Ice Network

Fondue delight: Fernández able to smile once again

No national bias for Canadian judge; Long wait pays off for Italian pair
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His performance in the short program came as a great relief to Javier Fernández. -Getty Images

Denis Ten skated his short program with his usual elegance and charisma. The lyrics of the song to which he skated, Vittorio Grigolo's "Tu Sei" ("I'm yours" in Italian), couldn't be more appropriate: "To me, you are the story that the blade of grass tells to the dew drop."

"The blade of skate talked delicately to the ice drop under Ten's skates, as only he can do"...except at the precise moment of his planned quad toe, unfortunately -- but that's not part of the song.

Figure a smile, the other goal of skating

By winning the short program handily, Javier Fernández proved to himself and the world that he could still win -- and win by a lot -- by skating the way he did Friday night. His performance served as a confidence booster for him, and came as a relief to the Spaniard.

"Sometimes it's difficult to keep your smile, when work is getting tough. Coming back from my previous Grand Prix (Cup of China, where he finished sixth), I was able to smile again and be skating. That makes me really happy. It's good to have such a feeling," he said...with the smile we like to see from him.

Modern skater!

Maybe Fernández was inspired by Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times, the music to which he elected to skate this season: For sure, he will keep being "modern" in the months to come, even though his younger challengers are coming up on him fast. He was the only competitor of the night to crack the 100-point mark, with 107.86 points. Orser had told icenetwork that Fernández' program was worth 109 points. He came close!

New celeb

Skaters usually tend to warm up in a place where they may not be distrurbed. Russia's Alina Zagitova chose a different warm-up spot Saturday morning before her last practice session: the main entrance of the rink. There, she jumped -- skateless, of course -- in the middle of the early arrivers. She landed a double axel-loop-double axel, and then a triple jump, looking very focused. She started the second Grand Prix of her career the same way she opened her first: by finishing fourth in the short program. She won the gold medal at Cup of China...will she reach the same heights in Grenoble?

Technology giveth and technology taketh away

Fifty years ago, when the Olympics took place in Grenoble, technology was not nearly as fast and efficient as it is today, and it took many hours to get the results. Maybe it was in honor of those ages that the scoring system broke during the pairs short program Friday evening? Italy's Nicole della Monica and Matteo Guarise had just delivered a wonderful program to "Magnificat." They had to remain in the kiss and cry for more than 10 confusing minutes, waiting for their marks to come up, because of a problem with the computing system. An emergency switch was hit inadvertently, causing the system to collapse. The back-up system, which is usually on, turned out to be off. One problem added to another. Marks had to be entered one by one into the computer, just like in the old days.

It was worth the wait, however: della Monica and Guarise came out third in the short program.

Coaching greats

The greatest coaches of an era have always coached the greatest skaters of their times. Usually, a given school has several prominent skaters or teams training in it, and it's never easy to give one's full attention to each one of them. Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon and Romain Haguenauer know this quite well, as they coach Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue -- that is, the three teams that were 1-2-3 after the short dance at the 2017 World Championships.

"It's difficult," Haguenauer acknowledged, "but not the way you think. In fact, skaters have been used to that situation from a very young age. There is nothing new there, except for the level, of course. When I was coaching in France, I could coach the six best-ranked teams of the country. We give them rules, and we teach them how to deal with such situations. They have to learn to focus on what they have to do, not on what others do. In a way, it's a good preparation for a competition, too. That's what's we're here for."

Sick of skating? No way!

The song "Je suis malade" -- "I am sick," in French -- was a hit some decades ago in this country. It has now become a skating hit, as no fewer than three skaters or teams have elected to skate to it. Romain Ponsart skated his short to it, Angélique Abachkina and Louis Thauron skate part of their free dance to it, and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje dance their free dance to it. After all, skating has used the "Dying Swan" many times in the past, so why not this one, as long as it allows for a strong emotional moment?

World record of a different kind

When you examine the protocols of the short dance carefully, you notice a weird mark among the component scores awarded by the judges: Weaver and Poje's program received 0.25 points from one judge for interpretation. Yes, you read correctly: zero point twenty-five. The team was quite unfortunate, as Poje missed his twizzles, but their interpretation was as passionate as ever. Fortunately, that record-low mark was not taken into account in the average (Weaver and Poje got 9.14 points for interpretation). When you dig further, you see that the judge who awarded it, Judge No. 8, was…the Canadian judge!

Never say that judges are nationally biased.

Good luck, Gabi and Guillaume!

"We've been skating together for 30 years," Cizeron started to say, answering a question during the short program post-event press conference.

The room erupted in laughter.

"What did I say?" he wondered. "No, 13 years!"

Good for the French -- that should bear them luck!