it came to the short program -- since the Spaniard lost precious points in each of his two Grand Prix assignments. Luckily for Javi, that won't be the case this time around.

"They don't do the draw anymore, as they are skating in the reverse order of the world rankings," his coach, Brian Orser, explained. "So (in Grenoble), Javi will skate right before Shoma Uno."

Where does that place him in the skating order? Next to last. Good for him!

From warm-up to practice

There is a second rink in the same building where this week's Grand Prix arena is being held, and it will be used as a warm-up area throughout the competition. Although he was not due to practice until 5 p.m. local time, Uzbekistan's Misha Ge was already warming up at 10 a.m. Thursday morning, under his coach's (who is also his father) supervision. Meanwhile, the pairs were first to take the ice. Ge came up to watch the practice, and warmly congratulated Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès.

"We've not showed our whole program yet," James offered afterward, with a smile. What they showed, however, was already quite inspiring. The French pair skated a beautiful free program, with James landing a strong throw quad salchow, the first quad performed on the ice of this Grand Prix.

How many more will there be in the next two days? We'll just have to wait and see!