Ice Network

Osmond best of the bunch in underwhelming short

Many top competitors make mistakes on jumps; Edmunds places ninth
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Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond had problems on a couple of her jump elements during her Édith Piaf short, completing only a triple-double combination and putting her hand down on her triple lutz. Still, the Skate Canada gold medalist, who is making her debut at this event, sits in first place after netting 69.05 points. -Getty Images

Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond won the short program at the Internationaux de France in Grenoble, slightly outpacing Russia's Maria Sotskova.

Osmond is a great storyteller on the ice and in her life. She struggled with the former throughout her routine, however, doubling the back half of her triple flip-triple toe combination and putting a slight hand down on her triple lutz. Along with Russia's Alina Zagitova, she was one of only two skaters on the day to receive Level 4's for her three spins and step sequence.

Skating to French singer Edith Piaf's songs, "Sous le ciel de Paris" and "Milord," Osmond held onto her elements and line throughout the performance and never failed to deliver her story -- "that of a French girl wandering in the streets of Paris," as her coach, Ravi Walia, explained.

She will advance to the free skate with 69.05 points. Her components score (34.70) was 2.17 points higher than Sotskova's, which proved to be the difference between the two skaters.

"I didn't feel any more nervousness than usual," Osmond said, "and I didn't notice any problem with the ice. But, well, last time I had a miss in my short program, it led me to my best result ever," she smiled gently (referring to when she won the silver medal at worlds last season). "So let's hope it will be a good sign for tomorrow!"

Skating next to last, Sotskova landed her triple lutz-triple toe with ease. She followed with a triple flip, which she two-footed, and a double axel, each time raising her arm above her head, like a candle, while jumping. Her step sequence and flying spin were rated Level 3, her two other spins Level 4. She amassed 67.79 points, 35.36 of which came on the technical elements side.

"It felt easy to skate today," she said. "The audience was very supportive, and although I made a slight error on my triple flip, I am pleased with my performance."

Swan Lake, the music to which Sotskova took the ice, may not be completely original in skating, but Sotskova's outfit -- a light pink dress underlined with silver, instead of the usual white or black -- was.

"That's normal," Sotskova explained. "I'm not portraying either a black or white swan but a girl at a ballroom. So, that allowed me to choose the color I wanted for my dress!"

There were many surprises in the event. One of the best ones was the third-place finish of Japan's Yuna Shiraiwa, who skated in the first group but delivered a dynamic and pure program, which included a triple lutz-triple toe, double axel and triple flip. She amassed 66.05 points, a new personal best.

Shiraiwa is skating in back-to-back Grand Prix events, after competing at the NHK Trophy last week.

"I put too much pressure on myself at NHK, and I skated poorly," said Shiraiwa, who placed eighth in Osaka. "This time, I wanted to not put too much pressure (on myself), so I had no expectations, and I just enjoyed (myself). Coming here with so little time to prepare after NHK, my main priority was to prepare my body and mind. I did meditation, and that helped."

Shiraiwa's skating was both delicate and strong.

"Beauty for the Japanese people is strong inside and calm outside," Mie Hamada, Shiraiwa's coach, once told icenetwork.

Her protégée was exactly that Friday.

Skating to Astor Piazzolla's "Libertango," Mai Mihara was not as sharp as her teammate, Shiraiwa, as she struggled with her opening triple lutz-triple toe combination (the latter jump was downgraded). She landed her subsequent triple flip and double axel easily, however, and amassed 64.57 points, good for fourth place.

Russia's Alina Zagitova clearly was focused and determined as she took the ice. The 2017 world junior champion skated to Swan Lake, just like Sotskova, except she did portray a swan. Zagitova opened with a high flying camel spin and an incredible step sequence, during which every step was individually demanding.

Just like her illustrious training mate, Evgenia Medvedeva, does in her short program, Zagitova set her routine to highlight her most difficult elements. She fell on her triple lutz, however, and had the second part of her subsequent triple flip-triple toe deemed under-rotated. She garnered 62.46 points, some 8.83 lower than her season's best, and sits in fifth place.

Team USA's Polina Edmunds was the first skater to hit the ice, and she delivered a powerful, yet delicate and smooth, rendition of Karl Jenkins' "Palladio." She landed a triple loop-triple toe combination and a triple salchow, although the toe was judged to be under-rotated. She amassed 56.31 points, placing her ninth.

"I'm pleased with my performance," Edmunds said, "although all my elements weren't perfect. It's very difficult to come back after two years. I missed a lot, and it was hard to compete again under the pressure of such a big event.

"My music has a strong beat, and tying my movement to rhythm of the music helped me throughout. My program was well received by the crowd, and I'm happy to have reconnected with my friends/competitors, whom I was skating with two years ago."