2014 Trophée Eric Bompard: Denis Ten’s shining performance and a genuine corrida de toros in Bordeaux

At the end of day one in Bordeaux, the biggest moment of this year’s edition of Trophée Eric Bompard had already happened: the Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten had skated a masterpiece of a short program, a glorious performance to Lucio Dalla’s “Caruso”. After what we may call a disappointing start of the season for Denis (fourth place at Skate America, at the end of October), the athlete who made history for Kazakhstan, winning the country’s first ever Olympic medal in figure skating, shined in Bordeaux. Literally. His marvelous skating and his sparkling belt stood out in Meriadeck Ice Rink – and Denis earned a season best for his program (91.78 points) and worldwide admiration.

As the day grew longer, I found myself totally embarked into the Andalusian story told on ice by the Spanish Sara Hurtado and Adria Diaz. Her eyes while taking the ice for the short dance, their confidence, their posture, their arms punctuating all the nuances of the music… For a couple of minutes I was definitely in an arena – but a different one: no ice, but reddish sand instead – witnessing an authentic corrida de toros. I was in Malaga, in Sevilla, in Mijas, feeling the heat, the tension, the emotions. My, oh my, that was Spanish dance in its essence – hats off to Sara and Adria for showing their true colors in Bordeaux; and hats off to Antonio Najarro for a brilliant choreography. Because, at the end of the day, the skaters’ success is so powerfully linked to their choreographers – Lori Nichol for Denis Ten’s short program and Antonio Najarro for the short dance of the Spaniards – and I do applaud them for having the confidence to entrust their creations to these talented skaters.

by Florentina Tone

Denis Ten and his “Caruso” stole the night. Of course, the men’s short program in Bordeaux featured some other memorable performances – such as Tatsuki Machida’s engaging routine to Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra – but, to me, the star of this particular event was definitely the Kazakhstani skater. Though flawed in Chicago, a few weeks ago, at Skate America, you could already sense the quality of this short program, skated to “Caruso”. It was a masterpiece in the making – and I for one was sure Denis Ten would nail it in the end.

After all, Denis wouldn’t be Denis without a floppy start of the season: he won the 2013 World silver medal in London, Ontario, after a disappointing 6th place at Skate Canada, 9th place at Rostelecom Cup and 12th place at Four Continents; and he did the same this February, winning the Olympic bronze, after a terrible beginning of the season (he withdrew from Skate America due to an infection causing black spots on his ankles and an infection in his jaw). And, as we all know, at his first Grand Prix of this season, Skate America, Denis couldn’t get more than a fourth place, experiencing once again boots problems and recovering from a viral infection that kept him away from Nebelhorn Trophy, scheduled to be his first competition of the season. A proof the Grand Prix circuit is not really his thing is the fact that the Olympic and World medalist Denis Ten had never won a GP medal prior to this year’s edition of the Trophée Eric Bompard. You might find it curious, I find it completely understandable for a skater who peaks later in the season.

Well, in Bordeaux, Denis skated a gorgeous short program and I for one was amazed. His quad toe was clearly there, his entire program is transitions-loaded and the choreography really embraces Denis’ style of skating. He’s flowing, beautifully interpreting the music, his arms letting themselves loose in the air… One thing is sure: I could watch this program over and over again. Thank you, Frank Carroll, thank you, Lori Nichol, for bringing out the best in Denis. And he does have wonderful fans too: have you seen the brown teddy-bear, wearing a replica of Denis’ costume? Well, next time, the teddy-bear needs to wear a sparkling belt…

Denis Ten skating to "Caruso" in Bordeaux (Photo courtesy of Wilma Alberti)

Denis Ten skating to “Caruso” in Bordeaux (Photo courtesy of Wilma Alberti)

Sara Hurtado and Adria Diaz: they’re not skating to flamenco, they’re living it. I’ve already told you after Autumn Classic in Barrie and I’ve told you once again after Skate Canada: this particular short dance – to “Tercio de Quites” by Rafael Talens, “Almoraina” by Paco de Lucia and “Alfileres de colores” by Miguel Poveda – is a gem, a true gem; a dance with amazing potential. In Bordeaux, at the 2014 Trophée Eric Bompard, Sara and Adria skated the most convincing version of this Andalusian story so far – and I’m sure by the Europeans in Stockholm, this particular routine will grow into becoming one of the most powerful short dances of the season.

Though fourth after this segment of the ice dancing event at 2014 TEB, to me, Sara and Adria’s performace was the best Short Dance of the night: their confidence and attitude, their costumes, the choreographic details, the sophistication and intricacy had no match in Bordeaux. The Spanish dancers owned the space – how can you argue the fact they have it in their blood? And by it I mean the passion, the duende… Watching them skate, I had the feeling they didn’t choose the music, but the music chose them.

In the end, a wonderful piece of news for the fans of Sara and Adria: the first ice dancing team in the history of Spain has been invited to skate in the gala of the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, in December. And do follow Inside Skating these days: in an interview soon to be published, Sara discusses both of their programs for this season. And her stories – as their skating – is colorful, vivid and full of emotions.

Sara, Adria and their marvelous short dance, in Bordeaux, at this year's edition of TEB (Photo courtesy of Wilma Alberti)

Sara, Adria and their marvelous short dance, in Bordeaux, at this year’s edition of TEB (Photo courtesy of Wilma Alberti)

Elena Radionova: my addiction to Rachmaninov grows day by day with performances such as this one. I have to be honest with you: Elena’s free program, to selections from Rachmaninov, might very well be one of my favorite performances this season. To me, the musical choice suits the 15-year-old wonderfully – and Elena herself truly masters the music. I’ve read somewhere that Rachmaninov’s music would be too big for this teenage skater… Well, quite the contrary, I’d say: Elena Radionova and Rachmaninov are a great, providential match; and she did skate impeccably in Bordeaux, winning her second GP gold this season and flying, on the sound of the piano, to the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona. Inside Skating will be there too, to watch her skate this marvel of a routine, dramatic and very much alive. Watching her scores at this year’s edition of Trophée Eric Bompard (136.64 for the free and 203.92 points overall), Elena clenched her little fists with joy. Such a small girl and such an amazing talent!

Elena Radionova skating her free program in Bordeaux, at 2014 TEB (Photo courtesy of Wilma Alberti)

Elena Radionova skating her free program in Bordeaux, at 2014 TEB (Photo courtesy of Wilma Alberti)

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron: skating to Mozart as if they were one. At the beginning of this season, they were just a promising couple for the future – who would have dare to predict their two gold medals in the Grand Prix circuit? I wouldn’t – and I’m sure they wouldn’t either. Well, now, knowing their results at Cup of China and Trophée Eric Bompard, you could very well say the promise turned into a sure thing: Gabriella and Guillaume enter the first senior Grand Prix Final of their career with huge trust and confidence in themselves and their programs. And their programs for this season are truly amazing: the intensity of the flamenco is almost tangible in their short dance and the free dance itself is a marvelous one; such a wonderful sense of togetherness, as if they were a leaf, a beautiful, light leaf, carried away by the wind of spring… I could say more, but I’ll say that instead: Gabriella, Guillaume, you have a fan in me.

...as if they were one: Gabriella and Guillaume in Bordeaux, at 2014 TEB (Photo courtesy of Wilma Alberti)

…as if they were one: Gabriella and Guillaume in Bordeaux, at 2014 TEB (Photo courtesy of Wilma Alberti)

A final reverence to: Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov (stunning programs, stunning costumes – and a set of scores that pushes every other team out there; they’re breathing an air of power and confidence and you can feel it the moment they step onto that ice…), Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (definitely one of my favorite couples in the pairs discipline; they do have the X factor…), Julia Lipnitskaia (the girl running after her kite in the big city is such a beautiful story – and I do feel this particular story suits the 16-year-old Julia wonderfully; I loved her smile after the short program), Maria Artemieva (in Bordeaux, the Russian skater looked completely different than in Moscow, at her previous GP: her short program was classy and elegant – and I applaud her courage to take a piece of music that has Daisuke Takahashi written all over it – “Coba” by Eye – and try to appropriate it; in most cases, this is a disaster; in this particular case, Maria’s version was quite convincing…; and I did admire her choice of costume for the free program too: the white shirt makes a good pair with Chopin), Tatsuki Machida (not in his best form in Bordeaux, but what a wonderful set of programs for this season… I can’t wait to see them live in Barcelona), Adam Rippon (when he nails the programs, he’s all exuberant and daring, you almost have this feeling he might be unstoppable – and I do look forward to the day his talent would totally overcome his inner emotions, his fragile nature… One more thing: his free program, to Liszt’s Piano Concerto no. 1, is a jewel – and I love, I simply love Adam’s wonderful, elegant arms, flowing beautifully in the air), Konstantin Menshov (he’s definitely not giving up – and why should he? His jumps are text-book jumps, his programs, so different, so unusual), Richard Dornbush (in the short program he’s telling a story – and what a story; and what a wonderful feel for the music from this talented storyteller), Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier (now that’s what I call dance! And I’m ecstatic that this joyous ice dance couple won their second Grand Prix medal in Bordeaux – a silver one – and punched their tickets to the Grand Prix Final. In the Kiss and Cry, Piper was thrilled: “We’re gonna go to Barcelona!!!”).