Grand Prix Series

France’s Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres win their first-ever Grand Prix title

Recap by Gina Capellazzi
Header image by Robin Ritoss


LAVAL, QUEBEC–Reigning World bronze medalists Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres won the pairs event Saturday in what they are saying was the best they ever skated their “Wicked Game” and “The Last Feeling” free skate.

James and Cipres nailed their side-by-side triple toe-double toe combination and side-by-side triple salchows as well as James landed her throw triple Lutz and throw triple salchow.


James and Cipres won the event by more than 20 points and set a new ISU personal best overall score of 221.81.


“We are really happy about the performance we did today.  It was better than yesterday. I’m really proud to win this competition, because again today, it was a big fight on the ice and everyone skated really well,” Cipres said.


“(We are) very proud of this gold medal here, but even more so we are proud of the performance that we made,” James added. “It gives us confidence. We are very proud. Hopefully, we will do the same performance, but it is going to be hard to beat.”


China’s Cheng Peng and Yang Jin earned the silver. In their “La Vie en Rose” free skate, Peng landed her throw triple loop and throw triple Salchow, but the pair struggled with their side-by-side jumps, doubling their Salchow and Peng fighting through the triple toe-triple toe combination. Peng and Jin earned an overall score of 201.08.


“We missed the jumps, but the other elements were okay and the GOE was good. We just need to improve the jumps. We love our programs this year and a big thank you goes to Lori Nichol (choreographer). She gave us so much help to show more emotions and our connection,” Jin said.


Peng and Jin finished with an overall score of 201.08.


Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro claimed the bronze with their Pink Floyd medley free skate. Moore-Towers landed both her throw jumps and the pair completed their side-by-side triple toes, but the their triple salchow in combination with their double Axel was downgraded. 


“We are very happy about our skate here today. It was a personal victory to go out in a group such as this one, of very capable and impressive pair teams, and to laid down a performance that we can be proud of. It is a little tough when the results are so-so close, but we respect all the teams here, we admire them, we learn from them every day we skate together so we are happy,” Moore-Towers said.


“Our goals are mainly to improve on our performances each time. We started with a rough competition at Autumn Classic, we got a little bit better in Finlandia (Trophy) and a little bit better again here,” she added. “Like I said, we are very happy with our skate today. I, personally, was super nervous so it was nice to put down a program that we can be proud of and we have a solid week of training now before NHK where we hope to improve a little bit then.”


Moore-Towers and Marinaro finished with a total score of 200.93, missing the silver by .15 points.


The 2017 World Junior silver medalists Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii, of Russia, came in second in the free skate with their performance to “The Nutcracker”, and finished in fourth place in their senior Grand Prix debut with 196.54 points. Canada’s Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud improved on their 8th placement last week at Skate America and finished in sixth in Laval. Team USA’s Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier finished in sixth.


Mixed Zone Reactions

Complied by Francesca S.


Camille Ruest/Andrew Wolfe (CAN) (162.16, finished in 8th overall)


After short program


What are your thoughts on your short program?


“I think we accomplished our goal in the sense that we were really focused on our transitions and our general performance with the program. A couple little, minor details that we can iron out in a couple elements, but we find that we did our job by performing the program and showing that we can be out there and show confidence at the same time.” –Wolfe


What are your thoughts on about your triple twist?


We put a lot of work into the triple twist on the off-season this year and even last year so we are pretty proud of where it is at the moment. There is still a lot of improvement to do on it, but we are pretty proud to be able to show it today.” –Ruest


“Early in the season last year, we were doing the triple twist in competitions and then we struggled with it in the later part of the year so we ended up doing a double, but we find now that we really stripped it down to the basics and really rebuilt it back and it is better than it was before and we have much more progress made on it.” –Wolfe


What are your goals for this event?


“We hope to improve on our international personal best and to be able to put out a good performance.” –Ruest


“Two solid programs. We are not here to be perfect. We are here to learn and to build on what is to come.” –Wolfe


How have you grown from last year?


“I think we have grown a lot. We have gone through some adversity obviously as all athletes do and I think that it is only going to help us in the future. There are still growing pains to go through of course but I think that from last season to now, we have both grown individually and as a team so it really is a nice feeling to see that we have progressed, we have advanced and we are seeing some of that now.” –Wolfe


“With our new programs this year, I think it is going to help us to show the best side of our skating.” –Ruest

What are your thoughts on your programs?


“We both really relate well to each music that we have chosen. For the short, we picked the short program music at the beginning of last season so it has kind of sitting there waiting for us. I love the Rolling Stones, and I think she’s a pretty big fan of that too. So it is cool to be skate to a contemporary version of a classic rock song that I adore.” — Wolfe


“For the long program, we took a full piece of music. We didn’t make any cuts or anything. So it is very interesting to put our art into another art. It is a very beautiful piece of music. From my perspective, it is the prettiest song that I ever skated to so it is a good program.” –Ruest


“Music always makes a big difference for skating. We listen to it every day. We are practicing to it every day so having an appreciation for what people do with instruments and vocals and things like that we can kind of add to it by what we do with our athleticism and our creativity.” –Wolfe


Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya and Harley Windsor (AUS) (166.95, finished in 7th overall) 


After short program


What are your thoughts about your short program?

“We are disappointed about the jumps, but I think our performance side was better than previous competitions. So we are happy about that.” –Windsor


What are your goals for free skate?


“To do the jumps and the throws and try to do a clean program.We just take one element at a time. Just do what we have to do and take it as it comes I guess.” –Alexandrovskaya


How has been your recent coaching change?


“It is so different. We change the place of training and coaches and it is so different between the Russian coach and the Canadian coach because it is a different system, like different technique. It was like a really big change and it took us a lot longer than we expected to adjust, just like the training style and the mentality going into the training here, but now we are settled in a lot more so we are liking the change and I think it is better for us in the long run. We are just slowly getting used to it. It is only our first season with new coaches so we are still trying to figure out which works for us and for them and vise versa.” –Windsor


Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud (CAN) (172.53, finished in 5th overall)


After short program

What are your thoughts on your performance?


“It was amazing. A lot better obviously than Skate America. We felt more comfortable and it is a lot of fun skating in your home country and the crowd was unreal.” –Walsh


“It is our first international in Canada. In the beginning of the week, I said, ‘This is like a Nationals feel’ but the crowd today is still completely different, so loud, so exciting. It was great to have.” –Michaud


What was it like to compete at Skate America?


“We got notified about it like a week before so that was a little overwhelming both physically and mentally because we had everything scheduled for this event so it was kind of on fast forward so we didn’t skate the way we wanted to at Skate America but I think it was a really good event, kind of like a wake-up call for this event. We felt a lot more comfortable going into here and knowing our job and what we had to get done here.” –Walsh


“It was really exciting to be there in our first year (senior) together. We get two senior Grand Prix (assignments) and doing them back-to-back, it was still exciting to be there. Even though walking in, it felt like Nationals, like I said, it was a little less overwhelming just because it is different. You walk in like to a junior event and there are tons of people. Like we go to dinner, there is like tons of people. Here, it is like a show, you have to warm-up downstairs because you get caught up with people upstairs so it is very much more lights, camera and more media. So that part is all really exciting for us because we both kind of like that. It feels more like a show on the ice, which we really do like. It was good. We were really happy to do that last week. It was a great experience.” –Michaud


What are your thoughts on your Beatles short program?


“It is a lot of fun to train every day. We have a blast with it. Starting to feel a lot more comfortable. It is definitely out of our comfort zone, but this is the time to push those limits in the next quadrennial. So we are excited with the program. It is a lot of fun and still a familiar piece for us so that we can kind of work off that.” –Walsh



Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitrii Kozlovskii (RUS) (196.54, finished in 4th overall)


After short program


What are your goals for this season?


“I think we need to skate clean, so it is the goal for the whole season.” –Boikova

What do you think your chances are of making the Russian World team?


“That is a hard question. We need to skate clean at Russian Nationals.” –Kozlovskii


What are your goals for the Grand Prix Series? 


“Skate without mistakes and enjoy the moment that you are skating.” –Kozlovskii


What is like working with your coach, Tamara Moskvina?


“We have been working with her for three years.” –Boikova

“She is an amazing and fantastic woman. When we tried to understand how many Olympians she prepared for Olympic games and how many medals she had, it is absolutely amazing.” –Kozlovskii


After free skate


How did you make the transition from juniors to seniors?


“We worked hard on our performance and our steps because it is a big difference between juniors and seniors in skating.” –Boikova


What makes you successful in your partnership?


“Communication. We communicate and our health. If Alexandra needed my help, I give it to her. If I need her help, she gives it to me.” –Kozlovskii


Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) (200.93, finished in 3rd overall)


After free skate


“The benefit to skating with the same team in the Grand Prix as you do in your senior Bs (Challengers), is that you can try your best to close the gap. So at Autumn Classic, there was a very big gap between ourselves and the French team (Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres). So obviously a big goal here is to start closing that gap a little. We respect them tremendously and we love what they do but of course we want to be at their level.” –Moore-Towers


Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) (221.81, finished in 1st overall)


After short program


What are your thoughts on the short program?


“It was a little tight everywhere. The rink is a obviously smaller than Autumn Classic and it is smaller than what we practice on so it was very difficult for us to keep our speed and our curves. I almost fell over before the flip as I was very close to the boards and I was doing crossovers on a straight line so it is almost like you have to start stop, start stop, always kind of like on the toe pick so we weren’t as fluent as Autumn Classic. I think the feeling was better in the beginning. But overall, it was good.” –James


“I think it was a little bit tight everywhere. We had to make a little change before the competition because our music is a little bit too long so we did not want to lose one point. For me, it was a little bit different to skate last like this. The wait was a little bit longer. I don’t know. We have to get used to that, but for the first big event I think it is okay to be shaky like we were today.” –Cipres


Was your music too long at Autumn Classic?


“Yes, we got a timing deduction, but the levels are better here. We have been working more on the levels so even though the skating wasn’t as great as Autumn Classic, we got the score from the technical (specialist) and we got our levels this time. So that is something to be proud of.” — James


After free skate


Was that your best free skate?


“That was our best free skate ever. We have been skating close to it in practice so I think that is why we were so confident, but to really skate like that, I don’t think we have ever had. To skate with so much emotion and everything on after the other, in the end, was just magic for us. So I don’t think we have ever skated that well. That is going to be hard to beat now. I’m kind of nervous actually (laughs).” –James


What happened with the time violation?

(Laughs)”He just has too much speed in that lift. It is very hard and difficult because we are going the same way and our blades are going in the same direction, and Morgan doesn’t have a toe pick to stop so he is gliding and my blades are facing the same way so I’m trying to grip it with my hand, I don’t know what to do so we just have to figure it out. I’m going to have to like turn around and stop or something like that. We are hoping not to get the violation, but it has been three competitions in a row so we are going to have to fix that.” – James


Vanessa, who were the two little girls you hugged after your free skate?


“Those were my little cousins, Madeline and Marissa.” –James