MOSCOW (AP) – It’s been a long road to the top for Vanessa James in figure skating, and on Thursday it got a little longer.
In gold-medal position at the European Championships with her partner Morgan Cipres after the short program in pairs, James made some crucial errors on jumps in the free skate to drop to fourth as Russia swept the podium.
The margin between third and fourth? One hundredth of a point.
It was a heavy blow for the French pair. With tears in her eyes, the Canada-born skater said she was “very disappointed.”
Against three strong Russian pairs in front of a Russian crowd, James said she and Cipres needed to avoid mistakes to negate any possible home advantage for the Russians in scoring.
“That’s how it works, so we needed to make sure there was no space for that extra push, but we didn’t do that,” she said.
Still, less than a month out from the Olympics, top-scoring in the short program on Wednesday helped their confidence.
“Today wasn’t the day, but we learn from our mistakes and this will give us a nice boost for Olympics,” she said.
As proof of their potential, James pointed to Wednesday’s short and to Skate Canada in October, when she and Cipres beat world silver medalists Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany in the free skate.
“We’ve beaten the Russians in the short, we’ve beaten the Germans in the long. We’ve beaten everyone a little bit, differently, at different times,” James said. “Now we just have to get it all together at one point, and I’m hoping that will be at the Olympics.”
James and Cipres remain outside contenders for an Olympic medal. The competition in Pyeongchang will be tougher than at the European championships, with the addition of China’s world champion Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, Canada’s Megan Duhamel and Eric Radford, plus the German pair, who withdrew from this week’s event.
Success in Pyeongchang would be the culmination of a long and unusual road for James, who was once the British women’s singles skating champion before taking up pairs for France with former partner Yannick Bonheur.
She joined with Cipres in 2010 and won her first major medal last year at the European championships, a bronze.
If she and Cipres can put together their best short and long program, she said, “You know what? I think we’re a threat.”