Coach Brian Orser gave Yevgenia Medvedeva another post-short program pep talk Friday, this one after the Russian stood third at Internationaux de France, but within a half-point of first place.
“There’s a lot of pressure on the short program, OK?” Orser told the two-time world champion and Olympic silver medalist. “And we’re getting there. You’re a little bit behind, so guess what? Kill it in the long, just like we did at Skate Canada. … You’ve got to be feisty.”
The standings must change in Saturday’s free skate, or Medvedeva will fail to qualify for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final, the biggest annual event outside of the world championships.
Her short program looked smooth until she doubled the back end of her planned triple-triple combination. She tallied 67.55 points, trailing Japanese Mai Mihara and Rika Kihira by .4 and .09, respectively.
U.S. champion Bradie Tennell is sixth after struggling with jumps, hurting her already minute chance of making the Grand Prix Final. Tennell almost surely must win, or it will mark a third straight season with no U.S. woman in the Final.
The two-time world champ Medvedeva finished second or third at her last four events dating to January, since withdrawing before last season’s Grand Prix Final with a broken bone in her right foot. She moved from Moscow to Toronto in the offseason, began training under Orser and rebounded from a seventh-place short program to finish third in her Grand Prix season debut at Skate Canada last month.
Orser referred to her leading Skate Canada free skate in his kiss-and-cry urging to Medvedeva on Friday.
“I feel more alive than after the short program at Skate Canada,” Medvedeva said, according to the International Skating Union “I have the opportunity to fight.”
Medvedeva will automatically make the Grand Prix Final by winning Saturday. If she finishes second, it may come down to a tiebreaker. Olympic champion and former training partner Alina Zagitova is already in the Final. The two Russians haven’t faced off since Zagitova edged Medvedeva for gold in PyeongChang by 1.31.
Mihara is the surprise leader in France despite under-rotating the back end of her triple-triple combo. She finished fourth at her last four Grand Prix starts but is now in position to make her first Grand Prix Final.
Kihira, who won her senior Grand Prix debut two weeks ago, is in third place after popping her opening Axel. Kihira, ranked second in the world this season, landed two triple Axels in her leading free skate at NHK Trophy two weeks ago.
Tennell struggled with her difficult, opening triple Lutz-triple loop combination, as she did en route to a fourth-place finish at October’s Skate America. She two-footed her Lutz landing and was unable to add a second jump, forcing her to tack a triple toe loop onto her triple flip later in the program. Three of her four jumps were called under-rotated.
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