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Bompard notes: Paris welcomes the world

Skaters hit the ice Thursday for official practice

Alissa Czisny is looking for her second medal in as many years at Trophée Eric Bompard.
Alissa Czisny is looking for her second medal in as many years at Trophée Eric Bompard. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/17/2011) - Official practice sessions were held Thursday at the Bercy arena in Paris, where 2011 Trophée Eric Bompard is set to begin.

The men and pairs took the ice in the morning, while the ladies and ice dancers followed them in the afternoon. All skaters elected to skate their free programs.

The competition will be held in two parts, with the short programs being held Friday and the free skates taking place Saturday.

And then the red stands have welcomed the world

"This way to tennis courts," a flag still indicates at the entrance of the Bercy arena. The stands are empty at the moment. Those 15,000 red armchairs are still, sitting there with their arms wide open. It should not last, though, as Saturday's events are sold out, as is the exhibition gala.

Just a few hundred people, mainly coaches and aficionados, watched the practice sessions. Music, however, took the gigantic space above by storm. There is no doubt: Skating's turn has come!

The American team has arrived

"Everybody arrived without any problem," said Doug Williams, the U.S. team leader in Paris. "We even got some ice yesterday to get our legs moving."

The U.S. team is not the biggest in numbers, with only six skaters, but it is oversized in terms of talent. Alissa Czisny, Adam Rippon, Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig were selected right from the beginning of the season, unlike their dancing counterparts.

"A late cancellation allowed Madison [Chock] and Evan [Bates] to come, as was the case at Skate Canada three weeks ago," Williams said. "They were lucky to get a spot!"

There is little doubt that the Parisian audience is lucky to have them skate here, too.

"The Queen of Perseverance"

No one may better exemplifies the love story between skating and Paris than Czisny. Her practice session was a bit rough this afternoon, especially her triple Lutz. Yet she has the capacity to get her programs to touch any spectator, no matter their country of origin.

Her two programs here are related to France. "La Vie en Rose," the music to which she skates her short, was created here in Paris some 60 years ago by singing legend Edith Piaf.

"I love the music so much," she said.

Her free skate program to "Valse Triste," by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, also bears a French name. It means "Sad Waltz," but Czisny made it so lively and strong today that she was the only skater loudly applauded and cheered.

"Many skaters would have doubted her after her season two years ago," said Lyndon Johnston, who coaches Evora and Ladwig. "She had the courage to come back and fight, and now she is at the top. She is really the queen of perseverance."

Chock and Bates promise to be cautious

Chock and Bates were all smiles upon arriving at the rink.

"We love Paris," Chock said. "We went to the Champs-Élysées yesterday, and we should go to the Orsay Museum tonight, to see all the impressionist paintings."

Commenting on the bad fall they took at Skate Canada at the end of their short dance, Bates promised, "This time we'll be cautious!" half laughing. "Plus, we are skating first tomorrow."

Their practice session was smooth, and their free dance to Frédéric Chopin's "Prelude in E minor" was beautiful and energetic.

Happy birthday, Amanda!

Amanda Evora is celebrating her birthday while in Paris, and she's already taken in some of the more famous sights.

"It's the first time for me to be in Paris," said Evora, who turned 27 on Thursday. "Yesterday we went to the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe at night, with all the lights on. That was such a nice way to get my first glimpse of Paris.

"I hope I can go shopping," she continued. "Even though today is my birthday, you can be sure that I will do whatever is best for the competition."

Tuktamisheva's tango

Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, the young, petite skater from Russia who was the surprise winner at Skate Canada, took the ice under the expert eye of Alexander Gorshkov, the 1976 Olympic gold medalist in ice dancing and the president of the Russian Skating Federation.

Tuktamisheva's small size makes her so discrete on the ice that she seems almost invisible at times. Yet when you start watching her, she seems to be the only one skating.

Her Tango routine was incredibly precise, as if every step and move had to be nailed at one given spot on the ice.

"No, no, I did not coach her in her Tango!" Gorshkov said, laughing.

He could have, as he created the Tango Romantica with his late wife and partner, Ludmila Pakhomova.