2018 Internationaux de France Pairs Review: Really, Plastic Hexagons?

It’s the last Grand Prix of the year and I’m honestly not ready for it to be over. For six weeks, my friends and I have enjoyed/survived the roller coaster of waking up early, yelling at the judges through our phones, and tweeting crazy stuff to make each other laugh. But ready or not, it’s time for the Grand Prix in France, so let’s crank up the Les Mis soundtrack and go storming the Bastille.

First things first: it’s an annual tradition of mine to forget THE NAME OF THE DANG EVENT. I’m sorry, but when I was a little girl (okay, four years ago), it was “Trophee Eric Bompard”. Then it was Trophee de France – okay, I can deal with that. I guess they stopped calling it a Trophée so they didn’t have to keep making expensive trophies every year. But “Internationaux de France”? With the hashtag #IFP2018? Not a fan, try again when you come up with something I can actually pronounce.

I suggest we call it “Didier’s Folly”.

It’s a well-known fact that Didier Gailhaguet should not be trusted to do anything that involves figure skating. Which is a problem, because he happens to be the president of the French skating federation. Which is why we had plastic hexagons instead of proper medals, the boards falling down in the middle of Lu/Mitrofanov’s free skate, and Andrei Novoselov still not released to skate for Russia. Ah, the trials of French figure skating.

Enough complaining. Let’s talk skating.

Minerva Fabienne Hase/Nolan Seegert have such a beautiful “Say Something” short program, so to see them come in last place with it broke my heart. The free skate simply does not work; the boring bluesy music at the beginning put me to sleep and the more uptempo stuff didn’t match their skating. The lifts were so slow and the jumps weren’t really happening either. It’s a shame because I do like them; I just don’t like this FS for them.

Call me that annoying American who will defend US pairs to the death, but I think Lu/Mitrofanov were underscored in the short. A few small mistakes but overall a strong skate. Now for the free…guys, I love Moulin Rouge programs “till my dying day” 😜 but you can’t just end the program without some dramatic closing choreography! Don’t let the big moment slip away! On the technical side, I’m really worried about their lifts. They made mistakes on two of the three lifts and this isn’t the first time they had lift problems. Somebody, please fix it, because they’re a very pleasing pair to watch.

Ruest/Wolfe have unique, lovely programs this season. Not their best skates, but not their worst. And I like her dresses. With the gaping hole in Canadian pairs right now (Duhamel/Radford, Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch, Seguin/Bilodeau, I’m looking at you), there’s room for them. They’d have to beat out their compatriots Walsh/Michaud for the second spot to Worlds, which is not out of the question. I’ll keep my eye on these two.

Okay, guys, it’s no secret: I love Ryom/Kim. They came, they delivered, and I actually had fun. Their SP is cool, classy, yet not weird. A few mistakes showed up in the free, but I still would’ve had them third here, above Boikova/Kozlovskii by a hair. In my Grand Prix of Helsinki review, I was harsh on their FS, and now I’m kicking myself and wondering why I was so grumpy about it. It’s not the best program for them imo, but it’s not awful. I actually didn’t mind it much this time.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of Boikova/Kozlovskii’s jazzy Dark Eyes SP. They skated very well, but it doesn’t really work for me. The free skate to The Nutcracker suits them much better – when the jumps are clean. And they weren’t. The step out of the triple toe combo was one thing, but I screamed when poor Alexandra fell on that huge throw triple loop. She’s so adorable and I want to bubble wrap her so nothing happens to her. But that ain’t how pair skating works. There’s no “safe” way to throw girls in the air on cold hard ice. Anyhow, their goal this year will be to stay ahead of Pavliuchenko/Khodykin – which is doable. Boikova/Kozlovskii got a very tough Grand Prix seed at Skate Canada, but I still think they’re far superior to Pavliuchenko/Khodykin and I’m not too worried. Also, they have some of the nicest lines I’ve seen from a first-year senior pair; she’s on the tall side for a pair girl, and I think that’s definitely to their advantage.

Kayne/O’Shea singlehandedly saved US pairs and they did it in style! The SP was solid and beautiful, and then they just blew the roof off with the FS. They have arguably the best lifts in the US and they know how to use them to their advantage. Swan Lake isn’t exactly the most original piece of music you could ever pick, but they make it impressive and not boring. My favorite moment: when the crowd clapped for the amazing entry into the second throw jump, then the jump itself. This program is cleverly choreographed, and dare I say it – these two very well might capture that one spot for Worlds this year. It all depends on who wins nationals, but so far these two aren’t looking too shabby. Honestly, sometimes the most fun pairs event of the year is US Nationals, because there’s usually only one spot and it’s a crazy free-for-all.

After the SP, all I wanted to do was give Vanessa James a big hug and tell her that everyone doubles a side by side jump once in their career – or once in a short program and once in a free skate. I’m still not crazy about the music for the SP, but it’s not cringe-worthy. Although “The Sound of Silence” is still my favorite James/Cipres program, the FS is amazing – their transitions and attention to detail is top-notch. Salchows aside, they looked solid; at least solid enough to medal at Worlds again. Remember when they used to make loads of mistakes at every competition and you just held your breath and prayed they wouldn’t die? Now they are legit World medalists. I’m still not sure if they can beat Sui/Han when our Empress Wenjing returns, but the mere fact that they have climbed to this level is insane. Side notes: Vanessa’s smile can heal the world and no matter how many times she wears a black catsuit, she still looks gorgeous.

And that’s it. It’s still so weird to think that this is the last Grand Prix of the year…I’m not ready for it to stop! I’ll have reviews of the men and ladies and my previews of the Grand Prix Final coming soon, so follow this blog for more content. As always, happy skating, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

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