Chen, Kihira win in France to reach final
American shows his confidence, winning by 15 points in Grand Prix event
GRENOBLE, FRANCE — World champion Nathan Chen won the last round of figure skating’s Grand Prix series and secured a spot in next month’s final with a pulsating free skate at the Internationaux de France on Saturday.
Oozing confidence despite an untidy short program on Friday, the American skater outclassed the field in scoring 184.64 for an event-winning total of 271.58. He won by 15 points.
Victory ensured him a spot in the Dec. 6-9 final in Vancouver, Canada, reserved for the top six skaters or pairs in each discipline from the Grand Prix series.
Chen also won the series’ first event, Skate America, in October.
On the women’s side, 16-year-old Rika Kihira was a convincing winner, with a free skate packed with triple jumps and grace. The Japanese skater booked her finals berth with an overall score of 205.92. Kihira also won this month in the Japanese leg, the NHK Trophy.
Mai Mihara of Japan was second overall, not enough to make the final, with an overall score of 202.81. American skater Bradie Tennell’s good free skate bumped her up to third, with an overall 197.78.
Also missing out on the final was a very out of sorts Evgenia Medvedeva. The former two-time world champion and Olympic silver medalist from Russia had an error-strewn free skate and finished fourth overall with 192.81.
Among the men, 19-year-old Chen’s free skate featured three tough quad jumps.
Countryman Jason Brown was second overall, placing third in the free skate with a more pedestrian routine that lacked quads. Brown also avoided quads in winning the short program on Friday. His overall score was 256.33.
Third overall was Alexander Samarin of Russia.
Neither Brown nor Samarin finished among the series’ top six.
In pairs, Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France won the free skate for overall victory, securing their ticket for the final. Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea of the United States were second, ahead of the third-placed Russian pair of Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii.
In ice dance, the French pair of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron was untouchable, winning the free dance after winning the rhythm dance on Friday.
But the three-time world champions and Olympic silver medalists will not be at the final, having missed the previous five events in the Grand Prix series.
Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov will be in Vancouver, having secured their spot with second place.
Finishing fourth in France was enough for Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker to also qualify for the final. The American couple previously won in the NHK Trophy.
But Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier missed out, with their third place in Grenoble not enough for a finals berth.