Fantasy skating preview: Trophee Eric Bompard
|Carolina Kostner could be a trendy pick as she goes for her second Grand Prix gold. (Getty Images)|
Ladies battle at the top
How can you choose between three skaters who all won in their season debuts, and all with scores of 177+? Fortunately, Carolina Kostner has competed again since then, putting up a 182.14 total score. No, she doesn't put all of the possible triples in her programs. But the jumps she does, she's hit very well. She's been consistent through two events. This being her third, I expect even greater confidence after two medals already. Watch out for Alissa Czisny and Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, though. Both could spoil Kostner's second GP gold.
Viktoria Helgesson had a great start this year, finishing third at Skate America. She has stunning programs this year and is skating with much more technical confidence than before. I expect her to continue to do well here.
This is another group dependent on who skates the cleanest programs. While Sonia LaFuente has the highest, personal best score -- it came at last year's Trophée Eric Bompard -- she hasn't had that success since then. Her 120.10 score at Nebelhorn to open the 2012 season is 14 points lower than Lena Marracco's season high from Ondrej Nepela Memorial earlier this fall. While she hasn't yet had senior Grand Prix success, she'll have the home crowd behind her in France. She's my "C" pick.
Men look for improvement
Again, we have three men with success early on in the series. However, Patrick Chan still stands above the rest. He was far from perfect at his debut at Skate Canada, but he still holds the second highest total score of the season thus far (topped only by Daisuke Takahashi, thanks to last weekend's performance). Look for great skates out of these three but for Chan to take the top spot.
Nan Song has the highest score among these three thus far, but his Cup of China bronze was a bit of a surprise. Adam Rippon had some rough moments in his Skate Canada debut. However, I expect some of the kinks to be worked out by the time he takes the ice in Paris. Florent Amodio is always a wild card -- he can turn it on and score big, but he didn't have a strong start. It's a toss up in many respects, but I'm giving the nod to Rippon.
Kevin Reynolds comes packing some serious heat -- attempting three different quads in his free skate? Impressive. Because of the high-risk, high-reward approach, he sometimes hurts his own cause. But, if he ever puts all the pieces together, he'll rake in some serious points. The others in the group have yet to prove they can match up with senior competition, so Reynolds could have a big fantasy week in France.
Pairs taking it to the next level
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov are on a whole different level thus far in the 2012 season. They hold the season's best pairs total by more than 14 points and are the only team to break the 200-point barrier. This is their event to lose.
It's fair to say Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig will be battling it out with Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford all season long. Evora and Ladwig have a stunning short program this season that highlights all their best qualities. But, they still need to master their side-by-side jumps in order to top the Canadians. For now, Duhamel and Radford have an edge.
There isn't an abundance of experience in this third grouping. That said, Jessica Dube is no stranger to the Grand Prix series, and she and partner Sebastien Wolfe had a respectable debut at Skate Canada. They should be able to improve on that and take this group.
Dancers coming on strong
As we've become accustomed too, the Olympic Champs, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, have the clear advantage. They, too, hold the season's top score ... but only by 0.27 points. Fortunately for them, the team that owns that second-best score -- Meryl Davis and Charlie White -- won't be in Paris. Don't overlook Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat, but this title is Virtue and Moir's to lose.
Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte have worked to prove they are contenders. Their strong third place finish at Skate Canada leaves them in good stead as the "B" favorites.
Sara Hurtado and Adria Diaz are making their Senior Grand Prix debut in Paris. They're up against Xintong Huang and Xun Zheng, who finished sixth at Cup of China in their first event of the season. That experience will likely give them the edge in France.
At this point in the season, we should see more polish and confidence from all the skaters. But, as we all know, the ice is slippery and anything can happen.