Top European skaters head to Coupe de Nice
14th Coupe de Nice takes place this week in France
|Yannick Ponsero is among the top men competing at the Coup de Nice. (Getty Images)|
Senior competition starts Friday, Nov. 5, with the pairs and men's short programs and the original dance (compulsory dance is not being held), and the event concludes Sunday with the ladies free skate.
Three of the top five finishers from last season's ladies competition return for this year's event, including the winner, Constanze Paulinus of Germany. Also back in the field are 2008 fourth- and fifth-place finishers Candice Didier of France and Sonia Lafuente of Spain, respectively. A host of newcomers to the event should also prove worthy challengers, including Great Britain's Jenna McCorkell, Germany's Sarah Hecken, Sweden's Viktoria Helgesson, Japan's Haruka Imai and Russia's Ksenia Makarova. The United States is sending its 2009 U.S. Collegiate champion and silver medalist, Chelsea Morrow (Grand Rapids CC) and Tatyana Khazova (Colorado College), respectively, to compete in the senior ladies event.
The men's competition pits France versus Russia. Yannick Ponsero, who has placed fifth at both of his assignments in the 2009 Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series, is the favorite to win gold. His countryman, Alban Preaubert, won the bronze last week at the Ice Challenge in Austria and is scheduled to compete in two weeks at Skate Canada, so it would not be surprising to see him withdraw from this event; if he remains in the field, he should wind up on the awards podium. (Ponsero and Preaubert finished one-two at the 2008 Coupe de Nice.) Andrei Lutai is a three-time Russian medalist and placed 10th at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships, while Artur Gachinski won gold and silver at his two Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series events this fall, qualifying him for the Junior Grand Prix Final next month in Tokyo. Germany's Stefan Lindemann and Spain's Javier Fernandez also could find themselves in the medal mix. U.S. Collegiate champion Jason Wong (Emmanuel College Class of 2009) and U.S. Collegiate silver medalist Michal Solonoski (Drexel University) will also take part in the event.
The pairs event looks like it will come down to a couple French teams and a Russian duo. Adeline Canac and Maximin Coia are the reigning two-time French champions and have won bronze and silver at this event the last two years. Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur finished the 2008-09 season strong, placing 10th at the European Figure Skating Championships and 12th at the World Championships, but have finished last at both of their Grand Prix events this fall; they surely will want to put on a good show for the partisan fans at the Esplanade Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny. Russians Ksenia Ozerova and Alexander Enbert won medals at both of their 2008 JGP events and took the silver at the 2009 Winter Universiade. Maylin Hausch and Daniel Wende placed fourth at the Ice Challenge a week ago and seventh at the Nebelhorn Trophy in September.
Only five teams are entered in the dance event, with the fight for the top spot coming down to Russians Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko and Ukrainians Alla Beknazarova and Vladimir Zuev. Riazanova and Tkachenko, in their first season together, came in fourth at the Nebelhorn Trophy and sixth at the Rostelecom Cup, while Beknazarova and Zeuv claimed the bronze at the Finlandia Trophy, their eighth career international medal.