A long, winding road to glory for French pairs skaters James and Cipres

A long, winding road to glory for French pairs skaters James and Cipres

Before they retire from competitive figure skating, French pairs team Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres should skate a program either to “The Long and Winding Road” or to “Truckin,” which includes the famous phrase, “what a long, strange trip it’s been.”

Or maybe one program to each. After all, the Beatles’ song title and the words in the Grateful Dead song cover a big part of their story, both individually and together.

Their lives’ itineraries have encompassed significant stops in Scarborough, Ont.; Bermuda; Great Britain; Melun, France; Paris; Moscow; Coral Gables and Wesley, Chapel, Fla. And that doesn’t count all the places where they have competed, a list expanded this week to include their first joint competitive visit to Vancouver, B.C., one of the most significant stops in nine seasons as a team on the ice.

James, 31, and Cipres, 27, made it to Vancouver by qualifying for the Grand Prix Final for the first time by winning both their Grand Prix “regular season” events. Those were their first victories in 14 appearances on the annual circuit.

Not only that, but they also are likely to win just the second medal by a French pair in the final, which takes place Friday and Saturday. And it would be no surprise if they topped the silver earned by compatriots Sarah Abitbol and Stephane Bernadis in the 2000 Grand Prix Final.

And, in a season of significant transition on the global pairs scene, a world title seems within the grasp of this team whose world bronze last season was their first medal at a global championship in two Olympics and seven world championships together.

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In (sort of) suspending a skating judge, international federation mocks fans with ethical relativism

In (sort of) suspending a skating judge, international federation mocks fans with ethical relativism

In mid-June, the International Skating Union gave a one-year suspension to Huang Feng of China for showing “obvious and systematic” national bias in his judging of the pairs event at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The first weekend of July, the international federation allowed Huang not only to attend an important ISU seminar on the ramifications of recent scoring system changes but also to take – and pass – a test for promotion as a technical controller, an event official's position that can have an even bigger impact on the outcome of a competition than a judge.

Huh?

The ISU willingly provided me an answer to that befuddling question, but the logic in the answer smacks of relative ethics in an area where absolute ethics are demanded.  The bureaucratic hair-splitting involved simply is unacceptable.

And the ISU's "discipline" of the miscreant judge gives skating fans yet another reason to wonder if they can ever trust the results in this highly subjective sport.

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And, before we say goodbye to icenetwork, our favorite stories

And, before we say goodbye to icenetwork, our favorite stories

We asked icenetwork reporters past and present to pick out their favorite article they've written for this us and explain why it was so special to them.

Mine involved finding a fresh angle in 2017 on the skater who was then the sport’s newest sensation - and who now is the world champion.

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Balancing act: Skating officials moved to find better harmony between artistry and athleticism in the sport

Balancing act: Skating officials moved to find better harmony between artistry and athleticism in the sport

Quadruple jumps were limited, the practice of backloading programs to gain bonus points was severely curtailed, and neither a major conflict-of-interest issue nor raising the minimum age for senior competitions was even approved for discussion.

Those were the major takeaways from the biennial International Skating Union congress last week in Seville, Spain.

But the impact of what did -- and did not -- happen at the 57th ISU Ordinary Congress will likely be far less significant than the ramifications of ISU Communication No. 2168 (pdf), issued 10 days before the congress began.

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Outgoing U.S. skating president says team's poor Olympic performance scared people

Outgoing U.S. skating president says team's poor Olympic performance scared people

Samuel Auxier's four-year term as U.S. Figure Skating president ends Saturday with the election of his successor during the annual Governing Council meeting in Orlando.

Auxier, an international judge, will continue to serve the organization as past president and possibly as head of its International Committee.

With the exception of ice dance, in which U.S. couples have been consistent medal winners at junior and senior global championships for more than a decade, Auxier has presided over four years that have brought decidedly mixed results for U.S. skaters.

The 2018 Olympic Winter Games was a low point for U.S. ladies and pairs, bringing the lowest placement ever for the top U.S. woman (ninth; sixth was the previous low) and the lowest aggregate finish at any of the 16 Olympics in which the U.S. had three women entered; and the lowest placement ever for the top (and, in this case, only) U.S. pair (15th; previous low was 10th).

At 15 global championships since 2006, the U.S. has won just one singles medal at the Olympics (Evan Lysacek's 2010 gold) and four at worlds (golds by Lysacek in 2009 and Nathan Chen this year, bronze by Johnny Weir in 2008 and silver by Ashley Wagner in 2016). The U.S. has not won a ladies medal at the world junior championships since 2012 and has not had a woman at the Junior Grand Prix Final since 2013.

With all that in mind, icenetwork sat down last month with Auxier to get his thoughts on the state of the sport in the United States.

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