TrophĂ©e Eric Bompard 2013
November 27, 2013
By Sigrid Rivera
Photos © Irene Villalon, Sigrid Rivera
The Parisian sun shines shyly on Friday morning right before the beginning of the Trophée Eric Bompard 2013. The long queues at the main door grow by the minute, and the skating fans wait patiently until the unseen official practices are over.
Coming to the TEB (as fans call it endearingly -ed) is always interesting because the audience is very diverse: you can find the loyal French skating clubs, families with children, young skaters, and figure skating lovers from almost everywhere, even from distant places such as South Korea, Japan or the United States. It’s always lovely to see long-time skating pals, in the same place, year after year. When the audience is ready, and the enthusiastic school children are in their seats, the show can start.
The Trophée Eric Bompard is always unique. From the pigeons that fly across the Palais Omnisports Paris Bercy, to the talented artist that colourfully draws the skaters. Those are the little details which make it different from any other Grand Prix event, which will be missed next season as the Palais will be closed due a needed renovation. Official word on where this Grand Prix event will happen in 2014 is not out yet, but different theories could be heard during the weekend: another point in Paris, a different city in France, maybe another country… let’s wait and see.
If we’re talking about the happenings on ice, one can’t forget the historic performances of the Canadian Patrick Chan. Chan beat the World Records in both the short and the long program with magical programs. This was Patrick’s 4th victory at the TEB and you could feel the change in the audience’s behaviour. The old rivalries with the French skaters were forgotten; it was time to stand and applaud a genius on ice. “That’s what 'Patinage artistique' is about” a French lady commented near to me. And I couldn't agree more.
Funny enough, Patrick wasn’t the happiest men in the press conference after the men’s final. That title would be for the American Jason Brown. The smile wouldn't leave his face during the whole weekend, and he confessed to being over the moon sitting next to Patrick Chan and Yuzuru Hanyu, whom he considers role models, and sharing a podium with them. Jason gained hundreds of new fans not only for his talent but also because his humble and enthusiastic personality; he was happy to give a bit of his time to everybody who requested it and he had the fresh appeal of someone who loves what he does. I’m sure a lot of the older skaters love to find themselves among people like him, so they can remember those first senior competitions where everything was exciting and new. Jason sees the top skaters as a mirror to look at, but the others may see themselves reflected on Jason.
The men’s press conference was the place to be on Saturday afternoon. When Yuzuru Hanyu entered the room, after the other 2 medalists, the sound of flashes filled the room. Yuzuru is a star; the Japanese media and the dedicated Japanese fans treat him like one, but he doesn’t act like a person whose country trusts him to win an Olympic medal. Someone asked the skaters about the Team Event in Sochi, and Yuzuru replied “I’m not thinking about it, first I have to qualify. In my country there are a lot of great skaters: Takahashi, Machida…” Feet on the ground and step by step. That may be the way to walk until Sochi.
The Pairs event may not attract so much attention, but it’s always interesting to watch. There weren't unforgettable performances, but some pairs are on the right track for the Olympics. The biggest cheers of this event were for the local pair Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres and not only for being at home; the bandage around Morgan’s right hand showed that maybe this wasn't the best moment for them, but they didn't want to deceive their followers. The lifts looked weaker than usual, but the brave Vanessa and the fighter Morgan could show solid programs as gifts to their people. Très bien.
Ice dance was the heartbreaking moment for the French public. Nobody expected Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat to finish on the third step of the podium, but they did. Nathalie’s sad face on the podium revealed that they wanted to give more to the home crowd in their last the Trophée Eric Bompard; they could still get a bittersweet bronze medal behind Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (gold), and Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (silver). The free dance by the young Russian couple was the sensation of the night, and the Canadians got a standing ovation after their elegant free dance. Speaking of sensations, the French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron impressed the audience with their fresh style and their technical ability. And it’s not difficult to imagine them winning the Trophée Eric Bompard someday.
The last event of the weekend was the ladies free program. Between the two Russian talented girls, Ashley Wagner looked like a veteran. She’s only 22, but she has acquired a maturity and a consistency that makes her look older. Ashley is one of those joyful human beings that you’re lucky to find from time to time. You could see her joking with her coach, Rafael Arutunian, during the practice sessions, clearly answering the media questions, or even confessing her shoe-addiction to a young journalist. She has the ability to make people smile with her spontaneity and sincerity; she's a shiny crazy diamond.
Adelina Sotnikova and Anna Pogorilaya are part of the brilliant future of the Russian Team. Both will fight for their Sochi spots among a long list of talented Russian skaters, and they know it won’t be easy. Anna confessed to not believing the fact she made the Grand Prix final in her first attempt. Her solid and clean skates proved that her hard work is paying off, and she may be the dark horse in the run to Sochi. Adelina played it safe in the free and it worked fine. She’s young, but she has already learned to “read” competitions and that can only work in her favour.
And with that, the Trophée Eric Bompard 2013 finished. A TEB with an Olympic flavour. Four years ago, two of the winners here became Olympic champions a few months later in Vancouver (Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in ice dance, and Yu-Na Kim in the ladies event) and one can’t help but wonder if something similar will happen this season. Time will tell.
The lights went out and the show moved to Russia for the Rostelecom Cup, the following weekend. The Bercy arena, as we know it, says “au revoir” to us. TEB 2014 will be very different, but the same essence will remain. Merci Beaucoup, Paris.