Event Previews

Internationaux de France 2021 Preview

We’re reaching the closing stages of the 2021 Grand Prix and the picture for the Final is coming more and more into focus. Quite a few skaters could punch their ticket to Osaka this weekend and some will surely face bitter disappointment. Fortunately, we still have full fields in every discipline rather than the plethora if injuries that plagued NHK, so hopefully the most dramatic part of the event will be finding out what strange prize the French skating federation will be giving out in place of real medals this year. I’m guessing it won’t be nearly as fun as the giant blocks of cheese medalists recieved in Italy, but there’s always something surprising about the event organization at the French Grand Prix.

Instead of speculating on that, let’s run through the athletes competing here, who has a shot at qualifying for the Final, and other stories to watch out for in Grenoble this weekend.

Men

The men’s field at this event is pretty wild. A lot of athletes are close in skill level/personal best scores, and a lot of them are notoriously inconsistent. Yuma Kagiyama will be the favorite, especially after proving his scoring potential with a recovery skate from seventh place to win in Italy a few weeks ago, but there are about nine skaters who could also find themselves on the podium with clean performances.

In terms of Grand Prix Final qualifications, Kagiyama has the best shot with a first place finish under his belt, but an opportunity is also available for Jason Brown, who has a silver from Skate Canada and would be in the Final with another second place finish or on the bubble with a third or fourth place. Shun Sato and Deniss Vasiljevs each have a fourth place finish, from Skate America and Gran Premio d’Italia respectively, and in a discipline with such varied results, either of them earning a medal could potentially see them through to the Final.

Meanwhile, there are multiple skaters who could make the podium but are not in contention for a spot in the Final due to their previous results. Dmitri Aliev and Kevin Aymoz each have zero points from their first assignments with a ninth place finish in Italy and a withdrawal from Skate America. Aymoz withdrew from his first assignment due to injury, so he may still not be in top form here, but if he’s in decent shape he can certainly chase a medal in front of the home crowd. Keegan Messing has seven points from finishing fifth at Skate Canada, so a win here could put him in contention, but even that might not be enough.

SKATER/COUNTRYBEST SCORESNOTABLE RESULTS
Yuma KAGIYAMA*
Japan
SP: 100.96
FS: 197.49
Total: 291.77
2nd 2021 Worlds
3rd 2020 Four Continents
Kevin AYMOZ
France
SP: 96.71
FS: 178.92
Total: 275.63
3rd GPF 2019
9th 2021 Worlds
Jason BROWN*
USA
SP: 96.81
FS: 180.11
Total: 274.82
7th 2021 Worlds
2nd 2020 Four Continents
Dmitri ALIEV
Russia
SP: 101.49
FS: 184.44
Total: 272.89
2020 European Champion
7th 2018 Olympic Games
Keegan MESSING
Canada
SP: 96.34
FS: 179.43
Total: 270.26
6th 2021 Worlds
2x Grand Prix medalist
Shun SATO*
Japan
SP: 80.52
FS: 177.86
Total: 255.11
2019 Junior GPF Champion
5th 2020 NHK Trophy
Deniss VASILJEVS*
Latvia
SP: 87.08
FS: 163.35
Total: 248.44
18th 2021 Worlds
4th 2018 Europeans
Artur DANIELIAN
Russia
SP: 84.63
FS: 162.11
Total: 246.74
2nd 2020 Europeans
2019 National silver medalist
Andrei MOZALEV
Russia
SP: 84.31
FS: 161.29
Total: 245.09
2020 Junior World Champion
2nd 2020 Junior GPF
Adam SIAO HIM FA
France
SP: 89.23
FS: 156.83
Total: 243.78
4x National silver medalist
11th Europeans 2020
Gabriele FRANGIPANI
Italy
SP: 83.11
FS: 152.52
Total: 231.65
13th 2020 Europeans
4th 2021 Nebelhorn Trophy
Romain PONSART
France
SP: 84.97
FS: 144.89
Total: 229.86
6x national medalist
14th 2018 Worlds
* Could qualify for the Final (has a finish of 4th or higher)

Women

A Russian sweep is back on the menu, with three Russian competitors who hold the three highest personal best scores among the entrants here. Anna Shcherbakova and Alena Kostornaia are the safest bets to finish first and second (likely in that order), while Kseniia Sinitsyna could be more at risk having finished fifth at Skate America. Shcherbakova and Kostornaia will also likely qualify for the Grand Prix Final, and be the only ones at this event to do so since the rest of the field either has previous results that keep them out of contention or are in their first event of the Grand Prix.

The most interesting skater to watch will be Mariah Bell, who will be making her first appearance on the Grand Prix the season with two completely different programs from what she performed at Cranberry Cup back in August. She’s debuting a new short program after deciding to move away from a daring Lady Gaga program that received mixed reviews, and returning to her “Hallelujah” free skate from the 2019/2020 season that went semi-viral from that season’s nationals. Bell had a disappointing fifth place finish at US Nationals last season that left her off the Worlds team, so she certainly has some work to do to stay in contention for an Olympic spot in February.

Also hoping to build momentum will be Karen Chen and Wakaba Higuchi, who are solidly in the conversation for Olympic assignments, but had less than stellar outings at their first Grand Prix assignments. Higuchi had a midling showing at Skate Canada, finishing sixth place in an extremely competitive field and landing her first ratified triple Axel, but Chen had a nightmare outing at the same event, falling multiple times in the free skate to finish tenth. Both have a great opportunity to finish higher up the order this weekend, but even with shock wins, likely wouldn’t make the Final.

SKATER/COUNTRYBEST SCORESNOTABLE RESULTS
Alena KOSTORNAIA*
Russia
SP: 85.45
FS: 162.14
Total: 247.59
2020 European Champion
2019 GPF Champion
Anna SHCHERBAKOVA*
Russia
SP: 81.07
FS: 165.05
Total: 241.65
2021 World Champion
3x Russian National Champion
Kseniia SINITSYNA
Russia
SP: 74.65
FS: 140.93
Total: 215.58
2nd 2020 Youth Olympics
4th 2019 World Juniors
Mariah BELL
USA
SP: 71.26
FS: 142.64
Total: 212.89
9th 2019 Worlds
2nd 2020 Nationals
Karen CHEN
USA
SP: 74.40
FS: 134.99
Total: 208.63
4th 2021 Worlds
2017 National Champion
Wakaba HIGUCHI
Japan
SP: 79.73
FS: 135.86
Total: 207.49
2nd 2018 Worlds
4th 2020 Four Continents
Haein LEE
South Korea
SP: 70.08
FS: 134.11
Total: 203.40
10th 2021 Worlds
5th 2020 Junior Worlds
Yuhana YOKOI
Japan
SP: 65.09
FS: 126.87
Total: 191.90
2019 Jr. National Champion
4th 2020 NHK Trophy
Ekaterina RYABOVA
Azerbaijan
SP: 64.11
FS: 125.35
Total: 189.46
12th 2021 Worlds
6th 2020 Europeans
Yeonjeong PARK
South Korea
SP: 64.35
FS: 126.23
Total: 186.58
2019 Jr. National Champion
2nd 2019 JGP USA
Starr ANDREWS
USA
SP: 66.59
FS: 115.69
Total: 181.18
8th 2020 Junior Worlds
6th 2020 Nationals
Lea SERNA
France
SP: 62.43
FS: 105.30
Total: 166.02
16th 2020 Europeans
2021 National Champion
* Could qualify for the Final (has a finish of 4th or higher)

Pairs

The pairs field at this event is a bit of a weird one and opens up a chance for a surprise qualifier to the Grand Prix Final, especially since the Chinese pair of Peng and Jin have only one assignment for some reason. Boikova and Kozlovskii will be the favorites by nature of their third place finish at 2021 Worlds and general performance over the last few seasons, but they only managed bronze at Skate America last month, losing out the the rising Japanese superstars of Miura and Kihara, and only beating out Americans Knierim and Frazier by three points.

Knierim and Frazier are also competing this weekend and have a great chance to secure their first medal at a real Grand Prix event (they won Skate America last season in a mainly domestic field). Finishing fourth at Skate America will make it difficult to qualify for the Final, but a surprise win here would put them in really good standing, and even a silver would give them a shot.

Also looking for a ticket to the final are senior debutantes Artemeva and Nazarychev, who earned a bronze medal at the Gran Premio d’Italia and could potentially make the senior Final two years after finishing fourth at the junior version of the event. And new Canadian team James and Radford aren’t out of it either. They also have a fourth place finish under their belts and scored almost the same as the young Russians in their event, so could earn their first medal together, though they have 25 Grand Prix medals between them from previous partnerships, so it wouldn’t exactly be a new experience.

TEAM/COUNTRYBEST SCORESNOTABLE SCORES
Aleksandra BOIKOVA / Dmitrii KOZLOVSKII*
Russia
SP: 82.34
FS: 152.24
Total: 234.58
3rd 2021 Worlds
2020 European Champions
2020 National Champions
Alexa KNIERIM / Brandon FRAZIER*
USA
SP: 66.37
FS: 136.60
Total: 202.97
7th 2021 Worlds
2021 National Champions
Vanessa JAMES / Eric RADFORD*
Canada
SP: 68.29
FS: 123.03
Total: 190.58
4th 2021 Skate Canada
Iuliia ARTEMEVA / Mikhail NAZARYCHEV*
Russia
SP: 70.26
FS: 125.11
Total: 187.01
3rd 2020 Junior Worlds
2021 Junior National Champions
Rebecca GHILARDI / Filippo AMBROSINI
Italy
SP: 60.89
FS: 108.59
Total: 165.45
17th 2021 Worlds
8th 2020 Europeans
Ioulia CHTCHETININA / Mark MAGYAR
Hungary
SP: 55.27
FS: 106.66
Total: 158.87
14th 2021 Worlds
10th 2020 Europeans
Coline KERIVEN / Noel-Antoine PIERRE
France
SP: 53.20
FS: 99.80
Total: 153.00
23rd 2021 Worlds
11th 2020 Europeans
Camille KOVALEV / Pavel KOVALEV
France
SP: 47.70
FS: 89.37
Total: 135.44
4x National medalists
* Could qualify for the Final (have a finish of 4th or higher)

Ice Dance

Ice dance is generally the easiest to predict and this weekend is no exception. The podium will likely be Papadakis and Cizeron in gold, Gilles and Poirier in silver, and Stepanova and Bukin in bronze. With those results, Papadakis/Cizeron and Gilles/Poirier would qualify for the Grand Prix Final, and even if Stepanova/Bukin somehow pass the Canadians for second they’d likely miss out on the Final by nature of Gilles/Poirier already having a gold from Skate Canada and Chock/Bates having the higher total scores.

An interesting non-podium team to keep an eye on will be Americans Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko. They’ve been the #4 US team as of late, but with Hawayak and Baker ahead of them missing the first part of the season and Green and Parsons behind them having a breakout year so far, their position could shift quite dramatically, either in the direction of making the Olympic team or quite the opposite. Their first event at Skate Canada was not a great showing, so they’ll need some really strong performances here to keep their names in the conversation.

TEAM/COUNTRYBEST SCORESNOTABLE RESULTS
Gabriella PAPADAKIS / Guillaume CIZERON*
France
RD: 90.03
FD: 136.58
Total: 226.61
4x World Champions
5x European Champions
2nd 2018 Olympic Games
Piper GILLES / Paul POIRIER*
Canada
RD: 85.65
FD: 130.98
Total: 214.35
3rd 2021 Worlds
5th 2019 GPF
Alexandra STEPANOVA / Ivan BUKIN*
Russia
RD: 84.07
FD: 127.64
Total: 211.29
5th 2021 Worlds
4x European medalists
Annabelle MOROZOV / Andrei BAGIN
Russia
RD: 78.75
FD: 112.96
Total: 191.71
4th 2020 Nationals
Christina CARREIRA / Anthony PONOMARENKO
USA
RD: 78.40
FD: 113.36
Total: 191.55
2nd 2018 Junior Worlds
4th 2020 Nationals
Juulia TURKKILA / Matthias VERSLUIS
Finland
RD: 71.92
FD: 113.27
Total: 185.19
21st 2021 Worlds
1st 2021 Nebelhorn
Allison REED / Saulius AMBRULEVICIUS
Lithuania
RD: 73.41
FD: 106.89
Total: 180.13
15th 2021 Worlds
11th 2020 Europeans
Evgeniia LOPAREVA / Geoffrey BRISSAUD
France
RD: 67.43
FD: 107.32
Total: 174.63
17th 2021 Worlds
10th 2019 Junior Worlds
Jennifer JANSE VAN RENSBURG / Benjamin STEFFAN
Germany
RD: 66.10
FD: 105.77
Total: 171.87
2nd 2020 Nationals
Loicia DEMOUGEOT / Theo LE MERCIER
France
RD: 65.82
FD: 97.64
Total: 162.70
6th 2020 Junior Worlds
5th 2019 Junior GPF
* Could qualify for the Final (have a finish of 3rd or higher)

How to Watch

Internationaux de France takes place November 19th – 21st in Grenoble France.

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