GRENOBLE, France – In what is their biggest test so far this season, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are in second place after the rhythm dance at the 2021 Internationaux de France, the fifth stop on the ISU Grand Prix figure skating circuit.
The Toronto ice dancers, victorious at their first two international events this season including Skate Canada International in Vancouver last month, trail 2020 world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France first with 89.08 points.
Gilles and Poirier, the 2021 world championship bronze medallists, earned 81.35 with their skate to Elton John music while Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin of Russia are third at 79.89.
‘’We are on the mission here this year to qualify for the Grand Prix final,’’ said Poirier. ‘’The changes we made after Skate Canada International seemed to work. The scores are not where we want them to be, but we are looking forward to the free skate.’’
Meanwhile first-year partners Vanessa James of Scarborough, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., produced their best short program this season to stand third in pairs with 71.84.
Russia is 1-2 with Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii first at 77.17 and Iuliia Artemeva and Mikhail Nazarychev second at 73.02.
“We made a few changes because we had a problem with how it was laid out,’’ said Radford about the short program. ‘’It’s a little bit more seamless now. The results showed that it was the right choice.”
In the men’s short program, Yuma Kagiyama of Japan dominated the field with 100.64 points. Only 5.29 points separate second from seventh. Deniss Vasiljevs of Latvia is second at 89.76 and Jason Brown of the U.S. third at 89.39.
Canada’s Keegan Messing didn’t land his quad toe or tripe-triple combo cleanly and stands sixth at 85.03, still within striking distance of the podium.
‘’It was a tough go of it, my legs felt a little bit shaky out there,’’ said Messing, at his third international event this season and second Grand Prix. ‘’I fought for every point and focused on continuing the performance. All in all, I can walk away with my head held high and I’ll get them in the long.’’
Russians stand 1-2-3 after the women’s short program. World champion Anna Shcherbakova is first, Alena Kostornaia second and Kseniia Sinitsyna third. There are no Canadian entries.
Competition ends Saturday with all four free skates.