Takahiko Kozuka crushed the rest of the field to win the men's event at Trophee Eric Bompard today with a grand total of 170.43 in his LP, topping the men's free skate scores this season. With his victory today, Mr. Kozuka strides into the Grand Prix Final as the top qualifier.
Mr. Kozuka's victory today also underscores the incredible depth of Japanese men's skating. The top three Japanese men (Daisuke Takahashi, Nobunari Oda and Mr. Kozuka) have won a lion's share of the medals this Grand Prix season (4 golds and 2 silvers) and can very well sweep the men's podium at the Grand Prix Final. This is not to mention that there are some very talented skaters in the new generation coming up the ranks currently, such as Japan's very own mini-Johnny Weir, Yuzuru Hanyu, and others such as Tatsuki Machida.
Although Mr. Kozuka is more or less the de facto #3 in the Japanese men's pecking order right now, his commanding victory at Trophee Eric Bompard today makes a strong case for his moving up the ranks. Although Mr. Kozuka is unlikely to usurp the #1 spot while Mr. Takahashi is still kicking around in the eligible ranks, Mr. Kozuka is perhaps looking more and more like a better investment to the JSF than Mr. Oda.
Mr. Kozuka's performance today was really quite magnificent, with the only bobble being a slight two-foot on his opening 4T. It is also comforting to see that the judges are finally beginning to recognize Mr. Kozuka's excellent basic skating by elevating his former 7s in the skating skills category to 8s today. It has been extremely agonizing for the last season or so watching skaters such as Evan Lysacek receive 8s in skating skills while the far superior Mr. Kozuka languished in the 7s, so Mr. Kozuka's skating skills boost this event is long overdue. The rest of Mr. Kozuka's PCS scores have also risen somewhat, which is also comforting as it seemed for a longest time that the only way to get high PCS was to have one's federation politick madly and/or be of the bombastic type of perfomer. Come on, judges--subtle and quiet can also be good skating.
Mr. Kozuka's program is below. Watch it, if only for Mr. Kozuka's priceless reaction of utter shock upon receiving his scores:
Florent Amodio won the silver today and squeaks into the Grand Prix Final as the final qualifier. Mr. Amodio also received quite a generous PCS boost today--good ol' Didier Gailhaguet must be working overtime--especially thanks to the bizarre judge who gave him a 8.25 (!!!) for transitions. Mr. Amodio's crowd-pleasing pop-medly LP is somewhat of a guilty pleasure, but his 'I'm waiting for the half-way mark' stationary movements are very transparently rest points that should be much better disguised. Lucikly Mr. Amodio is charismatic enough to pull this LP off and he admittedly does interpret the music very well. One wonders what Mr. Amodio's success this Grand Prix season means for Brian Joubert though....
Brandon Mroz crawled his way to a bronze medal today. The generic sweeping, epic music in Mr. Mroz's LP unfortunately highlight the lack of power and speed in his skating. To be honest, that's more or less all I remember about Mr. Mroz's forgettable performance.
Brian Joubert withdrew from the long program today, citing illness.
On a more frivolous note, Trophee Eric Bompard is by far my favourite Grand Prix event. Not only do the French decorate their arena very prettily, but they also hire a painter every year who delightfully paints the skaters in real time, a lovely touch. This year, the cameramen at Trophee Eric Bompard also displayed an amusing fondness for the split-screen during their broadcast, constantly splicing together images of coaches and their skaters. This was used with great effect especially during Mr. Amodio's program--indeed, there are few better ways to enjoy Nikolai Morozov's *intense* stares during his skaters' programs.