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Chan, Rochette follow through with gold in Paris

Canadians sweep singles events at Trophee Bompard

Joannie Rochette is excited about her chances at the GP Final.
Joannie Rochette is excited about her chances at the GP Final. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/15/2008) - The competitions were fascinating in the singles events Saturday at the Trophée Eric Bompard Cachemire in Paris. The unexpected was confirmed, as current world No. 1s Brian Joubert of France and Mao Asada of Japan were defeated by a pair of Canadians.

Men

There was a lot of pressure on Patrick Chan's shoulders when he took the ice Saturday afternoon in Paris. Since he was the last to skate, he had to wait 40 minutes before hitting the ice, and he had to go on after Frenchmen Joubert and Alban Préaubert riled up the crowd. He nonetheless stood up to the pressure and won his second Grand Prix this season -- and his second Trophée Bompard in a row. He only made two minor mistakes -- over-rotating his second triple Axel and putting a hand down on a triple Salchow immediately afterwards.

"I felt really happy with the way I skated, even though I made two mistakes," he said later. "I did not feel either too loose or too tight."

Chan's skating, set to music composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff, was particularly strong, with his embroidered style and steps as precise as the Russian composer's piano notes.

"Actually we chose this music because of its complexity and its contemporary style. It is the first time it is skated," he explained.

Takahiko Kozuka of Japan, the gold medalist at Skate America last month, fell on his opening quadruple toe loop. He managed to recover right away, though, and skated to second place in the free program and overall, thanks to an otherwise flawless program. He even had the highest total element score in the segment.

"I made a mistake on the first jump, which was downgraded anyway, but then I recovered very well, and this gives me confidence for the rest of the season," he said.

Asked what his goals were, he said simply: "One -- succeed with the quad. Two -- skate clean after landing a quad. Three -- do my best at the Grand Prix Final [held Dec. 10-14 in Goyang City, Korea]," for which Kozuka has now qualified.

Préaubert's free program could not have been better, and he landed all his elements. His style has improved a lot since last year.

"I worked a lot on my components this year, with the help of Lyon's ice dancing team," he explained. This offseason, Préaubert worked with Muriel Zazoui, one of the coaches of world champion ice dancers Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder. He took the third spot on the podium ahead of his teammate Joubert.

Joubert, the 2007 world champion, over-rotated his opening quadruple toe and fell on his triple loop.

"I have not done my job," he said later. "We only have three days to rebound [prior to the Cup of Russia next week], but we will set up objectives and try to achieve them."

Brandon Mroz of the U.S. skated a strong performance and took a deserved fifth place overall.

"There were ups and downs," he commented later, "but it was pretty good."

His teammate Ryan Bradley was not as lucky, as he fell twice on his triple Axel and finished seventh.

Ladies

Joannie Rochette was ready to skate after one of Asada's great performances. When she entered into the rink, however, the crowd was not as wild as she expected.

Rochette skated a nearly perfect program, though, including a triple toe-triple Salchow combination.

"Obviously, I am very happy," she said. "My goal here was to feel no nervousness entering onto the ice. My work with a sports psychologist helps me to calm and enjoy. I have learned that this is my life, and at 22 years old, I should be able to enjoy it," she added with a smile.

Rochette's only error was a singled loop.

"I think I just went too fast into it," she explained. "Usually this is one of my best jumps."

The only perfectly clean program Saturday night came from American Caroline Zhang. She won a deserved bronze medal -- her first in the 2008 Grand Prix Series [she finished fifth at Skate Canada earlier in November].

"I skated all my elements," she said with visible joy, "and I think I skated much better than yesterday."

She set a new season-high with 104.78 points in her free program, less than five points behind Asada's score.

This was not a lucky night for Asada, the reigning world champion. She landed her triple Axel with difficulty and made three costly mistakes afterwards -- doubling her planned triple loop, singling her triple Salchow and singling the triple loop in her triple flip-triple loop combination.

Asked if her triple Axel was taking too much energy out of her at the beginning of her program, she said that "the triple Axel is one of my weapons. It does require a lot of energy, but if I keep training, this should improve."

Candice Didier of France reached fourth place after Bebe Liang of the U.S. fell on her triple flip combination.

Liang finished fifth overall. Her U.S. teammate, Emily Hughes, had a rough night. She fell on her triple toe at the end of her program, and her triple flip was downgraded. She finished ninth.

The Canadian team was ecstatic after their double victory, which qualified two of their skaters for the Final.