After a troublesome short program on Thursday, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford finished the ISU Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France on Friday with the bronze medal.
The two-time reigning world champions placed second in the free skate, just seven-tenths of a point behind the victors, Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov. But when added to the short program scores, the Russians finished first handily with an overall total of 213.85 points. China’s Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang, who had been second in the short program, took the silver with 206.72 points, just 0.72 ahead of the Canadians’ final score of 205.99.
Canada’s other pair in the Final, Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau, placed fifth among the six qualified pairs after the fourth-best free skate.
The riskiest element in Duhamel and Radford’s short program, the new-this-season throw triple Axel, was the biggest problem, with Duhamel falling hard on an under-rotated landing.
The triple Axel is the most difficult throw allowed in the short program, with a base value of 7.7 points compared to the 5.5 points of a throw triple Lutz. However, with great execution, the Lutz, which is a very consistent element for Duhamel and Radford, could be worth as much as 7.6 points.
“We’re going to have to take a look after this competition,” Radford said of their planned short program elements. “It’s a high risk program and there’s not a high reward. The throw Axel is too risky unless you get good GOEs (Grades of Execution).”
Faced with a large hole to climb out of, Duhamel made the costly mistake of doubling the side-by-side triple Lutzes in the free skate. There were also messy landings on the throw quad Salchow and the triple toe combination.
Earning level four on all elements but one of their step sequences, which was graded at a level three, the 2010 Olympic champions scored 80.50 points to take a 2.53 point lead over Americans Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani. They surprisingly placed 0.11 ahead of two-time reigning world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who are competing in front of a home crowd.
Virtue and Moir received five perfect 10 marks from individual judges on their program components and no individual mark lower than 9.25, a sign of their strong skating skills and performance capabilities, which have been honed over the last two seasons spent touring. They’ll be last on the ice in the free dance.
In a pleasantly surprising turn of events, Kaetlyn Osmond finds herself in second place after the ladies’ short program.
Competing in her first Grand Prix Final, Osmond’s score of 75.54 has her trailing only reigning world champion Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia who earned a world record 79.21 points. Former world medallist Satoko Miyahara of Japan is just behind with 74.64 points followed by three more Russians, led by current world bronze medallist Anna Pogorilaya and her 73.29 points.
With her Edith Piaf program that was appreciated by the French audience, the always expressive Osmond flew through a triple flip triple toe combo before nailing a triple Lutz and double Axel. She also received all level fours on her spins and step sequence and components scores in the high 8s.
The free skates for the ice dance, men, and ladies all go on Saturday. Patrick Chan is also in second place in the men’s event after his best ever short program on Thursday, getting close to the 100-point barrier with a score of 99.76 points. The program included as good a triple Axel as he has ever landed, a positive sign for an element that has been his nemesis over the last few years. Chan is 6.77 points back of the leader, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, but 8 points ahead of two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain who had two major jump errors. Chan drew the final start position for the free skate.