Preview: Wagner, Chan, Virtue/Moir look for golds at Paris Grand Prix

Ashley Wagner
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Back in the city of love, American Ashley Wagner would very much like to defend her title this weekend at the Trophee Eric Bompard, the fifth Grand Prix of the figure skating season.

Wagner won in Paris a year ago, leading up to her second straight U.S. Championship in January. A silver medalist at Skate America last month, the Los Angeles-based Wagner faces a pair of Russians who also have Grand Prix medals this season in Anna Pogorilaya and Adelina Sotnikova, who were first and second at Cup of China this month.

Reigning Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will headline alongside Wagner and their countryman, three-time reigning world champion Patrick Chan.

Here’s the broadcast schedule (all times Eastern):

Universal Sports online broadcast schedule
Friday — 2 p.m. (pairs/men’s)
Friday — 8 p.m. (short dance/ladies)
Saturday — 1 p.m. (pairs/free dance)

NBC broadcast schedule
Sunday — 4:30-6 p.m.

Here are event-by-event previews:

LADIES
Wagner will take comfort in her score from Skate America compared to Pogorilaya’s in China, 193.81 to 178.62. The American will arrive in Paris continuing to solidify her triple-triple combination, which she landed twice in Detroit and gained confidence off of.

France’s Mae Berenice Meite will lead the home effort, though she shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the top spot, having been 11th at the World Championships in March.

Wagner’s countrywoman, Christina Gao, will look to build confidence in Paris after a fourth-place finish at Skate Canada. The Boston-based Gao, who is taking the year off from Harvard, has been fifth at the last four U.S. Championships, but will likely need third or better come January to make the trip to Sochi.

Yuna Kim pulled out of Paris earlier this season. She’s set to make a comeback from a foot injury next month in Croatia.

MEN
Chan’s gap over the world’s other top men shrank with a controversial win at Worlds in March and skating with some trepidation last month at Skate Canada. China’s Yan Han, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu and the U.S.’ Jason Brown, 18, will all be chasing medals alongside the still-favored Chan in Paris.

Yan, the 2012 world junior champion, could be Chan’s biggest rival this weekend. The 17-year-old scored 245.62 to win the Cup of China. Chan tallied 262.03 in winning Skate Canada.

Brown, while he lacks a quadruple jump, made a strong senior debut at Skate America last month, subbing in for an injured Evan Lysacek and scoring one of the season’s highest short programs. Consistency will be the key for the teen who ended fifth in Detroit after a shaky free skate.

France’s Florent Amodio, a two-time national champion, will have the support of the home crowd.

ICE DANCE
Virtue and Moir looked happy — though not elated — after winning their fifth Skate Canada and will skate in Paris for the first time in two years, having won there in 2008 and 2011.

The Canadians will look to improve their twizzles and match rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White in going two-for-two in Grand Prix events this year.

Two other top-10 ranked couples appear in Paris — France’s Nathalie Pechalat and Fabrian Bourzat (sixth at March’s World Championships) and Russia’s Yelena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (fourth at a deep NHK Trophy in Japan last week).

Davis and White registered a 186.65 in Tokyo, down from 188.23 in Detroit, but still higher than Virtue and Moir’s 181.03 at Skate Canada, a mark upon which the Canadians will seek to improve.

PAIRS
There is a possibility Canada wins three golds should Chan and Virtue and Moir hold their form and the pairs team of Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford shine. The reigning world bronze medalists were a disappointing third at Skate Canada last month, however.

Vancouver silver medalists Pang Qing and Tong Jian, fifth at Worlds this year, also factor into the pairs discussion, as do 2012 U.S. champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin. Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov are a team to watch, as well, the Russians having been seventh at the World Championships in March. They are making their Grand Prix season debut.

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