2018 Internationaux de France review: Ladies and Men

Hey! Since it’s the last Grand Prix event of the year except for the Final, I thought I’d throw down my hot takes on the men and ladies before I take a very long, well-deserved nap. (If I ever say anything rude against a skater, assume I’ve had no sleep an am just feeling cranky).

LADIES:

Alexia Paganini is the kind of skater I need on a long hard day. Her skating is just pretty and upbeat, and I can relax and enjoy. The jumps weren’t as good as they were at Rostelecom, but this girl will be a superstar, you hear me Judges?

Say it with me: Laurine Lecavelier’s SP is not bad! I like Egyptian programs as long as they’re done well; this one gave me a Vintage Liza Tuktamysheva vibe. Unfortunately, the jumps killed her chances of a high placement. I really liked her SP dress from afar and went “that’s the best dress of the event!”, but up close the halter band looked weird. It’s like she’s trying to do something cool, but it just got a little lost in translation.

This year I became a hardcore fan of Mae Berenice Meite. I can’t help it! She’s so strong and beautiful, and she looks a lot steadier on her skates this season. I had my doubts that the SP was too slow and lyrical for her powerful skating, but she pulled it off. Also, can I just say she always has the best dresses? She’s amazing.

I like that Maria Sotskova tried something new. It wasn’t perfect, and the judges weren’t kind, but she fought hard for everything. And I really, REALLY like that crazy SP dress. I’m just afraid she won’t survive the storm this year.

Ever since I saw her in juniors, I’ve been saying this: Marin Honda is a jewel! Maybe her jumps aren’t the biggest and best, but I could literally watch her skate all day. The SP is so sassy and adorable (do I have a little crush on her? Just a tiny one). And then THAT FREE SKATE. I don’t think I’ve ever told you how much I love the House of Flying Daggers soundtrack, but um…when I was 9, I learned to play it (badly) on the piano and that was all I ever played for a year. Yes. I. Love. House. Of. Flying. Daggers. She popped a few jumps, but it was a huge step up from Skate America, where it looked like she was injured or something. Okay, I love you Marin Honda and I think you deserve 10s for PCS.

Unpopular opinion: I really like Stanislava Konstantinova! She may not be the most consistent or the most impressive jumper, but she has a certain subtle sparkle I like. I never thought I would say this and I’m probably the only one who sees it, but in the SP she somehow reminds me of a baby Ksenia Stolbova (with long hair), and you know I would sell my soul for anything that has anything to do with Queen Stolbova. Unfortunately…the SP jumps happened to be a hot mess. She looked so upset in the kiss-and-cry and I just couldn’t handle it. The FS is less exciting, but she threw down the jumps like a champ and finished in a respectable fifth place.

It’s impossible for me to imagine the Grand Prix Final without Evgenia. I just can’t wrap my brain around this. But she just looked so awkward and uncomfortable with that short program. I don’t understand – she’s a fun, cheery, bright girl and you’d think this program would work for her, but on the ice she turns into this warrior queen, and it looks all wrong to do flapperish hip shimmies with a warrior face. She should be doing something fierce and fresh like Joan of Arc or Elizabeth: The Golden Age. (My heart takes one look at that long, gorgeous, braidable brown hair and thinks HUNGER GAMES!). The free skate looks much more her style, but she just couldn’t get her feet under her on those jumps. Flash, bam, alakazam, there goes my heart breaking for her. I wasn’t always a fan of her skating style, but she’s so adorable I can’t help rooting for her. What’s weird is how quickly the judges were willing to drop her after she left Tutberidze. I secretly wonder if Eteri is poking voodoo dolls, making these things happen.

I have to applaud Bradie Tennell for really trying this season. The programs are much better; no more of the Toddlers and Tiaras fluffery. She has great jumps, spins, and speed; I see so much potential here. I was surprised to find myself actually enjoying the programs and not running to check Twitter while she did her step sequence. But she really needs to work on her posture; her shoulders are up around her neck all the time. And please, that SP dress. Just no.

Mai Mihara’s SP doesn’t really work for me, but she’s a beautiful skater and grossly under marked on PCS. Her free skate on the other hand is still one of my favorites and I could die happy watching it as I took my last breath. I’m so mad she got stuck with such tough Grand Prix events this year, because she could’ve easily gotten into the GPF if only she hadn’t been stuck in the bloodbath at NHK Trophy. The only consolation: Sakamoto and Samodurova qualified, and I adore them both.

Rika Kihira wasn’t quite as sharp as at NHK, but she did her job and got into the Grand Prix Final. I really have a soft spot for her Clair de Lune. It’s hard to make this music work but she does well. Not gonna lie: I still prefer some of the other Japanese ladies, but she is a star and I’m impressed.

 

MEN:

Boyang Jin grabbed my heart out of my chest and shattered it all over the ice. He has so much talent and some super cool programs, but the jumps are all over the place! The SP should be called “While My Fans Gently Weep”, because that’s what we’re all going to be doing until he starts staying on his feet.

Another heartbreak of the event: Deniss Vasiljevs. His SP was so solid; what happened in the free with all those pops? Never mind, I’m just going to watch his beautiful Stephane spins and pray for a miracle at Euros.

The French guys – Kevin Aymoz and Romain Ponsart – really impressed me. Two Frenchmen in the top half of the standings is something to be proud of.

How do you solve a problem like Dmitri Aliev? He has some of the most beautiful jumps and skating skills, but what good does that do you when you land a perfect triple axel, botch your combo in the same short program, and end up in 9th place? Kudos for him picking it up in the free skate, but honestly…Russian men’s skating isn’t looking too solid right now.

It wasn’t a bad event for Alexander Samarin, but not a great one. His quad Lutz is huge, but if he can’t control the landing (which so far, he can’t), he loses so many points and it’s not worth it. He reminds me of Maxim Kovtun – he runs across the ice, throws himself headfirst into these jumps, and prays. This doesn’t make for very nice landings, but the judges were dishing out the positive GOEs anyways. And I’m scratching my head at why his PCS were so high when I didn’t really see anything I could recognize as choreography. The one thing I do like about him? His SP shirt has a stand-up collar like a vampire costume.

Okay, I’ve spent the past 4 years telling everyone, “Someday, the othe guys will fall on quads and Jason Brown is going to beat them all.” And guess what: IT CAME TRUE. The whole SP felt so smooth and solid, I never once doubted he was going to land his jumps. At first I was annoyed with the new look (bring back the ponytail!), but now it’s really starting to grow on me. The FS was fairly clean too, and I would happily consider this a huge step forward from Skate Canada. However…I’m not totally sold on this Simon and Garfunkel FS. Maybe it’ll grow on me just like the SP did.

Nathan Chen’s SP screams “Fernandez charm” and “what the heck is this?” at the same time. The fall on the quad flip in the short was way more costly than I thought it would be, but there you go, guys – that’s the new system. I’m a big fan of his FS this year – and by the way, did I mention HE KILLED IT? Usually Nathan’s programs aren’t that exciting to me (confession: I wasn’t even a big fan of his iconic Nemesis SP), but I really enjoyed this. The whole program has a beautiful, dark, modern aura I actually appreciate.

Okay, it’s nap time. Follow this blog, and stay tuned for my preview of the Grand Prix Final. As always, happy skating, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

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